IDEAS home Printed from
MyIDEAS: Log in (now much improved!) to save this paper

The Transition to Labour Management as a Gestalt Switch

Listed author(s):
  • Schlicht, Ekkehart

The essay contains a highly speculative theory of social change together with an application to the theory of labour management. It draws on previous work done by the author (1972, 1978), partly in collaboration with C.C.v.weizsäcker (Weizsäcker/Schlicht 1979). In Part I the proposed theory of social change is developed in some detail. The argument leads to the conclusion that society interpets its rules of social organization and interaction as modifications of pure, or simple, or prototype rules, rather than viewing the prevailing set of rules as a self-sufficient archetype. This leads tothe proposition that continuous social changes might entail discontinuous switches in the scheme of social organization. Since the theory draws heavily on Gestalt psychology, these switches are termed Gestalt switches; discontinuous changes in superstructure brought about by smooth changes within the existing socio-economic framework. Part 2 deals with an application of this general kind of argument to the theory of labour management. Starting with a sketch of why labour immobility is a precondition for the viability of labour management in a competitive economy, it will be argued that technical progress will lead, through competitive pressure, to just that: a de-facto-immobility of labour. Thereby, the stage is set for the development of an efficient type of labour-managed organization which might evolve from competition; but immobility of labour will have another important consequence: The very notion of the firm will undergo a change, socially. People will cease to interpret employment relations as exchange relations. Rather, they will view the employment contract as establishing permanent rights and obligations. Since workers are tied permanently to a firm, firms will be considered as being constituted by their staff rather than by changing physicalequipment, just in the same way as a firm is viewed socially as being constituted by the owners of capital under capitalist conditions. Thus, firms will become ultimately identified with their staff rather than with the suppliers of capital, and the labour managed firm will appear as the "natural" form of organization. Actual firms will be considered as modifications of this pure form just in the same way as co-determination is considered as a modification of the pure capitalist mode of organization today. Thus, this precarious kind of theorizing leads to the conclusion that strong pressures are working towards a gestalt switch to labour management. The reader is kindly rtequested, however, not to take those conclusions at face value, since the foundations on which the theory is built are not excelling in firmness. Take all this, please, as a Gedanken-experiment, as one particular attempt towards a better understanding of social and economic change containing, perhaps, some elements of a fruitful approach

If you experience problems downloading a file, check if you have the proper application to view it first. In case of further problems read the IDEAS help page. Note that these files are not on the IDEAS site. Please be patient as the files may be large.

File URL:
Download Restriction: no

Paper provided by University of Munich, Department of Economics in its series Munich Reprints in Economics with number 3388.

in new window

Date of creation: 1979
Handle: RePEc:lmu:muenar:3388
Contact details of provider: Postal:
Ludwigstr. 28, 80539 Munich, Germany

Phone: +49-(0)89-2180-3405
Fax: +49-(0)89-2180-3510
Web page:

More information through EDIRC

References listed on IDEAS
Please report citation or reference errors to , or , if you are the registered author of the cited work, log in to your RePEc Author Service profile, click on "citations" and make appropriate adjustments.:

in new window

  1. Gary S. Becker, 1962. "Investment in Human Capital: A Theoretical Analysis," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 70, pages 1-9.
  2. Schlicht, Ekkehart, 1978. "Labour Turnover, Wage Structure, and Natural Unemployment," Munich Reprints in Economics 1255, University of Munich, Department of Economics.
Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

This item is not listed on Wikipedia, on a reading list or among the top items on IDEAS.

When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:lmu:muenar:3388. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Tamilla Benkelberg)

If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

If references are entirely missing, you can add them using this form.

If the full references list an item that is present in RePEc, but the system did not link to it, you can help with this form.

If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

This information is provided to you by IDEAS at the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis using RePEc data.