Soci 124: The Good Society (2022)

University of California-San Diego
Winter 2021-22
Tu Th 2:00-3:20, Peterson 102

Lane Kenworthy
Office hours:, M 2:00-4:00 and by appointment
Tel: 858-860-6124

The aim of this course is to explore a radical proposal: economic democracy.

You will examine evidence and reasoning for and against this proposal. You’ll report on the evidence and reasoning to the class. You’ll deliberate collectively. As a group, you’ll prepare a two-page document stating the pros and cons of the United States adopting a policy mandating one-employee-one-vote (rather than one-stock-share-one-vote) decision making authority in most companies.

Skip to:


Weeks 1-2: Introduction and context

Weeks 3-8: Economic democracy

Weeks 9-10: Deliberation

The Canvas course page has a detailed schedule.


Here’s what you should get from this course:

  • Substantive knowledge. The course aims to improve your understanding of the issues we cover.
  • Approaching issues scientifically (this is often called “critical thinking”). This means examining evidence and reasoning from that evidence rather than relying solely on theory, ethical beliefs, or anecdotes. Social science often is similar to detective work, with the social scientist more like Sherlock Holmes than like a chemist in a lab. Seldom is the story simple, and rarely do we have the exact evidence we would need in order to be strongly confident about our conclusion. So we use various types of data, and we may deploy a mixture of analytical methods. We ask: “What would we expect to observe if a particular hypothesis were true? Is that what we in fact observe? If so or if not, what does that tell us about the answer to our question?” Then we piece together a conclusion from multiple imperfect and incomplete bits of evidence. For each reading, video, or podcast, focus on the question(s) being posed, the answer(s) given, the key pieces of evidence, and the way the author reasons in reaching a conclusion.
  • Working in groups. A good bit of life — in a job, in a family, and in other contexts — involves working with other people to accomplish a goal. The deliberative advisory assembly project in this course aims to improve your group-work comfort and skill.
  • Good argument. The course is designed to improve your ability to develop and convey effective argument. Keys include focusing on a specific question, formulating a clear proposal or position, making use of relevant evidence, addressing potential objections and counterarguments, and communicating clearly.
  • Written communication. Good writing usually comes from two things. The first is clear thinking. But writing isn’t just a way to express what you’re thinking; it’s a way to clarify your thinking. Don’t wait until you have it all figured out before beginning to write. Start writing; doing so will help you develop your thoughts. The second key is extensive editing. Write a draft. Then edit it. Then edit it again. And again. (For a helpful guide to good writing, see this.) If you struggle with writing, you’re like virtually everyone else. The course aims to help you improve, by practicing.
  • Concision. Information and opinion are plentiful these days, so brevity is a valuable skill. The presentation and paper for the course will be short, so you’ll need to focus on the information and argument that is most relevant or useful.
  • Comfort with quantitative data. A generation ago there was a scarcity of numerical data. Now we have an abundance: data are everywhere. That’s a good thing, because data are key to answering important questions about society. You will encounter lots of quantitative data in this course, often in graphical form. If you aren’t already comfortable interpreting such data and reasoning from them, by the end of the course you should be.


These are the required readings, videos, and podcasts. Direct links to all of them are in the Canvas course page.

