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Democratic equilibria: Albert Hirschman and workplace democracy

Stanislas Richard

Review of Social Economy, 2020, vol. 78, issue 3, 286-306

Abstract: This paper clarifies the usage of Albert Hirschman’s categories of market behaviour as of exit and voice in debates about workplace democracy by taking seriously his critique of the neoclassical analysis of competition. Pro-market liberals are generally hostile to the idea of workplace democracy and tend to favour top-down hierarchies as a way of organising labour. This hostility is generally inspired by the neoclassical analysis of exploitation and efficiency, which leads them to defend distributions achieved through exit-based competitive equilibria. Following Hirschman, I propose to consider a hypothetical alternative: a democratic equilibrium, reached through the use of voice. I show that it would present the same appealing characteristics than its competitive counterpart while also accounting for the non-ideal conditions in which markets operate. Support for free markets should entail support for workplace democracy minimally understood as a strengthening of voice.

Date: 2020
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DOI: 10.1080/00346764.2019.1685676

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