A Contradiction of Organization Democracy Among Labor-Managed Firms

John Teta Luhman


Ideas can influence the reproduction of social orders in our work lives, and ideas can alter activities to create new social orders. A key concern of my research is whether individuals can engage new ideas to create organization social structures that promote the basic ideals of democracy. To address this concern, I examined the social structures of labor-managed firms, which, through their ownership by those who are workers in the firm, are believed to embody the ideals of organization democracy. In previous research I developed a general framework of organization democracy from a narrative analysis of the ethnographic and case study literature on labor-managed firms. I propose that there is a fundamental contradiction in the practices of organization democracy among labor- managed firms in that some members believe that humans are essentially egoistic in nature, while some members believe that humans are essentially cooperative in nature. My contribution is that an unproven belief regarding human nature, or what one might call faith, will drive the preferred types of social structures utilized to create organization democracy within a labor-managed firm. 

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