Firms, States, and Democracy: A Qualified Defense of the Parallel Case Argument

Abstract

The paper discusses the structure, applications, and plausibility of the muchusedparallel-case argument for workplace democracy. The argument restson an analogy between firms and states according to which the justificationof democracy in the state implies its justification in the workplace. Thecontribution of the paper is threefold. First, the argument is illustrated byapplying it to two usual objections to workplace democracy, namely, thatemployees lack the expertise required to run a firm and that only capitalsuppliers should have a say over the governance of the firm. Second,the structure of the argument is unfolded. Third, two salient similaritiesbetween firms and states regarding their internal and external effects andthe standing of their members are addressed in order to asses the potentialand limits of the argument, as well as three relevant differences regardingthe voluntariness of their membership, the narrowness of their goals, andthe stiffness of the competition they face. After considering these similaritiesand differences, the paper contends that the the parallel-case argumentprovides a sound reason in favor of democracy in the workplace???a reason,however, that needs to be importantly qualified and that is only pro tanto

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