By Bertell Ollman
Democracy, industrial, is the application of the doctrines of democratic theory to people's lives as workers. Democracy is always rules by the people, and the key questions it raises are which people? Over what range of problems are they to rule? How much power should they have? And through what mechanisms and procedures should these powers be exercised? Industrial democracy is the attempt to supply answers to these questions in regard to people's lives as workers. At a minimum the questions raised by industrial democracy represent dissatisfaction with those views of democracy that limit its application to the sphere of politics. Given the importance of work to a society and to the health and well being of workers, which is to say to most citizens of society, extending democracy to the economy has struck many as the obvious thing to do.
What industrial democracy is, however, has been a matter of serious dispute. For some it is simply a mater of workers participating in decisions that affect minor working conditions; with all real control left in the hands of the owners of the enterprise. For others it involves workers having full control over most factory floor matter operations but of nothing else. Others extend the definitions to include these functions as well as to allow worker participation in making the later decisions that affect the life of the enterprise with final decisions, however, remain with the owners. For some industrial democracy means that workers own a significant portion of stock in the company but have no more influence on management than minority shareholders typically have. Others favor codetermination, an arrangement that gives workers or their representatives half the seats on the board of directors so that nothing of importance can go on without their cooperation. Still others believe that workers ought to have full workers' ownership, with workers or their representatives making all the...
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