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Industrial Democracy: Historical Development and Current Challenges


  • Walther Mueller-Jentsch


The following article gathers notes and comments on industrial democracy, its terminology, history and current developments. Industrial democracy is an enigmatic term whose spectrum of meanings is explored in the first section. The Anglo-Saxon terminology, going back to S. and B. Webb will be compared with the German vocabulary of Wirtschaftsdemokratie and co-determination. The following sections deal with the peculiarities of German co-determination. First the emergence of co-determination is explained by a conflictual interplay of employers, state and trade unions, followed by a sketchy number of the crucial steps of its development up to today\u2019s challenges. An additional section is devoted to the rationale of the works council, which has surprisingly evolved from a Cinderella to the most significant institution of industrial relations in contemporary Germany. The final discussion focuses on the ideological permutation of co-determination changing its socialist embeddedness into a market-economy one. The paper concludes with a proposal to couple the legitimacy of co-determination with the normative framework of social market economy.

Suggested Citation

  • Walther Mueller-Jentsch, 2008. "Industrial Democracy: Historical Development and Current Challenges," management revue - Socio-Economic Studies, Nomos Verlagsgesellschaft mbH & Co. KG, vol. 19(4), pages 260-273.
  • Handle: RePEc:nms:mamere:doi_10.1688/1861-9908_mrev_2008_4_mueller-jentsch

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    industrial democracy; economic democracy; co-determination; works council; workers committees; social market economy; industrial relations; Germany;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • F23 - International Economics - - International Factor Movements and International Business - - - Multinational Firms; International Business
    • J53 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Labor-Management Relations, Trade Unions, and Collective Bargaining - - - Labor-Management Relations; Industrial Jurisprudence
    • M10 - Business Administration and Business Economics; Marketing; Accounting; Personnel Economics - - Business Administration - - - General


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