  • Anderson, Elizabeth. 2017. “How Bosses Are (Literally) Like Dictators.” Vox, September 3.
  • Cowen, Tyler. 2017. “Comment” on Elizabeth Anderson’s Tanner Lectures.
  • Cumbers, Andrew. 2018. “A New Definition of Economic Democracy — and What It Means for Inequality.” LSE Blog, March 3.
  • Dahl, Robert A. 1985. “The Right to Democracy Within Firms.” Chapter 4 in A Preface to Economic Democracy. University of California Press.
  • Farrell, David. 2019. “Deliberative Democracy in Ireland.” Europe’s New Political Economy Podcast, Episode 2, November 15.
  • Healthy Democracy. “Citizens Initiative Review: Informing Voters Through Citizen-Centered Deliberative Democracy.”
  • Karnofsky, Holden. 2021. “Was Life Better in Hunter-Gatherer Times?” Cold Takes.
  • Kennedy, Liz. 2017. “Corporate Capture Threatens Democratic Government. Center for American Progress, March 27.
  • Kenworthy, Lane. 2020. “The Case for Social Democratic Capitalism.” Political Economy Podcast with James Pethokoukis.
  • Kenworthy, Lane. 2020. “Social Democratic Capitalism and the Good Society.” Chapter 2 in Social Democratic Capitalism. Oxford University Press.
  • Kenworthy, Lane. 2022. “How Do We Know?” The Good Society.
  • Kenworthy, Lane. 2022. “Income Distribution.” The Good Society.
  • Kenworthy, Lane. 2022. “Progress.” The Good Society.
  • Kenworthy, Lane. 2022. Would Democratic Socialism Be Better? Oxford University Press. Chapters 1-2, 4-6, 11-13.
  • Malleson, Tom. 2014. After Occupy: Economic Democracy for the 21st Century. Oxford University Press. Introduction and chs. 2, 3.
  • Parent-Thirion, Agnès, Isabella Biletta, Stavroula Demetriades, Duncan Gallie, and Ying Zhou. 2020. “How Does Employee Involvement in Decision-Making Benefit Organisations?” European Working Conditions Survey 2015 Series, Eurofound.
  • Pinker, Steven. 2018. “Is the World Getting Better or Worse? A Look at the Numbers.” TED Talks.
  • Quart, Alissa. 2021. “Be Your Own Boss: More Worker Co-ops Are Returning Workers’ Power.” Mother Jones, September-October, 325-333.
  • Reich, Robert and Jacob Kornbluth. 2013. “Inequality for All.”
  • Semuels, Alana. 2015. “Getting Rid of Bosses.” The Atlantic, July 8.
  • Smith, Noah. 2019. “There’s No Reason Workers Can’t Be Corporate Owners.” Bloomberg, November 27.
  • Taylor, Robert. 2017. “Conversation on Taylor’s book Exit Left.” Political Theory Review Podcast, August 14.
  • Van Aertryck, Maximilien and Axel Danielson. 2021. “Work? ‘I Think It Numbs You Somehow.'” New York Times Op-Docs.
  • Van Parijs, Philippe and Yannick Vanderborght. 2017. “The Instrument of Freedom.” Chapter 1 in Basic Income: A Radical Proposal for a Free and Sane Economy. Harvard University Press.
  • Walzer, Michael. 1978. “Town Meetings and Workers’ Control.” Dissent, Summer, 325-333.
  • Witkowsky, Patrik, Jesper Lundgren, André Nyström, and Nils Säfström. 2015. Can We Do It Ourselves? A Film About Economic Democracy.
  • Wolff, Richard. 2012. Democracy at Work. Haymarket Books. Introduction and chs. 6, 7.
  • Wolff, Richard. 2017. “Democracy at Work: Curing Capitalism.” Talks at Google, June 28.


Course grades will be determined as follows. See below for details.

  • 25%: deliberative advisory assembly project (group grade)
  • 25%: class attendance and participation
  • 25%: in-class presentation
  • 25%: paper

Each of these will be graded on a scale of 0 to 100. So your numerical course grade is calculated as: (deliberative advisory assembly project x .25) + (class attendance and participation x .25) + (in-class presentation x .25) + (paper x .25).

Your letter grade for the course will be determined as follows:

  • 96.67 to 100 = A+
  • 93.34 to 96.66 = A
  • 90 to 93.33 = A–
  • 86.67 to 89.99 = B+
  • 83.34 to 86.66 = B
  • 80 to 83.33 = B–
  • 76.67 to 79.99 = C+
  • 73.34 to 76.66 = C
  • 70 to 73.33 = C–
  • 60 to 69.99 = D
  • below 60 = F

There will be no extra-credit projects or assignments.


You will, collectively, research and discuss the following proposed law for the United States: In economic organizations with 10 or more members, ultimate decision making authority must be according to the principle of one employee one vote. You will prepare a two-page document highlighting the most important fact-based findings about the proposal and the most strong and reliable pro and con arguments.

You will decide how to divide up the readings, writing, editing, and any other tasks.

You will receive a group grade for this project.


