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Managing and resisting ‘degeneration’ in employee-owned businesses: a comparative study of two large retailers in Spain and the UK

Storey, John; Basterretxea, Imanol and Salaman, Graeme (2014). Managing and resisting ‘degeneration’ in employee-owned businesses: a comparative study of two large retailers in Spain and the UK. Organization, 21(5) pp. 626–644.

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Employee-owned businesses have recently enjoyed a resurgence of interest as possible ‘alternatives’ to the somewhat tarnished image of conventional investor-owned capitalist firms. Within the context of global economic crisis, such alternatives seem newly attractive. This is somewhat ironic because, for more than a century, academic literature on employee-owned businesses has been dominated by the ‘degeneration thesis’. This suggested that these businesses tend towards failure – they either fail commercially, or they relinquish their democratic characters. Bucking this trend and offering a beacon - especially in the UK - has been the commercially successful, co-owned enterprise of the John Lewis Partnership (JLP) whose virtues have seemingly been rewarded with favourable and sustainable outcomes. This paper makes comparisons between JLP and its Spanish equivalent Eroski – the supermarket group which is part of the Mondragon cooperatives. The contribution of this paper is to examine in a comparative way how the managers in JLP and Eroski have constructed and accomplished their alternative scenarios. Using longitudinal data and detailed interviews with senior managers in both enterprises it explores the ways in which two large, employee-owned, enterprises reconcile apparently conflicting principles and objectives. The paper thus puts some new flesh on the ‘regeneration thesis’.

Item Type: Journal Item
Copyright Holders: 2014 The Author(s)
ISSN: 1461-7323
Project Funding Details:
Funded Project NameProject IDFunding Body
A Better Way of Doing Business? Lessons from the John Lewis PartnershipES/K000748/1ESRC (Economic and Social Research Council)
Keywords: degeneration; regeneration; worker cooperatives; John Lewis Partnership; Mondragon; alternatives; mutuals; co-ownership
Academic Unit/School: Faculty of Business and Law (FBL) > Business > Department for People and Organisations
Faculty of Business and Law (FBL) > Business
Faculty of Business and Law (FBL)
Research Group: Innovation, Knowledge & Development research centre (IKD)
Related URLs:
Item ID: 40063
Depositing User: John Storey
Date Deposited: 01 May 2014 13:24
Last Modified: 07 Dec 2018 22:00
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