New Thinking in Political Economy series
Edited by José Casas Pardo and Pedro Schwartz
Chapter 8: Should the Democratic Model Be Applied to Non-Governmental Organizations and Firms?
8. Should the democratic model be applied to non-governmental organizations and ﬁrms? Pascal Salin 1 INTRODUCTION ‘Democracy’ is the taboo word of our time. It tends to be the single criterion by which humane institutions and organizations are evaluated. Its importance is such that it has obtained an ethical dimension: being democratic is good, being non-democratic is bad. There is even a shift in the meaning of the word since, for instance, democratizing education just means extending education to a wide category of people and not only organizing education according to democratic processes. However, let us keep the concept with its strict meaning, namely a system in which a collective decision is adopted through voting, for instance with a majority rule. Given the importance given to the democratic character of institutions in the modern world, it is not surprising that many people consider it desirable to apply democratic rules to as many organizations as possible, beyond the public sphere for the working of which they have been initially designed. Thus, it is claimed that ﬁrms, associations and even, perhaps, the family ought to be managed according to democratic principles. At ﬁrst glance this seems to be very attractive: why, for instance, would wage earners, who are concerned by what will happen in their ﬁrm, not be associated with decisions that can aﬀect them? Why, in non-proﬁt organizations – such as a university – would those who are concerned by the correct working of their institution not participate in decisions? Such...
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