Attendance and in-class participation are required. Weeks 1-2 will be heavy on lecture. Weeks 3-8 will feature a mix of student presentations and discussion. Weeks 9-10 will consist of deliberation and discussion.


The course readings and videos are listed above (and in Canvas). You as a group will divide up the responsibility for these. Each student is responsible for one reading/video. Since we have more students than readings/videos, each reading/video will be presented by a small group of students rather than by a single student.

Each group will prepare a slide presentation and give the presentation in class. Time limit: 15 minutes. Don’t summarize what the reading/video says. Instead, focus on what you think the argument and/or evidence implies for the proposal of economic democracy.

There is no minimum or maximum number of slides, but fewer is better.

Upload your presentation to the Canvas course page.


Should the United States enact a policy requiring that in economic organizations with 10 or more members, ultimate decision making authority must be according to the principle of one employee one vote? Why or why not?

Grading will be based on the following:

  • Answer the question.
  • Refer to relevant evidence.
  • Address potential objections. What would a critic say are the weak points in your case? How do you respond?
  • Write clearly.
  • Use proper grammar and punctuation (“I,” “me,” and contractions are fine), and adhere to the following length, formatting, and citation instructions. Length: No more than 1,000 words (excluding charts, tables, and footnotes). List your word count on the first page, along with your name and the date. If you include charts and/or tables, put them at the end and don’t include them in the word count. Formatting: single-space, 12-point font size, 1-inch top and bottom margins and 2-inch side margins. Use footnotes (not a reference list or bibliography) to give credit to anyone from whom you borrow evidence or argument. The footnotes aren’t included in the word count. I’m not picky about the formatting of the footnotes, but include the author(s), title, and year rather than just an internet address.

If you need help with writing, consider seeking assistance from the UC San Diego Writing Hub.

You may draw on course readings and/or outside sources.

The due date is listed in the Schedule above. A paper turned in late but within 48 hours of the deadline will be penalized 25 points (out of 100). A paper turned in more than 48 hours late, or not turned in at all, will receive a grade of zero.

Upload your paper on the Canvas course page.

Submit the paper in a word processing program format (Google docs, Microsoft Word, Pages, etc.). Don’t submit it as a pdf document.

If you need help with writing, consider seeking assistance from the UC San Diego Writing Hub.

Don’t plagiarize. If you aren’t sure what constitutes plagiarism and how to avoid it, see the UC San Diego Library’s guide to preventing plagiarism.


Students are encouraged to share intellectual views and discuss freely the principles and applications of course materials. However, graded work must be the product of independent effort unless otherwise instructed. Students are expected to adhere to UC San Diego policy on academic integrity.


Students who need special accommodation or services should contact the Office for Students with Disabilities (OSD). You must register and request that the OSD send me official notification of your accommodation needs as soon as possible. Please meet with me to discuss accommodations and how the course requirements and activities may impact your ability to fully participate.


Information here, other than the grade and attendance policy, may be subject to change with advance notice, as deemed appropriate by the instructor.


Deliberative citizen assemblies

  • Bächtiger, Andre, John S. Dryzek, Jane Mansbridge, and Mark Warren, eds. 2018. Oxford Handbook of Deliberative Democracy. Oxford University Press.
  • Dryzek, John S. et al. 2019. “The Crisis of Democracy and the Science of Deliberation.” Science 363, 1144-1146.
  • The Economist. 2020. “Citizen Assemblies Are Increasingly Popular. Do They Work?” September 19.
  • Gastil, John, Erik Olin Wright, et al. 2019. Legislature by Lot: Transformative Designs for Deliberative Governance. Verso.
  • Landemore, Hélène. 2020. Open Democracy: Reinventing Popular Rule for the Twenty-First Century. Princeton University Press.


  • Inglehart, Ronald F. 2018. Cultural Evolution. Cambridge University Press.
  • Kenny, Charles. 2021. Your World, Better: Global Progress and What You Can Do About It.
  • Kristof, Nicholas. 2019. “This Has Been the Best Year Ever.” New York Times, December 28.
  • Norberg, Johan. 2016. Progress: Ten Reasons to Look Forward to the Future. Oneworld.
  • Pinker, Steven. 2018. Enlightenment Now. Viking.
  • Rosling, Hans. 2018. Factfulness: Ten Reasons We’re Wrong About the World, and Why Things Are Better Than You Think. Flatiron Books.
  • Welzel, Christian. 2013. Freedom Rising: Human Empowerment and the Quest for Emancipation. Cambridge University Press.

