Self-organization refers to the bottom-up creation of order. Self-organization is an idea whose time has come. As an explanatory concept, self-organization is central to complexity theory, which is quickly becoming a powerful and perhaps even dominant paradigm in both the natural and social sciences. As a political idea, self-organization is filling the void that is opening up as both the state and market are increasingly perceived as undemocratic, unjust and inefficient. In much of my work on cities, social movements, and urban policy, I explore the politics of self-organization. My project on collectivization and enclosure looks at the interplay of state formation and self-organization. In some of the work I did as a Professor in Community Development, I argued that self-organization indeed is an inspiring ideal but that it is often misunderstood and may produce adverse consequences when it is used as a political guide. While self-organization is too inspiring to abandon, it is a great intellectual and practical challenge to make it work.
Burning Man embraces the idea of radical inclusion and aims to instill a set of core values in its many participants. In order to achieve this objective, the week-long event features a variety of fascinating participatory frameworks, from consensus decision-making and a culture of volunteerism to interactive artwork and even the collaborative construction of a city! … Burning Man is unorthodox in that, like any event of its size, it requires a massive organizational structure, and yet the fundamental principles of the festival dictate just the opposite.