CSR Issue Series  A radically democratic

Democratising Firms –A Cornerstone of Shared and Sustainable Prosperity

Isabelle Ferreras

A conundrum faces us as we consider the future of politics. Some hold up environmental sustainability as a barrier to shared prosperity, deriding it as elitist and too costly, arguing that broad access to jobs, food, and housing is only possible if we give environmental concerns a back seat—which, given our planet’s current state, is pure folly. Others feel that measures to protect the environment must take precedent over everything else, even at the expense of the poorest. To make matters worse, the extremists currently sweeping elections in many countries are threatening the future of democracy itself. These issues are so pressing that it is easy to fall into a debate over which is the more pressing. Urgency has always made external constraint, either from regulatory bodies and strong state governments or through force, coercion, and concentrations of authority, more palatable, and even appealing. Democracy might be a good idea when things are going well for the people, but when the future feels uncertain and dangerous, the siren song of the powerful leader becomes all but irresistible. This essay will argue that it is possible to respond to citizens’ concerns over these issues, and the care for the planet, in an entirely different way: by expanding democracy into large transnational firms in order to build a kind of internal constraint to their behaviour and decisions. I will argue that by addressing what I have called workers’ ‘intuition of democratic justice’1 —that is, their sense to their right to a say in their lives and futures in and outside the workplace—we can build a more democratic, and more prosperous and sustainable world all at once.

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