Does consensus work? A case study of the Cloughjordan ecovillage, Ireland

Paul A. Cunningham
Stephen L Wearing


Ecovillages have grown in number around the world since the early 1990s. This growth appears to be largely due to the contested nature of post/modernity and the desire to establish a more simple, meaningful and sustainable lifestyle that is centered on community. The end of the 1990s represented the high tide of neo-liberalism in most advance liberal democracies. Ten years later, and the global economy still demonstrates signs that modes of capitalism have intensified and spread under the influence of global and state orchestrated markets, giving rise to a search for alternatives that might provide other mechanisms for organizing our lives. Cloughjordan Ecovillage is used to examine how governance through a consensus-based decision-making approach works as an alternative in this circumstance. Generally, intentional communities are organized around egalitarian principles and therefore commonly embrace the ideology of consensus. The primary research question guiding this study was—Does consensus work in the governance of alternative lifestyles? The preliminary findings of this case study suggests that in spite of the impressive nature of the built infrastructure at this site, the community continues to struggle with consensus-based decision-making as a form of self-organization and governance.

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