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Authority and democracy in industry: the relevance of theories of industrial democracy to contemporary industrial organizations

Calvert, John Robert (1976) Authority and democracy in industry: the relevance of theories of industrial democracy to contemporary industrial organizations. PhD thesis, London School of Economics and Political Science.

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It is commonly assumed that contemporary industrial organizations are structured according to the dictates of technology, size, expertize and administrative needs and hence that property no longer plays a major role in determining either the priorities of industry or the way in which industrial undertakings are organized. The purpose of this thesis is to challenge this assumption and to argue that despite the numerous technical advances of the past century, workers’ control remains a viable and desirable alternative to the present system. The first part of the thesis analyzes the development of management in the West from F.W. Taylor to the present and concludes, first, that managers are agents of shareholders, not independent professionals and, second, that the subordination of industry to property has led to a systematic exclusion of workers from the decision making ensure that they do not obstruct the pursuit of shareholders’ objectives. Thus the circumscribed role that workers now play in industry is primarily a result of the constraints of ownership, not industrialization. In the second part of the thesis the consequences of excluding workers from industrial decision making are examined. Contrary to the fashionable assumption that the consumer benefits arising from industry’s present emphasis on efficiency and productivity outweigh any losses incurred by workers as a result of their subordination to property, it is argued that such costs are exceedingly high. Methods of production which maximize output frequently involve major risks to the physical health and safety of workers and pose a threat to their psychological well-being. But, more significantly, the possibility of utilizing work as an avenue for creativity and self-development is effectively stifled because the owners who control industry have no interest in such objectives. The third, part of the thesis looks at the effectiveness of the collective bargaining approach to industrial democracy, as outlined by the Webbs and Hugh Clegg, in redressing the abuses of private ownership. It concludes that because collective bargaining accepts the subordination of workers to property, it fails to protect their rights and interests adequately. Consequently, a more radical approach is called for. Thus, in the final part of the thesis, we turn to examine R.H. Tawney’s proposals for the démocratisation of industry. Tawney’s arguments that industry could be founded upon the principles of co-operation and fellowship rather than hierarchy and subordination, vie maintain, are no less relevant today than when he first advanced them half a century ago. As the Yugoslav experiment in workers’ management demonstrates, the idea of workers' control constitutes a perfectly feasible - and desirable - basis upon which to manage a modem economy.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Additional Information: © 1976 John Robert Calvert
Library of Congress subject classification: H Social Sciences > HC Economic History and Conditions
H Social Sciences > HD Industries. Land use. Labor > HD28 Management. Industrial Management
Supervisor: Greaves, H. R. G.

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