File Size: 2721 KB
Print Length: 216 pages
Publisher: Princeton University Press (May 15, 2017)
Publication Date: May 15, 2017
Will be certainly an irony that Anderson uses the conclusion to clarify that handling these " private governments" should be an ongoing discussion because in the same way the discussion becomes interesting, the book ends. A quick read, Anderson explains the situation in details, but offers little in the way of remedies, hinting slightly at employee-owned firms in Europe. Anderson acknowledges this, but that makes this book feel less like a thorough take on the matter and more like the first few chapters for what could've been a great book., One of the primary right-wing arguments against the formation of strong labour unions in the US ALL is that they will slip into socialism and eventually lead to communism (the dictatorship of the proletariat). Professor Anderson's book, Private Government, relies on political theory and real-life examples to show that, on the contrary, it's the hierarchical leadership structure in American companies that results in a kind of dictatorship by the elite. American personnel are often prescribed what to wear, when they can take bathroom breaks, and even what social and political beliefs they must hold should they want to keep their jobs. Whilst hierarchy, to some degree, is necessary in private companies--to maintain order and some authority--Elizabeth Anderson compellingly argues that this kind of autocratic power over personnel by company companies is incompatible with the American principles of autonomy and equality. In this case, the dictatorship is not that of the Marxist proletariat, as the right fears, but of the the private enterprise elite. This book makes an important contribution not only to political viewpoint, but also to our public discourse about private enterprise and the role of labor in the American economy., In Exclusive Government Elizabeth Anderson provides a compelling case that our political ideologies have been shaped by historical contingencies. Specifically, it made perfect sense for egalitarian reformers in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries to enthusiastically embrace free market segments. State-backed monopolies were one of many varieties of unjust pecking order and domination, others being the clergy (who could forcibly extract tithes), the patriarchal family structure, chattel slavery, monopolist guilds, and the landed aristocracy. In an environment where freer market segments meant more opportunities for people to tend their own land or their own shops and crafts, they represented an important supply of independence and freedom from domination by masters (what she calls republican freedom).
But she argues no-one could have predicted the Industrial Revolution or their ramifications. Using the advent of factories employing numerous personnel in repetitive tasks, the division between wealthy and powerful capitalists and poorer personnel with few options became not a supply of independence but just another form of oppressive pecking order. Anderson argues that we have inherited the earlier unsupported claims of free markets as a source of freedom--appropriate once on a time--and carry on and apply it today. By doing so we extend moral cover to employers to tyrannize personnel anyway they see fit. Anderson laboriously documents illustrations of such tyranny, remembering that it applies especially to poor and lower-skilled personnel who are easily replaced and not so much to skilled personnel and academics, who are likely to have cushier careers.
Importantly, Anderson is not just another leftist anti-capitalist using their head in the atmosphere. She endorses not only strong (but not absolute) property rights, but also acknowledges the value of market freedom as an important arena of agency and self-development. She embraces the market economy as a important engine of riches creation. She even appreciates that firms in the market have solid reasons to need hierarchical business and relatively open-ended expert of the bosses.
Yet the regulatory contours of markets and property legal rights are socially established, and nothing intrinsic to the vigorous functioning of a market economy that requires personnel to check on their dignity and so many basic rights at the door of the workplace.
I may agree with all of Anderson's suggestions. Tyler Cowen (one of the four responders) in particular landed some well-targeted criticisms of Anderson's argument. But at the very least Anderson has succeeded in obliterating the common knee-jerk defense of absolute employer freedom with respect to how they treat personnel and manage businesses. Notions of freedom and tyranny apply to the workplace., Wow. This particular book is a wave -- and hopefully will help cause one. Typically the way we work is so tragically dysfunctional and we simply don't know how to talk about it. We conclude that work sucks and that is that. Because Gallup shows us, the results are clear: 7 out of 10 of us are disengaged at work -- and we acknowledge this as a normal cost of working. Anderson helps us see that work organization is not really a given, it is not " natural" and it is something we can and should change. Thinking of companies as a form of private government is a brilliant way to reframe the discussion, and reveals one of the best ironies of modern democratic societies: Whilst we celebrate democracy, nearly all of us spend nearly all of our waking hours under autocratic rule. A word about the format: Anderson provides two pithy essays (which I would like to get in PDF form by themselves), accompanied by reactions from thinkers in various fields. Anderson then responds to the feedback -- mostly in a genteel manner, until she grows to the hotshot professor of economics whose " hey things aren't that bad" piece becomes simply eviscerated by Anderson. A very satisfying closing indeed!
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