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Political participation and the workplace: the spillover thesis revisited

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Publication details

JournalBritish Journal of Politics and International Relations
DatePublished - Aug 2006
Issue number3
Number of pages16
Pages (from-to)410-426
Original languageEnglish


Current concern about declining public participation has ignored the potential of workplace democracy to encourage citizen involvement in political activities. Yet, Carole Pateman, in one of the classic texts of participatory democratic theory, outlines the 'spillover thesis', which posits a direct link between workplace participation, political efficacy and public participation. The lack of strong empirical evidence supporting this causal relationship suggests that the processes underpinning the 'spillover thesis', particularly between workplace participation and political efficacy, are more complex than Pateman acknowledged. A detailed review of empirical studies of worker co-operatives indicates that the 'spillover thesis' needs respecification to take account of seven variables that can shape the relationship between workplace participation and political efficacy. The case for supporting worker co-operatives as an institutional solution to declining public participation is weak.

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