Economic Democracy

Since Alexis de Tocqueville's analysis of agrarian America in the 1800's, the ideals of liberty and equality have often been seen as in conflict.

But as Robert Dahl writes: "...the agrarian economy and society on which it was based underwent a revolutionary transformation into a new system of commercial and industrial capitalism that automatically generated vast inequalities of wealth, income, status, and power. These inequalities were in turn a result of liberty of a certain kind–liberty to accumulate unlimited economic resources and to organize economic activity into hierarchically governed enterprises."

Or, as David Schweickart comments: "Contemporary capitalism celebrates democracy, yet denies us our democratic rights at precisely the point where they might be utilized most immediately and concretely: at the place where we spend most of the active and alert hours of our adult lives."

Economic democracy, broadly, is the idea that decision-making power should not be the exclusive right of managers and shareholders, but held in equal by all stakeholders affected by those decisions. In practice, both Dahl & Schweickart see "workplace democracy" - from codetermination to worker-owned cooperatives - as one concrete manifestation of economic democracy.