Exploring the performance of democracy and economic diversity in worker cooperatives

LANGMEAD, Kiri (2017). Exploring the performance of democracy and economic diversity in worker cooperatives. Doctoral, Sheffield Hallam University.

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Link to published version:: https://doi.org/10.7190/shu-thesis-00102

Abstract

Adopting the lens of diverse economies theory, this thesis explores the role of democratic praxis in supporting a shift from the perceived dominance and homogeneity of capitalism towards performative post-capitalist praxes of economic diversity and interdependence. Through a reflexive account of an 18-month ethnographic study it makes four contributions to knowledge. First, that democracy in worker cooperatives constitutes interconnected ways of thinking, being and acting. Central to this praxis of democracy is an understanding of the organisation as a conversation and product of individual-collective alignment that, when supported by and expressed through democratic practices, create spaces for ongoing and constitutive deliberation. Second, that this praxis of democracy lays the epistemological and ontological grounds necessary for the emergence of post-capitalist worlds. These grounds constitute the development of an anti-essentialist position, post-fantasmatic and weak theoretical stance, and learning to be affected vision on the world. Third, that these grounds and democratic praxis itself enable ongoing thinking-actions of re-appropriation and negotiation, through which members deconstruct capitalist homogeneity, foster economic diversity and interdependence, and cultivate post-capitalist subjectivities. Finally, the thesis contends that these understandings were enriched by reflexive engagement with the emotional and relational experience of research, and the epistemological and ontological congruence of research methodology, theoretical framework and organisational practice. Through the first three contributions the thesis adds a UK perspective to a narrow body of empirical literature exploring direct democracy in small worker cooperatives. More specifically, it adds to debates on the purpose and practice of workplace democracy in relation to the development of diverse economies thinking and practice. By reframing feelings of anxiety, frustration and contradiction as analytical starting points, the fourth methodological contribution furthers understandings of the role of emotion in organisational ethnography. Beyond these contributions, this thesis opens opportunities for shared learning both between researchers, and cooperative practitioners. In relation to the former it brings to the fore the ethical challenges of researching with close-knit communities and highlights the need for spaces of silence and slowness in maintaining a researcher’s ethical sensibilities. In relation to the latter, it offers an account of the imperfections, joys and struggles of democratic praxis, and makes visible both the possibility and messy reality of post-capitalist worlds. Most significantly, it reframes the contradictions inherent to cooperatives’ dual social-economic characteristic, not as risks of degeneration, but as creative moments that help worker-members to constantly reassess their practice, and their place within, against and beyond the capitalist economy.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Additional Information: Director of Studies: Dr Richard White Supervisors: Peter Wells and Christopher Dayson
Research Institute, Centre or Group - Does NOT include content added after October 2018: Sheffield Hallam Doctoral Theses
Identification Number: https://doi.org/10.7190/shu-thesis-00102
Depositing User: Justine Gavin
Date Deposited: 06 Nov 2018 16:33
Last Modified: 25 Jul 2019 15:34
URI: http://shura.shu.ac.uk/id/eprint/23233

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