Organizations and Democracy: Contemporary Conditions, Recurrent Demands

Monday, 16 July 2018: 17:30
Oral Presentation
Catherine CASEY, Loughborough University, United Kingdom
Decades of neoliberalism as the dominant economic ideology influencing much of the world have seen many accomplishments of democratic societies erode and decay. Critical academic debate frequently focusses on crises of capitalism and on concerns for a post-democracy emerging under the rise of super-powerful multinational corporations and their markets that dominate polities and societies.

Macrosociological analyses currently set a lead in documenting bleak, counter-social trends in advanced capitalism. Yet they suggest, too, that the various crises confronting societies propose a new indeterminacy in social relations. That indeterminacy may worsen risk or open new horizons for social futures.

In this paper, we take a view that social institutions are capable of renewal and transformation even as they are susceptible to decay and regression. Apparent macro trends may be diverted and plural outcomes forged by different constellations of social actors in various social settings. We proceed, in accordance with sociologists since Weber, to recognize organizations are core sites of social action. What goes on in economic organizations can, and does, shape the social world in which we live.

This paper considers contemporary conditions and demand for forms of industrial, organizational, and workplace democracy. It discusses research in organizational and employment relations studies in different national settings that proposes that organizations can be, and are, enacted in ways that mitigate and may redress the trajectories observed of an increasingly fragile global capitalism. We focus on demands and programmes for employee and management participation and their outcomes. The paper further explores a proposition that widening political recognition of social inequalities and unfairness may stimulate multi-level social responses that may catalyze organizational and social change. Demand for innovative and progressive democratic regulation may take shape at the organizational level of society.