Following critiques of shareholder capitalism and calls for reform of the corporation, employee-owned firms have attracted public and government attention in the UK and elsewhere, based on the view that these alternative organizations serve a broader public purpose. However, despite attempts to broaden the measures for evaluating organizations and take seriously the social effects of business decisions, we lack a holistic framework for evaluating this public purpose that addresses aspirations like participation, democracy, equality, solidarity, and strong community relations alongside financial resilience and profitability. This study proposes that a solution can be found in Selznick’s concept of “moral community.” Selznick argued that community, conceived as a response to the perceived unravelling of the social fabric, plays a vital role in countering the excesses of capitalism. Using this as a yardstick to evaluate employee ownership (EO) in the UK, the author argues that the EO organizational field is indeed an embodiment of a moral community. It successfully infuses a broad range of social values into economic pursuits, nurtures an inclusive sense of the “common good,” and mitigates the alienation resulting from an increasingly marketized society. At the same time, the EO moral community does not reject capitalism as such, aspiring to connect with and reform existing political, financial, and legal structures as opposed to positioning its own institutions as an alternative to them. There are, therefore, limits to the challenge that the EO community levels against the current socioeconomic order.
I would like to thank the editors of this volume and the anonymous reviewers for very useful comments on earlier drafts. I am also grateful to the people who freely gave of their time and knowledge to speak about their organization and EO. The research for this study was supported by seed-corn funding from Cardiff Business School, UK.
Preminger, J. (2021), "Moral Community as a Yardstick for Alternative Organizations: Evaluating Employee Ownership and its Place within the Socioeconomic Order", Chen, K.K. and Chen, V.T. (Ed.) Organizational Imaginaries: Tempering Capitalism and Tending to Communities through Cooperatives and Collectivist Democracy (Research in the Sociology of Organizations, Vol. 72), Emerald Publishing Limited, Bingley, pp. 83-112. https://doi.org/10.1108/S0733-558X20210000072004
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