Economic democracy: A path for the future?
Futures Volume 44, Issue 6, August 2012, Pages 562–570
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As opposed to political democracy and its attempts at power control in the public sector, the concentration of economic power, and its antidote, the concept of economic democracy, has received much less attention. In the paper, we first offer a definition of economic democracy as a “a system of checks and balances on economic power and support for the right of citizens to actively participate in the economy regardless of social status, race, gender, etc.” Based on our definition, we suggest six possible faces of economic democracy and look at their implications for the vision of a sustainable, equitable and non-growing society, as discussed within the degrowth movement: (1) Regulation of market mechanisms and corporate activities. Regulation is one of the most obvious paths to curbing economic power, hence we highlight the issue of deregulation vis a vis possible degrowth policies. A revision of the free-market paradigm is suggested. (2) Support for social enterprises. We discuss different forms of democratic governance within enterprises and suggest that co-operative approaches, common in social enterprises, are better suited to a degrowth economy. (3) Democratic money creation processes, including pluralist community currencies, are suggested to counter economic power caused by the practice of fractional banking. (4) Reclaiming the commons (especially in their original sense as communal land stewardship systems) both conceptually and physically is seen by us as an important aspect of enhancing economic democracy. (5) Redistribution of income and capital assets is discussed as another approach to achieving economic democracy. (6) Finally, inspired by Vandana Shiva, we suggest that a broader view of economic democracy would involve a diversity of production scales and modes, including small-scale, subsistence and self-employment.