Hierarchical Structure in Worker Co-ops

Dear Prof. Wolff. I am very much persuaded by your passionate pleas to move beyond the dying system that is capitalism and towards a system based around worker co-ops. However, a question always arises when I follow the reasoning through to its conclusions, and is the following. If all the workers in an enterprise are to be considered as occupying both roles of employer AND employee, how do we ensure that the enterprise doesn't fall into anarchy and that it can continue to be effectively operated? I am of course referring to the important skill of managing a workforce, and the way that any joint effort appears to necessitate leadership so as to avoid a scattering of resources and dissipation of the workers of efforts in unfocussed directions. In such a case, it seems that we would be forced to return to situation similar to the one we sought to escape, namely one in which we now have a (pseudo)-employer directing the work activities of the rest of the (pseudo)-employees. I am wondering if it is even possible for a workforce to be organized without this necessary hierarchical structure, or whether this is even a critical component in your understanding of the notion of worker co-ops. Thank you very much for you time and your valuable insights.

Official response from submitted

It is my hope that communities of workers owning and operating enterprises will be able collectively to manage their individual efforts so that they achieve the best possible outcome, where best is a standard debated and developed democratically within the community. If it turns out that some workers believe that they need particular individuals - rather than the coop as a collective community, as a whole - to function as managers, etc., then the question becomes how to achieve such management while also preserving the democratic structure and functioning of the worker coop. One way to doing that would be to insist that managerial functions be rotated among all members of the worker coop, sequentially, so that no solidifying of some people into managers and others as managed occurs. 


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  • responded with submitted 2017-01-14 12:24:17 -0500
  • published this page in Ask Prof. Wolff 2017-01-12 18:33:08 -0500

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