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Ataivsh: Basis of Representation in a Council or Parliament

Posted 2 Weeks ago by chiarizio

Three of the four intelligent species are “hominoid” and have Classificatory kinship systems and prescriptive marriage systems that are similar to each other. (In fact two are identical.)

Each of those “races” is divided into forty “skins” or marriageability classes; twenty classes of men and twenty classes of women.
These are based on five patriclans and five matriclans.

Each matriclan contains, and is made up of, eight of the skins; four of men and four of women.
Each of the five patriclans also contains and is made up of four skins of men and four skins of women.
Knowing someone’s matriclan and patriclan and sex completely determines which skin they’re in.

The skins are also organizable into four generational circles made up of five skins of men and five skins of women.
(Every matriclan meets every generation circle in exactly two skins, one of women and one of men.
Likewise every patriclan meets every generation circle in exactly two skins, a female one and a male one.
Every matriclan meets all but one patriclan, and every patriclan meets all but one matriclan. If a matriclan and a patriclan meet at all, they meet in exactly one skin of each sex.)

Each male skin in the circle have classificatory wives in just one of the female skins and classificatory sisters in another of the female skins in the circle; and they don’t have wives in any other skin than that one, nor sisters in any other skin than that one.
From the female point of view the gender-swapped analog is true. One and only one skin of males has any of their brothers in it, and it is in fact totally made up of their classificatory brothers, and is in their generational circle. One and only one skin of men has any of their husbands in it, and it is in fact totally made up of their classificatory husbands, and it is in their generational circle.

Councils and senates and representational parliaments at every level of government are organized identically.
Each skin has one member in the council, traditionally the oldest able-bodied member who has any willingness to represent. They may be chosen by lot, or elected by the members of the skin. That depends on history, time, place, and circumstances.

The council’s deliberations depend on four natural divisions.
If a measure is approved by a majority of the representatives of a majority of the matriclans,
And is approved by a majority of the reps of a majority of the patriclans,
And is approved by a majority of the reps of a majority of the generational circles,
And is approved by a majority of the members of each sex,
Then it is approved.

Replace each “approved” above by “disapproved” and get another true paragraph. A “disapproved” matter is dropped and not brought up again, probably ever, and even more probably not until most of the council have been replaced.

If a matter is neither approved nor disapproved they’re deadlocked. Sort of. Maybe temporarily. This is when the wheeling-and-dealing takes place.

The vast majority of decisions are clear-cut. Most of the headlines, though, are about the close decisions, especially the ones that require negotiation because the council is tied. People who aren’t personally affected by one of the clear-cut decisions usually forget about it quickly.


Inter-species decisions are made by groups containing an equal representation from each species.
Ordinarily that means forty members per species, though fewer might be agreed to in certain settlements.
The basis of representation amongst the MerCentaurs is not yet worked out. The only reason they usually have forty representatives is because that’s usually how many each hominoid species has.

Most decisions require that each species’s representation at least not disapprove the decision; and that more approve it than don’t.
They may streamline the process of deciding whether a given species’s representation approves or disapproves.
They probably just count how many reps in each species approve, how many disapprove, and how many don’t care or abstain.
If more are in favor than against and at least as many are in favor as abstain, that species approves;
If more are against than in favor and at least as many are against as abstain, that species disapproves;
Otherwise that species is undecided.

If no species disapproves and at least as many approve as are undecided, the motion carries.

There are three reasons for streamlining these multi-species decisions.
  • three levels of indirection is just too many
  • MerCentaurs are just not used to the complexity of the system the hominoid species are used to
  • 160 representatives is a much larger body than 40, and is thought too many. So maybe they go with just ten members per species, or maybe more than ten but fewer than forty. If the hominoid representations don’t each contain one representative per skin they can’t do their species’s typical thing. Frequently they send one rep for each patriclan and one rep for each matriclan. They may try also to send five men and five women; and may try to include at least two members from each generational circle and no more than three from any. Having done that their representation operates as a unit and each member votes directly.


    I hadn’t planned to play with Ataivsh much except between the upper palaeolithic and the age of industry.
    So I haven’t seen the need for a world government.
    Mostly they’ll be at a “tribal” level of politics.
    The all-species stuff will mostly be in the Age of Sail, though some might be in the Age of Steam.
    Most of it will take place between the chalcolithic period and the period just before the Age of Empires, is my current not-very-intensely-considered thinking.
    I imagine late in the story or game there will arise polities that are quite large either in terms of territory or in terms of population or both; but not global. And most of the most interesting stuff will happen after all four species start co-operating but before there’s much globalism.

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