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The Labor-Managed Firm
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Book description

In previous work, Gregory K. Dow created a broad and accessible overview of worker-controlled firms. In his new book, The Labor-Managed Firm: Theoretical Foundations, Dow provides the formal models that underpinned his earlier work, while developing promising new directions for economic research. Emphasizing that capital is alienable while labor is inalienable, Dow shows how this distinction, together with market imperfections, explains the rarity of labor-managed firms. This book uses modern microeconomics, exploits up-to-date empirical research, and constructs a unified theory that accounts for many facts about the behavior, performance, and design of labor-managed firms. With a large number of entirely new chapters, comprehensive updating of earlier material, a critique of the literature, and policy recommendations, here Dow presents the capstone work of his career, encompassing more than three decades of theoretical research.


'Gregory K. Dow has thought more deeply and in a more sustained manner about the puzzle of why capital hires labor than any serious student of economic theory since the first efforts in the field were undertaken more than a generation ago. The present effort to organize, revisit, and distil the conclusions from his investigations is rigorous, laid out with admirable clarity, and always intellectually honest and clear-headed.

Louis Putterman - Brown University, Rhode Island

'Bringing together a lifetime's research, The Labor-Managed Firm lays out the failures of the classic model of cooperatives that assumes that they maximize income per worker instead of profits. It offers an array of ideas about the relation between labor and capital to account for the sparsity of coops in market economies.'

Richard Freeman - Harvard University, Massachusetts

'This book provides an expansive economic theory of firms controlled by their employees. It explores the birth, evolution and possible transformation of such firms in comparison to conventional investor-owned firms. Although it is a primarily theoretical work, it refers to the empirical literature so the reader gets a broad understanding of this sector of the economy. The theoretical analyses presented in this book provide guidance to practitioners. I highly recommend this book to all those interested in employee ownership.'

Avner Ben-Ner - Center for Human Resources and Labor Studies, University of Minnesota

'In this remarkable work, Dow synthesizes his extensive research on the economics of labor-managed enterprises. Economists working in the field will find both an indispensable assessment of the literature and a fruitful catalyst for fresh theoretical and empirical investigations. Those new to the subject will discover insights about the manifold ways in which market conditions shape how firms are governed.'

Gilbert Skillman - Wesleyan University, Connecticut

'Does current corporate governance reflect market efficiency, or are there potentially better ways to organize and run corporations? Gregory K. Dow takes this question to a new level by pulling together his own and others’ theoretical work on labor-managed firms, providing a thoughtful comparison of the conditions favoring capital-managed and labor-managed firms. This is a masterful contribution to basic issues of economic organization, with implications for how we should design firms and public policy.'

Douglas Kruse - Rutgers University, New Jersey

'This is a lovely book, and one we have needed for several decades. It offers a genuinely novel perspective on the theory of labor-managed firms, informed at every step by a careful attention to empirical findings and by the institutional makeup of real-world worker cooperatives and employee-owned firms. Dow has spent some thirty years thinking about these issues, and brings his work together in an impressive whole. It will redefine the theoretical and empirical research agendas, as well as providing an invaluable text in support of a postgraduate course on economic democracy.'

Virginie Pérotin - University of Leeds

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