Work, Justice, and Collective Capital Institutions: Revisiting Rudolf Meidner and the Case for Wage-Earner Funds

Martin O'Neill, Markus Furendal

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This article makes the case for a specific variety of what we call Collective Capital Institutions (CCIs), by returning to the idea of Wage-Earner Funds (WEFs) – a 1970s Swedish policy proposal designed gradually to shift ownership and control over parts of the economy to democratically controlled institutions. We identify two attractive rationales in favour of such a scheme and argue that both can fruitfully be transposed to the current worldwide economic situation. The egalitarian rationale is that WEFs could help in the pursuit of equality by giving a wider set of people a stake in collectively owned companies and a right to their profits. The democratic rationale is that WEFs redistribute not only these profits, but also the power over economic decisions made within companies. We then contrast such schemes for collective capital ownership with the similar but much more privatised proposals set out in, for instance, John Rawls's idea of a ‘property-owning democracy’. We argue that CCIs ultimately are more likely to contribute to the development of the ‘sense of justice’ within society that is needed for a stable just society. We conclude that CCIs deserve a great deal more exploration in academic and political discussions of egalitarian economic systems.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages24
JournalJournal of Applied Philosophy
Publication statusPublished - 24 Nov 2022

Bibliographical note

© 2022 The Authors. Journal of Applied Philosophy published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd on behalf of Society for Applied Philosophy.


  • Meidner
  • social democracy
  • democratic socialism
  • socialism
  • wage-earner funds
  • collective capital
  • collective capital institutions
  • social justice
  • work
  • justice
  • future of work
  • Labour Party

Cite this