Welcome to The Relational Democracy Project (under reconstruction)

reinholdt redwood regional park, oakland, california @ebrpd (image @dr.cbg on the gram)

The human basis of democracy is in our commitment to share power with each other in everyday practices.

[All work generated by The Center for U.S. Rural Cultures Studies has been transferred to The Relational Democracy project.]

MISSION :: RDP generates original in-field research that grows cultural work and creative projects aimed at proliferating everyday democratic practices in U.S. cultures.

VISION :: A country whose balanced human power relations create healthy enabling conditions for democratic processes and systems.


  • Transparency is essential. RDP works with no blinds on the windows.
  • Openness is critical. RDP’s channels of communication are always accessible.
  • Accuracy is fundamental. RDP’s content is always data-based.
  • Independence is key. RDP’s projects adhere to its mission, vision, and values in achieving its goals.
  • Firsthand experience is vital. RDP’s projects and their implementation are based on original in-field research that begins from the bottom and margins of cultures.


  • Begin collection of “relational big data” used to understand imbalanced human power relations in actual living conditions on the ground of U.S. cultures.
  • Create the most comprehensive and accessible source of knowledge in the nation about U.S. relational cultures and their connection to democratic norms.
  • Recreate human connection in hostile environments using qualitative research methods geared to understanding fellow humans.
  • Nurture conditions for human trust, vulnerability, expression, and self-knowledge — all of which support democratic processes and systems.
  • Model power sharing practices, those that are fair and equal in terms of giving and sharing efforts and resources.
  • Model transparent, open, and informationally accurate business and professional practices.
  • Provide tools for developing community media and arts resources from the bottom and margins of cultures.
  • Provide free access to resources that support relational health and human well-being.
  • Develop possibilities for local intellectual labor opportunities.
  • Develop local researchers who can also train others in the area.
  • Embody independence from business, academic, religious, and political organizations by making decisions and judgements based solely on RDP’s mission and aligned with its vision and values.
In Santa Rosa, CA, 2017, visiting friends

Cathy B. Glenn, Ph.D. is an independent critical researcher, professor, cultural worker, and creative whose areas of expertise are power, culture, relations, and change.

Formerly Private Principal Investigator for The Center for U.S. Rural Cultures Studies, she now acts as Educational Content Director and Developer for The Relational Democracy Project.

RDP organically grew from research and development sponsored by the Center and conducted by Cathy since 11.8.2016. For more information, reach out to relationaldemocracy@gmail.com.

Projects in Process


The Human Basis of Democracy is a nonfiction manuscript in progress that shares findings from more than 5 years’ immersed research–post-11.8.16 — in a variety of related rural, suburban, and urban cultural contexts in California and Oregon. Stunning similarities connect each cultural site and — when taken as a whole — flip upside down conventional concepts of authoritarianism and democracy. At bottom, the book shows how the human commitment to share power in everyday practices founds and supports healthy democratic processes and systems.

The study’s findings identify everyday relational practices that function as authoritarian by stealing and hoarding power from those subject to them. Described alongside the authoritarian are also everyday relational practices that function as democratic by sharing power with those subject to them. The authoritarian practices described destroy trust, safety, and a sense of well-being which results in devastating impacts on cultural opennness, transparency, and accuracy of information, the fundamental enabling conditions that support healthy democratic processes and systems.

Also described is a generational orientation embodied by members of each cultural site whose normal relational practices function to support regime-level authoritarianism while putting the entirety of the planet and its inhabitants in peril.

The study’s mixed methodology combines ethnography, authoethnography, and critical tools and is unique in its longevity in the field and its total immersion protocols. Theoretically framed in process and personalist terms –made accessible to most audiences–the analyses of cultural norms and practices introduce newly relevant field-grounded relational concepts of power, agency, democracy, and authoritarianism while expanding the conceptual boundaries of relations beyond family, friends, lovers, and mentors.

The Human Basis of Democracy puts the tools to understand and navigate power relations in every concerned U.S. American’s hands. Unapologetically a description of what’s democratically possible in the United States, the book also makes recommendations for proliferating democratic practices by showing how power moves in everyday practices, outlines how to reclaim stolen power, and describes how to produce new sources of power through research-based creative projects and cultural work.

The book concludes with an argument for a national effort to collect “relational big data” as a systemic approach to understanding how authoritarian and democratic practices function in U.S. cultures.

Working chapters:

  • Introduction, “Why I’m Not an ‘Anti-Racist’: Learning Equity from the ‘Bottom’ of White Lived Experience”
  • Chapter I, “From the ‘Top’ to the ‘Bottom’: How Authoritarianism Found Me”
  • Chapter II, “Power and Agency Function Differently at the ‘Bottom’”
  • Chapter III, “Everyday Relational Practices At the ‘Bottom’ Create Cultures that Grow Humans”
  • Chapter IV: “All the Relations at the ‘Bottom’: Beyond Our Bubbles”
  • Chapter V: “Change from the ‘Bottom’: Time, Possibility, and Hope”
  • Chapter VI: “Relational Democracy: An Alternative Systemic Approach to Equity”
  • Afterward, “The Reasons for the Work: The Earth & Her Creatures”



[A]ll I ask of our brethren is that they take their feet off our necks” The Notorious RBG (quoting Sarah Moore Grimké)

Cultural work practices focused in power-stealing and hoarding contexts include questioning and challenging imbalanced power relations to loosen packed down social soil around power-stealing and hoarding sites.

Cultural work practices also amend the social soil with fresh, creative nutrients — power-sharing ideas, stories, and practices — while hand-tilling that soil to encourage growth and wide-spread diffusion of democratic practices that can develop into norms.

Cultural work practices focus on those most vulnerable to power-stealing in order to create conditions within which everyone is empowered to drive their forward momentum.

RESEARCH :: BLOG ARTICLES (Password required)

“10 Data-Based Relational Principles of Power”
A Series: Building A Relational Frame for Creating Democratic Practices in a Capitalist Culture

“We Voted out a Tyrant to Save our Fragile Democracy: Now What?”
Proliferating Balance in our Relations by Embodying Democratic Practices

First in the Series “Building a Case for Cultural Work in White Rural America”

“Growing a Radically Democratic U.S. Relational Culture”
Second in the Series “Building a Case for Cultural Work in White Rural America”

“The RDP Cultural Change Vehicle: A Proposal for Balancing Power Relations in U.S. Cultures From the Ground Up”

Third in the Series “Building a Case for Cultural Work in White Rural America”

“How Families can be Authoritarian”
Authoritarian families grow humans who fit perfectly into authoritarian systems

“7 Reasons Why Rural America Matters To You Even Though You Can’t Feel it Yet”



Field Research Sites (UNDER CONSTRUCTION)

Southern Oregon

Sea Ranch, California






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