Suppose a group of people are purchasing ice cream, and a flavor must be chosen for each member of the group. One possible procedure would be for a single, trusted member to decide which flavor each person receives. This could be called a "centralized" decision-making procedure. In contrast, a "decentralized" decision-making procedure would accept input from every member. In fact, there is a gradient between these possibilities, so we might call the former maximal centralization (meaning one member is given 100% decision-making weight), and should probably thus define maximal decentralization as the most dissimilar distribution, everyone having uniform decision-making weight.

However, there is a second parameter important for all cases but maximal centralization. For example, under the maximally decentralized distribution umbrella, in one decision-making procedure, everyone might, for each member, democratically vote on that member's flavor. In another, each member might decide the flavor for the next member in line, with the last member deciding for the first. Another might have each member decide his or her own flavor. This last procedure seems particularly attractive, presumably because it locates the most concentration of decision-making weight within the individual whose property the ice cream will become, or who will be most directly affected by the decision, or something in that ballpark.

Degree of centralization is a good term for the first parameter to consider in describing how a group might decide each member's ice cream flavor. A decentralized approach seems best. What is a good term for the second parameter, which describes some probability of or degree to which whatever input an individual member does have actually affects the flavor they get, which would have the best (maximum or minimum as a matter of convention) possible value for everyone deciding his or her own flavor, a very bad value for democratic voting, and the worst possible value for everyone deciding for a different member?

The only real candidate I've found is self-management, which as described here appears to be a very good match for my description. However, notwithstanding the thermostat analogy in the video, the term seems almost exclusively used in the context of socialist analyses of corporate management structure, to the extent that particular context feels like subtext automatically baked into using the term. Is there a more context-neutral term in the same vicinity?

  • 1
    Would autonomy work?
    – alphabet
    Commented Dec 6, 2023 at 19:01
  • I don't think it's useful to say the opposite of "maximal centralization" (one person making the choices for everyone, regardless of whether he assigns them all the same choice or not) is each person making the choice for one other person. That's just a silly contrived scenario. The natural "opposite" situation would obviously be each person making their own choice. Commented Dec 6, 2023 at 19:21
  • individual preferences
    – Lambie
    Commented Dec 6, 2023 at 20:42
  • I think Occam's Razor could simplify your scenario. What you have is maximal and minimal autonomy. Maximal autonomy is where everyone makes their own decision, and minimal autonomy is where only one person gets to decide for everyone. In between scenarios are where people have a say in the decision, but not for themselves, or where some people have a say and others don't.
    – TimR
    Commented Dec 6, 2023 at 20:44
  • How about "degree of democracy", since democracy is decision making by the group as a whole.
    – Barmar
    Commented Dec 6, 2023 at 21:41


Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.