Organizational Democracy: Taking Stock

Organizational Democracy: Taking Stock

Organizational Democracy: Taking Stock

Organizational Democracy: Taking Stock


This is the first volume in a new Oxford series that is designed to provide policymakers, practitioners, and academics with important works of reference on significant developments in participative practice in organizations. The book looks at how trends toward participation, co-determination, self-management, and cooperatives fared during the 1970s and 1980s, which, after a surge of optimism and increased democratization in the preceding two decades, have seen widespread and severe setbacks to this process in industrialized countries. The contributors, representing a number of countries and disciplines, examine the economic, technological, political, and socio-cultural forces at work in the past decade, the influence they have exerted, and the future prospects for organizational democracy worldwide.



The main object of this volume is to evaluate trends in participation, codetermination, self-management, and co-operatives as these developed in the last decade under the impact of economic, technological, political, and socio-cultural forces. What ideas, forms, and processes of organizational democracy were thwarted or stopped? What trends were furthered or initiated under the influence of these macro-developments? What prospects for the future of organizational democracy can one infer from the analysis of recent developments and the present state of organizational democracy?

In the 1950s, 1960s, and early 1970s the literature on organizational democracy had an evolutionary perspective. Many authors took it for granted that due to rising levels of welfare and education and nearly full employment, in most Western countries people had become gradually less and less willing to comply with paternalistic and authoritarian regimes in the family and the community, in schools and churches, in firms and offices, in unions and other voluntary associations, in the armed forces, and even in correctional institutions. In other words, there was thought to be a growing 'demand' for participation, codetermination, semi-autonomous work groups, and even for forms of selfmanagement, in organizational life.

At the same time, to many observers it looked as if the 'supply' of participative management, decentralization, and other more or less democratic ways of governance had increased as a result of the 'functional requirements' of organizations which tended to become larger, more complex, more intertwined with one another, and more continuously confronted with the need to adapt to fast rates of environmental change. 'Democracy is inevitable,' proclaimed Slater and Bennis in a much-quoted article in the Harvard Business Review in 1964.

In the late 1960s, particularly in Europe and the USA, but also to some extent in Latin America and many Third World countries (in the wake of decolonization and national emancipation movements), efforts towards democratizing organizations received new impetus. In the worlds of work, education, politics, religion, and other spheres of life, so it seemed at the time, unprecedented levels of codetermination if not self-determination could be reached. The 'many', who had always been ruled by the 'few', appeared finally to be gaining their rightful place in the sun.

However, this rather optimistic view of the progress of organizational democracy became seriously undermined by a variety of trends in the 1970s and . . .

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