Social Theory and Practice

Volume 40, Issue 2, April 2014

Iñigo González-Ricoy
Pages 232-254

The Republican Case for Workplace Democracy

The republican case for workplace democracy (WD) is presented and defended from two alternative means of ensuring freedom from arbitrary interference in the firm—namely, (a) the right to freely exit the firm and (b) workplace regulation. This paper shows, respectively, that costless exit is neither possible nor desirable in either perfect or imperfect labor markets, and that managerial discretion is both desirable and inevitable due to the incompleteness of employment contracts and labor legislation. The paper then shows that WD is necessary, from a republican standpoint, if workers’ interests are to be adequately tracked in the exercise of managerial authority. Three important objections are finally addressed—(i) that WD is redundant, (ii) that it is unnecessary provided that litigation and unionism can produce similar outcomes, and (iii) that it falls short of ensuring republican freedom compared to self-employment.