Workplace Democracy in the Core Countries: Problems and Prospects

TitleWorkplace Democracy in the Core Countries: Problems and Prospects
Publication TypeReport
Year of Publication1999
AuthorsGreenberg ES

The short-term and medium-term prospects for workplace democracy in the United
States and in the other core capitalist countries are, in my view, not good. For workplace
democracy to flourish, I would suggest, requires an environment that is compatible with its core
values, provides the infrastructure for optimal operation, and offers political support and
protection for its fundamental needs and goals. Such an environment, in my view, depends
decisively on the ability of labor to exercise significant power at the levels of the firm, the
industry, and the state. On-going developments in the world economy and the international
system are, however, shifting the relative power balance between labor and capital to the
advantage of the latter. These developments include the retreat of communitarian, egalitarian,
and participatory values and the advance of neoliberal ones, the assault on many workplace
practices and pubic policies that have served to empower employees, and technological
developments that undermine the ability of labor to act cohesively and effectively in political life.
This is not to say the imbalance is total and irrevocable or that labor is powerless to shape its
own fate. Nor is this to say that schemes of employee participation in decision making will
disappear from the workplace. In fact, there is every reason to believe that the workplaces of
the future will be places that are less hierarchical and more participative, consultative, and
team-oriented. Nevertheless, most of these workplaces will not be authentically democratic. I
elaborate this argument in the remainder of the paper.