Power and deliberation #1
May 28, 2015
The workshop will discuss the desirability and the feasibility of workplace democracy: Is democracy in the workplace an appropriate solution to protect political equality and realize a just distribution of power? The workshop will also focus specifically on deliberative democracy, one of the most important developments in democratic theory in the last decades. To date deliberative scholars have paid only limited attention to the issue of democratic deliberation in the workplace and the role of firms in deliberative democracy. This issue is of particular interest given that the prospect of deliberative democracy is tied to the interaction of different organizations in society. Is deliberative democracy in the workplace desirable?
Presentation 1: Thomas Ferretti (Université catholique de Louvain, Belgium)
Workplace democracy is instrumentally required to realize distributive justice
Some firm are egalitarian whereas many are inegalitarian: they create income inequalities but power inequalities as well. The aim of this paper is twofold. First, I outline the two mains reasons why liberal egalitarians could argue that state should tolerate inegalitarian firms. I also argue that if democracy inside organizations is to be justified in a liberal egalitarian framework, it can only be justified instrumentally. Second, I demonstrate that if this is true, “fully” democratic processes (for instance a proper representation of the view of all workers’ or the proper conditions for proper deliberative processes) are not required inside organizations. As soon as firms’ structures secure distributive justice and the requirements of stability, it is enough. Therefore many common objections raised against workplace democracy can be avoided.
Discussants: Pierre-Yves Néron & Andrea Fellicetti
Presentation 2: Andrea Fellicetti (European University Institute, Italy)
Can we have a deliberative society without deliberative firms?
In this presentation I discuss the issue of workplace deliberation from a deliberative democratic perspective specifically. In particular, on the basis of deliberative democratic arguments, I investigate whether and to what extent it is even possible to envision a deliberative society without having deliberative democratic firms. Towards this goal, I first introduce the systemic approach to deliberative democracy, the dominant framework in contemporary deliberative discussions. Having argued that the existence of deliberative firms is not a sufficient condition for the establishment of a deliberative system, I investigate whether workplace deliberation is at least desirable from a genuinely deliberative standpoint. As systemic theorists have largely neglected this aspect, I answer positively to this question by employing earlier theoretical work. However, I discuss also some potential challenges and drawbacks connected to the prospect of a deliberative workplace. Finally, I investigate the extent to which deliberative firms are necessary to build a deliberative society. I argue that a deliberative workplace seems necessary in a society that is deliberative and democratic in any substantial way.
Discussants: Thomas Ferretti & Pierre-Etienne Vandamme
Presentation 3: Pierre-Yves Néron (Université catholique de Lille, France)
Workplace democracy, social equality and power: Why deliberation is not enough.
In this paper, I will argue that deliberation is not in workplace and the deliberative democracy provides us an incomplete account of the possibility and desirability of the democratization of workplaces. In order to so, I will try to achieve two things: First, I will focus on a “relational” account of workplace democracy, one that I started to develop in recent works (2014, 2015abc). While I argued in these papers that a relational conception of equality provides us a better justification of workplace democracy, I will argue here that it also gives us a powerful account of the kind of reforms and policies that might enhance workplace democracy. I will therefore attempt to outline the contours of a relational interpretation of workplace democracy and try to show how it helps us in to think in a more subtle way than a deliberative approach about its plausible institutional forms. Second, I will try to build this argument by identifying some of the lessons that we might learn by focusing on a more specific issues, namely gender injustices in economic organizations.
Discussants: Hervé Pourtois & Andrea Fellicetti
Presentation 4: Sandrine Blanc (INSEEC, France)
A critical reflection on the contribution made by management science to a Rawlsian argument
Liberal egalitarians have recently argued for some form of corporate democracy. This would ensure a fairer distribution of primary goods and strengthen the active and democratic disposition of citizens. However, such arguments rely on unverified theoretical assumptions. We therefore examine these assumptions from the perspective of management science, adopting a reflexive posture that is sensitive to the difficulties that arise from interdisciplinary discussions. We note a gap between the type of knowledge available in management science and that required to address Rawlsian assumptions. We thus propose paths for closing this gap, some of which are relevant for liberal egalitarianism and some for management science. We thus set out the conditions for an empirically informed liberal egalitarian response to the political question of whether firms should be made more democratic.
Discussant: Axel Gosseries & Dominic Martin
Présentation 5: Dominic Martin (University of Toronto, Canada)
Henry Hansmann, Efficient Investor Ownership and Worker Participation
According to Henry Hansmann, competition in the market puts pressure on a firm to reduce its costs of contracting: the cost of establishing relations or contracts with its owners and other groups that do not own a firm (investors, managers, workers, suppliers, etc.). It follows that cost-minimizing ownership structures in a specific industry will tend to live longer and eventually dominate that industry. We may even resort to a “survivorship test” to assess the relative costs of different structures of ownership. Finally, Hansmann claims that investor ownership is a cost-minimizing form of ownership structure in many industries because it is dominant in these industries. In this paper, I make two points regarding Hansmann’s argument and its implications. First, and though I don’t disagree with his argument in general, I consider whether investor ownership may dominate an industry even if it is not more efficient. Resistance to non-Pareto-Superior changes, endowment effects and costs of ownership change may help sustain less efficient investor ownership. Second, I reflect on the normative implications of the first point. If investor ownership may survive despite not being more efficient, and if efficiency is deemed valuable, what does it mean for the moral and legal aspects of business? I claim, first, that it is not necessarily the investors’ obligation to bring about a change of ownership in a less efficient investor-owned firm. But I will hypothesize that weak worker participation may reduce the resistance to a change of ownership, without creating greater problems. Therefore, worker participation may be desirable.
Discussants: Sandrine Blanc & Thomas Ferretti
End of the workshop & Dinner in Brussels