Organizing radically: Alternatives to corporate capitalism

The wide recognition of the accumulating adverse economic, environmental, social, and political impacts of businesses - the ever-widening income inequality, environmental degradation, exploitative labour practices, undermining of democracy and local governance to name a few - has led to calls for businesses acting more responsibly (e.g., Sukhdev, 2012). Responding to the call, one stream of studies showcase some possibilities for the businesses to be responsible such as the creation of new legal organizational forms (e.g., benefit corporations), for-profit social enterprise organizations (e.g., hybrid organizations), multi-stakeholder partnerships or private regulatory governance models (e.g., Global Reporting Initiative, Forest Stewardship Council), and shared capitalism (e.g., ESOP-based cooperatives) (Kruse et al. 2010; Parker et al., 2014; Stubbs 2017). A more critically oriented stream of research, however, highlights that such possibilities fail to question the very ideological underpinnings and organizing structures and processes of corporate capitalism (Banarjee, 2011; Fleming 2012) which lead to the harmful externalities (Reynolds, 2018). This stream, hence, calls for exploring organizing that is radically different from these forms (Barin et al., 2017; Vijay and Varman, 2017). Heeding to these calls, a third stream of literature explores alternatives to corporate capitalism that are largely rooted in democratization, emancipation, justice, and ecological sustainability (Vijay and Varman, 2018; Parker et al., 2014; Wright, 2010; Kothari and Joy, 2017). 

Following this footprint, we are particularly interested in the struggles that the alternative forms of organizing encounter to emerge and sustain within the hegemonic domination of corporate capitalism that increasingly normalizes and institutionalizes neoliberal order as the reality of (colonized) lifeworlds. The sites of the struggle could be any of the following: workspaces, social movements, the state, and the civil society. The following are some thematic examples.

A variety of forms of cooperatives has been explored as alternative ways and forms of organizing that range from producer cooperatives to worker cooperatives. Many such extant studies consider them as alternatives mostly based on sharing of legal and economic ownership with workers (Kandathil & Varman, 2007). In the spirit of workplace democratization, we are, however, more interested in the issues of worker governance (Varman & Chakraborty, 2004) such as strategic and operational decision-making, policy making bodies of workplaces, mechanisms of representations and attendant political tensions in worker-owned and governed cooperatives (Webb and Cheney, 2014).

In the context of the rise of philanthropic capitalism and the increasing corporatization of civil society organizations, we are interested in studies that consider civil society as sites of struggles, where the state, the people and the market interact and the people wage emancipatory battles against the hegemony of the market and the state (Gramsci & Hoare, 1971).

What is the role of state, both as a form of governance and public policy making system, in creating and organizing alternatives in the context of the consolidation of neoliberalregime? Some examples in this direction include works on solidary economy (Eid et al., 2001) and ecologically sustainable policies and practices which the state promotes and helps sustain (Escobar 2011). 

Another theme of interest is the initiatives and struggles related to the self-organizing attempts of the communities, particularly indegenous and marginalized communities. Some examples include works on radical ecological democracy (Kothari & Joy, 2017), self-organizing of de-notified tribal communities (Shah et al., 2017), and critical works on food sovereignty (Dunford, 2015).

In addressing these themes, we encourage studies that deploy conceptual stories and representations that inform alternative organizational forms and processes of organizing. Such theories, for example, could be based on works of Escobar (2011), Gandhi (2001), Ambedkar (Naik, 2003; Zene, 2013), Freire (1996) and Ibarra-Colado (2006) or/and could relate to commoming (e.g., Bollier, 2014), radical eco-feminism (e.g., Tessman, 2009), social movement theories and histories (Snow et al., 2008; Shah, 2004). 

We are also open to the critical examination of the forms of organizing that have been popularly acclaimed as alternatives - political corporate social responsibility (Whelan, 2012), 

multi-stakeholder initiatives (Pichler, 2013), and social enterprises (Dey and Steyaert, 2012; Muntean et al., 2016). 

Queries related to this track may be addressed to Professor  George Kandathil: Professor Rama Mohana Turaga:


Banerjee, S. B. (2010). Governing the global corporation: A critical perspective. Business Ethics Quarterly, 20(2), 265-274. 

Bollier, D. 2014. Think Like a Commoner: A Short Introduction to the Life of the Commons. New Society Publishers. 

