Justice in the Workplace: A Political Theory of Workplace Control

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This book project is based on my doctoral dissertation. It problematizes the Chicago theory of the firm, which presupposes that the firm is a private actor. The book demonstrates that under conditions of contemporary capitalism, relationships within the firm cannot be classified merely as “nexuses of contracts” which individuals are free to join and leave as they please, because firms exercise real (and oftentimes unreasonable) authority over employees in ways that substantially undermine egalitarian norms, democratic relationships, equal opportunities for social and political participation, and the epistemic self-confidence of (especially disadvantaged) workers. Hence, it echoes the recent “political turn” of the theory of the firm. Like this work, this book stresses the semi-public and political dimensions of the firm, but it approaches the political aspects of the firm in a somewhat different way. These other theorists of the political turn focus mainly on the nature and legal origins of the firms whereas the book focuses on what goes on within firms and why that matters. The book moves beyond the proceduralism characteristic of major theories of workplace republicanism and workplace democracy, arguing that problems of illegitimate corporate power cannot be fully accounted for without a careful empirically sensitive normative analysis of the major forms of workplace control, such as those over workers’ emotions, schedule, and knowledge acquisition, that firms are exercising over employees.

Chi Kwok
Assistant Professor