Worker co-operatives generally embrace democracy in their ownership and decision-making structure. However, the commitment to a flat organisational hierarchy, implementation of equal wage policy, and the pursuit of a strong ethical policy position these co-operatives on the highly principled side of the co-operative landscape in the UK. This paper draws on an ethnographic study of five such principled workers’ co-operatives operating in a most adverse economic context, the UK capitalist market economy. The study explores collective decision-making and the personal investment as two important political aspects. Workplace democracy and the personal are interlinked paradigms for political praxis – as practiced democracy, immanent critique of the hegemonic corporate way of organising work, as well as prefiguring a viable alternative. Taking the perspective of radical worker co-operatives, this article caters to an urgently needed conceptualisation of radical democratic citizenship at work.
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I am greatly indebted to workers of the workers’ co-operatives for allowing me to study their workplace, for their tireless support, for being wonderfully welcoming hosts, and for patiently taking their time for my enquiries and for training me. Also, I would like to thank Sophia Woodman, Trevor Stack, Cristina Flesher-Fominaya as well as the two anonymous reviewers for their invaluable feedback which helped me to refine this manuscript.
This research is part of a doctoral research project which was supported by the CISRUL full-PhD scholarship 2016–2019 granted by the Centre for Citizenship, Civil Society, and Rule of Law; University of Aberdeen;Centre for Citizenship, Civil Society and Rule of Law (University of Aberdeen, UK)
- Worker co-operative
- radical democratic citizenship
- workplace democracy
- economic alternative