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November 01, 2022 2 min read


Marx posited that the two classes in a society - the bourgeoisie and the proletariat - will forever remain in their respective classes because of the nature of capitalism. Even today, we can see that so-called "class permeability" is often lacking, although the extreme forms of "class struggle" appear less prominent.

The rich capital-owning bourgeoisie not only owns the factories, but also controls the media, the universities, the government, and the bureaucracy, and therefore its grip on elevated social status is unchanging. In contrast, the poor working class, the proletariat, has no effective means of obtaining a fair wage for its hard work.

How is this to be resolved? Without wanting to trigger a knee-jerk reaction in some readers, I will not write here about socialism or communism, but will bring into play the idea and real existing possibility of employee ownership. The term is used to describe any arrangement in which employees of a company own shares in their company or the right to the value of the shares in their company. Employee ownership is a broad concept that can take many forms, from simple stock grants to highly structured plans.

Can such a thing work if we take this strictly according to Marx? A company in which everyone participates to the same extent - and also profits? Do the workers then actually own the company, or do we get tangled up in an abstract construct of tradable shares, of which the owning class can still own more than the working class?

I think the whole thing can actually work and you can quickly find examples on the internet of companies with well over 1000 workers that are 100% employee owned. Still, the idea seems to be less popular than classic models. But maybe this is an appealing alternative to offices that are more in line with the "human farming" model. Since motivation among many employees is already in constant decline, shares would be the only intrinsic factors for serious participation in a business model. So Marx basically asks for your company, while "bourgoisie" also contains the word "our".

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