Dey, P., & Steyaert, C. (2012). Critical reflections on social entrepreneurship. In Social Entrepreneurship and Social Business (pp. 255-275). Gabler Verlag. 

Dunford, R. (2015). Human rights and collective emancipation: The politics of food sovereignty. Review of International Studies, 41(2), 239-261. 

Eid, F. and A. E. Bueno Pimentel. 2001. ‘Solidary Economy: Challenges of Cooperative Agrarian Reform in Brazil.’ Journal of Rural Cooperation 29 (886-2016-64601): 141-152. 

Escobar, A. (2011). Encountering development: The making and unmaking of the Third World (Vol. 1). Princeton University Press. 

Fleming, P. (2012). The end of corporate social responsibility: Crisis and critique. Sage. 

Freire, P. (1996). Pedagogy of the oppressed (revised). New York: Continuum. 

Gandhi, M. K. (2001). The complete works of Mahatma Gandhi CD-ROM. New Delhi: Publications Division, Government of India. 

Gramsci, A., & Hoare, Q. (1971). Selections from the prison notebooks (p. 350). London: Lawrence and Wishart. 

Ibarra-Colado, E. (2006). Organization studies and epistemic coloniality in Latin America: thinking otherness from the margins. Organization, 13(4), 463-488. 

Kandathil, G. M., & Varman, R. (2007). Contradictions of employee involvement, information sharing and expectations: a case study of an Indian Worker Cooperative. Economic and Industrial Democracy, 28(1), 140-174. 

Kothari, A. & Joy, KJ. 2017. Alternative Futures: Unshackling India. Authors Upfront: Delhi. 

Kruse, D. L., Freeman, R. B., & Blasi, J. R. (Eds.). (2010). Shared capitalism at work: Employee ownership, profit and gain sharing, and broad-based stock options. University of Chicago Press. 

Muntean, S. C., & Ozkazanc-Pan, B. (2016). Feminist perspectives on social entrepreneurship: critique and new directions. International Journal of Gender and Entrepreneurship, 8(3), 221-241. 

Naik, C. D. (2003). Thoughts and philosophy of Dr. BR Ambedkar. Sarup & Sons. 

Parker, M., Cheney, G., Fournier, V., & Land, C. (Eds.). (2014). The Routledge companion to alternative organization. Routledge. 

Pichler, M. (2013). “People, planet & profit”: consumer-oriented hegemony and power relations in palm oil and agrofuel certification. The Journal of Environment & Development, 22(4), 370-390. 

Reynolds, B. (2018). The Coming Revolution: Capitalism in the 21st Century. John Hunt Publishing. 

Shah, G. (2004). Social movements in India: a review of literature. Sage Publications India. 

Shah, P., Kandathil, G., & Kapoor, A. (2018). Acting for Change. Alternative Organisations in India: Undoing Boundaries, 183. 

Snow, D. A., Soule, S. A., & Kriesi, H. (Eds.). (2008). The Blackwell companion to social movements. John Wiley & Sons. 

Stubbs, W. (2017). Sustainable entrepreneurship and B corps. Business Strategy and the Environment, 26(3), 331-344. 

Sukhdev, P. (2012). Corporation 2020. Penguin UK. 

Tessman, L. (Ed.). (2009). Feminist ethics and social and political philosophy: Theorizing the non-ideal. Springer Science & Business Media. 

Varman, R., & Chakrabarti, M. (2004). Contradictions of democracy in a workers’ cooperative. Organization studies, 25(2), 183-208. 

Vijay, D., & Varman, R. (Eds.). (2018). Alternative Organisations in India: Undoing Boundaries. Cambridge University Press. 

Webb, T., & Cheney, G. (2014). Worker-owned-and-governed co-operatives and the wider co-operative movement: challenges and opportunities within and beyond the global economic crisis. In The Routledge companion to alternative organization (pp. 88-112). Routledge. 

Whelan, G. (2012). The political perspective of corporate social responsibility: A critical research agenda. Business Ethics Quarterly, 22(4), 709-737. 

Wright, E. O. (2010). Envisioning real utopias (Vol. 98). London: Verso. 

Zene, C. (Ed.). (2013). The political philosophies of Antonio Gramsci and BR Ambedkar: Itineraries of Dalits and subalterns. Routledge. 

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