This Kent State University course is motivated by the broad question: what role can workplace democracy and employee ownership play in creating an economy that works for all?
Workplace democracy and employee ownership take a multitude of forms and are receiving renewed attention from public officials, the business community, social movement leaders, and academics. Nearly 10% of the private sector workforce in the US is employed by an employee-owned company. Yet, this topic remains understudied, and misconceptions abound within both the general public and academia, and debates over the roll employee ownership can play in our economic system are still on going, with major questions still being researched. Is workplace democracy a socialist utopia, a more equitable form of capitalism, or a synthesis of both? What do we mean when we talk about workplace democracy and employee ownership? Is it simply a “pie in the sky” idea, or does it have a long history in the US, with existing examples today? What are the benefits associated with employee-ownership for workers, companies, and communities? And finally, is it possible to expand the number of companies practicing employee ownership and workplace democracy?
With the above questions in mind, this course will familiarize students with the foundational literature on workplace democracy and employee ownership, its linkages with democratic theory and economic equality, and its historical development within the US. The course will also cover the social, political, and economic effects of employee-owned firms for individuals, companies, and communities as well as the ecosystem of organizations working to make democratic workplaces and employee ownership more widespread.
This course will be conducted as a seminar, in which the students carry much of the burden for maintaining a productive line of analysis and discussion. There is a great deal of reading required for this course. You are expected to complete all assigned readings prior to attending each class session.