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How to Start an Employee-owned Industrial Company and Survive for 35 Years

Lars Lindkvist

A chapter in Advances in the Economic Analysis of Participatory & Labor-Managed Firms, 2015, vol. 16, pp 33-61 from Emerald Publishing Ltd

Abstract: Abstract In this paper, my claim is that employee ownership of industrial companies enables economic survival, democracy, and joint responsibility. My main focus is a case study of Ljuders Nickelsilfverfabrik and its change to employee ownership. In 1980, 36 of the 42 employees became owners. My research question is how have the economy and democracy in an employee-owned industrial company changed over the years? My main research method includes a 35-year in-depth longitudinal case study of Ljuders Nickelsilfverfabrik since its employee takeover. The empirical material includes documents, interviews, participant observations, and informal talks over the entire study period. My theory is based on the study by Connell Fanning and McCarthy (1983, 1986), who have compiled the critical literature on employee-owned companies and have asked why so few employee-owned companies exist in Western economies. They formulate six non-viability hypotheses for employee ownership, against which I present my empirical study and conclude that employee ownership is possible. From my case study in combination with the literature about organizational changes, I formulate a recipe for a successful employee takeover and collective entrepreneurship. The experience of Ljuders Nickelsilfverfabrik shows that a more complete business idea can subsequently unfold with the help of different people’s knowledge and experiences. Degeneration from democratic to more traditional ownership and control can be avoided by placing new people in leadership positions. The management must create legitimacy for a different organizational form for internal and external stakeholders.

Keywords: Employee ownership; employee-owned industrial companies; worker cooperatives; non-viability hypothesis; legitimacy; collective entrepreneurship; J54; L26 (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2015
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