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Isabelle Ferreras
Firms as Political Entities: Diagnosis and Prospects


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As the world becomes more and more automated, it is becoming increasingly important to describe and define the institution within which workers as humans actually experience it. If we want the firm's institutional reality to fit the context and constraints of a democratic society, we must question the very nature of the power structure that has been entrusted with the responsibility of governing work and, by extension, the responsibility of legitimately governing (or not governing) the capitalist firm. As we shall see, the firm is the institution that best embodies the contradictions and tensions between capitalism and democracy. In order to address this, we shall look at past institutional innovations in the field of corporate governance through the lens of the history of Western political democratization. We shall then identify a way forward by moving from capital monocameralism to bicameralism, at last recognizing the same rights for labor investors as those already granted to capital investors. This lecture draws on Isabelle Ferreras publications, Governing the Capitalist Firm and Gouverner le capitalisme?

Isabelle Ferreras is a sociologist and a political scientist. She is Professor of Sociology at the University of Louvain, Belgium, and a tenured fellow of the Belgian National Science Foundation. She is also an alumnus of the Harvard Trade Union Program, a senior research associate of the Labor and Worklife Program at Harvard Law School (Cambridge, MA). Since 2015, she has also been serving as the academic coordinator of the Louvain Aung San Suu Kyi Fund for Democracy, Cultures and Action.
Selected publications
  • Ferreras, I.: Governing the Capitalist Firm. Forthcoming 2017.
  • Ferreras, I.: In Defense of Workplace Democracy: Towards a Justification of the Firm-State Analogy (with Hélène Landemore). In: Political Theory 44(1), 53-81, 2016.
  • Ferreras, I.: Restructuring Processes and Capability for Voice: Case Study of Volkswagen, Brussels (with Jean de Munck). In: International Journal of Manpower 43(4), 397-412, 2013.
  • Ferreras, I.: Gouverner le capitalisme? Pour le bicamérisme économique. Presses universitaires de France, 2012.
  • Ferreras, I.: Renewing Democratic Deliberation in Europe: The Challenge of Social and Civil Dialogue (with Jean De Munck, Claude Didry, Annette Jobert). Peter Lang Press, 2012.
  • Ferreras, I.: The Collective Aspects of Individual Freedom: A Case Study in the Service Sector. In: Serafino Negrelli, Ota de Leonardis, Robert Salas (eds.), Democracy and Capabilities for Voice: Welfare, Work and Public Deliberation in Europe. Peter Lang, 101-118, 2012.
  • Ferreras, I.: Critique politique du travail: Travailler à l’heure de la société des services. Presses de Sciences Po, 2007.
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