Social Aspects of Industry: A Survey of Labor Problems and Causes of Industrial Unrest

By S. Howard Patterson | Go to book overview

CHAPTER XVIII
EMPLOYEE REPRESENTATION AND PROFIT SHARING

INDUSTRIAL DEMOCRACY AND THE COPARTNERSHIP OF LABOR

1. Political and Industrial Democracy . -- The worker as a citizen enjoys the right of suffrage, although the political machine sometimes distorts this theoretical democracy into practical corruption and absolutism. The citizen as a worker generally has no such right to participate in the formation of the policy of the industry in which he labors. Very often he is a mere cog in its intricate machinery.

Just as political absolutism has given way to political democracy, so industrial absolutism is now apparently on the wane. It is a far cry back to the absolute monarchy of Louis XIV who was able to say, "I am the state." It is also a far cry back to a generation ago in America, when an officer of a New York street railway company refused arbitration with his employees on the grounds that they were his servants whose duty it was to do his bidding as long as they were in his employ.

The absence of political democracy results in revolutions for which the ballot box is a substitute. The absence of industrial democracy results in economic unrest which is expressed in strikes and other forms of industrial warfare rather than through peaceful channels.

It should be remembered that democracy is an ideal and a relative term. There is no such thing as absolute democracy, any more than there is absolute justice, absolute goodness, or absolute truth on this earth. Industrial democracy as well as political democracy is a progressive concept, for the ideal advances as society progresses toward it. Again, the pathway of democracy, whose upward course is irregular, if not uncertain, is strewn with fantastic experiments, failures, and hypocrisy as well as with noble and practical achievements.

The success of democracy is conditioned by the education of a people. Some recently liberated nations of Europe have discovered that democracy cannot be made safe merely by the elimination of kings and emperors. "Benevolent despots" in industry also seem to be passing off the stage in favor of the new democratic ideal of the partnership of labor. Such a situation, however, is conditioned by the spread of public education among the masses and by the development of broad and intelligent leadership in industry.

Industrial democracy may be fostered by political institutions or it may grow up independently of the state. Thus, mediation and arbitra-

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