Does a Political Republic Require an Industrial Republic?
What the cofounders of America had to say
TLDR: In a recent podcast, scholar Chris Mackin explores the American founders’ views of industrial democracy.
Background: In a recently published paper, employee ownership scholar Chris Mackin explores the different meaning of the word ownership. He sat down with workplace democracy scholar Michael Palmieri to discuss the paper, and in particular the founders’ idea of an industrial republic. A key quote from that podcast:
Our parents and grandparents fought for a political republic, which is here to stay. we should have an industrial republic, built along the same lines as our political republic, where the people in the building are the ones that own and govern themselves, and are not owned and governed by people on the outside, because they just happened to have the privilege of coming into their money through feudalism.
And a little more from Mackin’s paper, footnote references removed:
The 19th century context for this activity, before and after the civil war, was not at a far remove from the American Revolution. The largest and most successful industrial firms were capitalized by European interests who sought to employ traditionally independent farmers and tradespeople. Many Americans spurned their invitations to work for a wage as well as the terminology of employer and employee that they deployed. They found that language demeaning and beneath the standards of citizens of a newly free republic. If factories and industrialization represented the future, they reasoned, then new forms of economic organization should reflect republican values and therefore be structured as cooperatives. George McNeil, a 19th century labor campaigner summarized this point of view when he called for “a republicanization of labor as well as a republicanization of government” At the time of these debates, the highly charged ideological categories and language of modern times pitting the terms capitalism against socialism had not significantly taken hold in the United States. Gourevitch (2014) describes the ideology of resistance evident in this era as “labor republicanism.”