What is Lifestyle Democracy?

Welcome to Lifestyle Democracy – the community where we learn to live and build democracy, one day at a time!

I believe that democracy is the best imperfect system that we have at governing ourselves. However, democracy is under threat. Democracy is failing in many parts of the world because we do not know how to apply it in our daily lives.

Lifestyle Democracy resonates with the roots of the Greek word, democracy (“demos,” people, and “kratos,” power). The goal is to build a community, prompt discussion about democracy and share practical guides to apply democracy in our lives. In short, Lifestyle Democracy’s goal is to empower people.

Lifestyle Democracy is not about Democrat vs. Republican or left vs. right. Democracy is more than just a political system. It is more than just having free and fair elections. It is not about reaching a utopian state called “democracy,” rather it is about the  continuous process of democratization, improving the state of democracy. If we aspire to live in democratic societies, we must embody democracy in all spheres of our lives including education, work, home and other areas.

Join the movement and let’s learn to live and build democracy, one day at a time.

About the Author?

Here’s the short brief. 

I am Stefan. I became interested in democracy after learning about worker cooperatives in Argentina and working for a democratic school in Puerto Rico. I want to study more of these cases of democratization from around the globe and share the lessons learned with you.

Here’s the longer brief. 

In the fall of 2010, I studied abroad in Buenos Aires. In one of my courses, I had to conduct an independent research. I thought worker cooperatives in Argentina had a compelling story.

In the wake of one of Argentina’s deepest crisis in 2001, hundreds of companies went bankrupt. Thousands of workers lost their jobs. What fascinated me was that some workers took over these insolvent companies and continued producing. This was despite court orders to liquidate the companies. The courts ordered that all the production equipment be sold to creditors.

I decided that I would take up this story because it resonated with the experiences I was seeing in my county. In the 1990s, there were massive privatization efforts, many of them controversial that resulted in thousands of qualified workers losing their jobs. Unlike in Argentina, in Macedonia, the workers would protest and accept their fate.

Contrary to the Macedonian experience, in Argentina formed worker cooperatives and continue producing and earning a living. Inspired by these stories, I researched the topic during my semester abroad in Buenos Aires in 2010. Two years later, I wrote my thesis on the challenges of these Argentine worker cooperatives at the macro and micro level.

However, these attempts of democratizing their workplaces were difficult to perform or sustain. What I learned was that there was a lack of democratic consciousness among many of these workers because the dominant culture and lifestyle revolved around hierarchical principles that did not empower these workers. The educational system prepared them to follow orders. When they formed worker cooperatives, they suddenly became “bosses,” but without business management experience. This led me to the observation that democratic workplaces cannot exist without democratic education. Argentina is not an isolated case.

In 2012, my search for understanding democracy led me to Puerto Rico. My friend and I secured a grant from the Davis Projects for Peace Foundation to teach disadvantaged high-school students 2D animation, writing and employability skills. We worked with our partner organization, Nuestra Escuela. It is a non-governmental educational institution that supports young Puerto Ricans ages 13 to 21, left out the public educational system, to complete their high school education. The students learn how to be active participants in a just and a democratic society, to be entrepreneurial and build socially responsible enterprises. This was my first exposure with democratic schools.

That summer (2012), the founder of the school told me that working with young students ages 13 to 21 is too late to change their consciousness to a democratic one. The change must start from the beginning. That’s when he shared the idea of kindergarten for the children of the teenage parents who attend the school. Today, this idea is a reality and the school offers educational and support services for the babies, toddlers and children of the students of the school. This led me to the importance of democracy in the family.

As I was grasping the need for democracy in the workplace, in the educational institutions, and in the families, I realized that this could be expanded to other spheres of life. This is how the idea of Lifestyle Democracy was born.