This paper examines “alternative institutions” in a variety of institutional domains as participatory-democratic modes of organizution. Grounded in comparative data, it posits structural conditions, both internal to an organization and in its environment, which support or undermine the achievement of its collectivist-democratic ideals. While the literature on social movement organizations well demonstrates the fragility of democratic systems and their tendency toward oligarchization, goal displacement, and organizational maintenance, this work suggests, in propositional form, conditions which militate against these all-too-common transformation patterns.