Economic democracy

  • Archer, Robin. 2010. “Freedom, Democracy, and Capitalism: Ethics and Employee Participation.” In Oxford Handbook of Participation in Organizations, edited by Adrian Wilkinson, Paul J. Gollan, Mick Marchington, and David Lewin. Oxford University Press.
  • Artz, Georgeanne M. and Younjun Kim. 2011. “Business Ownership by Workers: Are Worker Cooperatives a Viable Option?” Economics Working Paper 99, Iowa State University.
  • Aspen Institute Business and Society Program. 2021. “A Seat at the Table: Worker Voice and the New Corporate Boardroom.”
  • Blasi, Joseph R. 2015. “Tipping the Scale of Employee Ownership.” Morgan Stanley.
  • Blasi, Joseph R., Richard B. Freeman, and Douglas L. Kruse. 2013. The Citizen’s Share. Yale University Press.
  • Bowles, Samuel and Herbert Gintis. 1993. “A Political and Economic Case for the Democratic Enterprise.” Economics and Philosophy 9, 75-100.
  • Bruni, Luigino, Dalila De Rosa, and Giovanni Ferri. 2019. “Cooperatives and Happiness: Cross-Country Evidence on the Role of Relational Capital.” Journal of Applied Economics.
  • Coats, David. 2013. Just Deserts? Poverty and Income Inequality: Can Workplace Democracy Make a Difference? Smith Institute.
  • Conchon, Aline, Norbert Kluge, and Michael Stollt. 2015. “Worker Board-Level Participation in the 31 European Economic Area Countries.” European Trade Union Institute.
  • Dow, Gregory K. 2018. The Labor-Managed Firm. Cambridge University Press.
  • Dudley, Thomas. 2017. “How Big Is America’s Employee-Owned Economy?” Medium.
  • Ellerman, David. 1990. The Democratic Worker-Owned Firm. Unwin Hyman.
  • Ellerman, David. 2015. “The Case for Employee-Owned Companies.” PBS Making Sen$e, November 20.
  • Elster, Jon. 1989. “From Here to There; or, If Cooperative Ownership Is So Desirable, Why Are There So Few Cooperatives?” Social Philosophy and Policy 6(2), 93-111.
  • Ferreras, Isabelle. 2017. Firms as Political Entities: Saving Democracy Through Economic Bicameralism. Translated and edited by Miranda Richmond Mouillot. Cambridge University Press.
  • Ferreras, Isabelle, Julie Battilana, and Dominique Méda. “Work: Democratize, Decommodify, Remediate.”
  • FitzRoy, Felix and Michael A. Nolan. 2020. “Towards Economic Democracy and Social Justice: Profit Sharing, Co-Determination, and Employee Ownership.” Discussion Papers 13238, Institute of Labor Economics (IZA).
  • FitzRoy, Felix and Michael A. Nolan. 2021. “The Inefficiency of Employment and the Case for Workplace Democracy.” Discussion Papers 14065, Institute of Labor Economics (IZA).
  • Forcillo, Donato. 2017. “Codetermination: the Presence of Workers on the Board.” University of Cagliari and Sassari.
  • Fox, Justin. 2018. “Why German Corporate Boards Include Workers.” Bloomberg Opinion, August 24.
  • Gallie, Duncan. 2013. “Direct Participation and the Quality of Work.” Human Relations.
  • Gallie, Duncan, Ying Zhou, Alan Felstead, Francis Green, and Golo Henseke. 2017. “The Implications of Direct Participation for Organisational Commitment, Job Satisfaction and Affective Psychological Well-Being: A Longitudinal Analysis.” Industrial Relations Journal 48, 174-191.
  • Gowan, Peter. 2019. “Right to Own: A Policy Framework to Catalyze Worker Ownership Transitions.” Next System Project.
  • Gowan, Peter and Mathew Lawrence. 2019. “Democratic Ownership Funds: Creating Shared Wealth and Power.” Next System Project.
  • Groot, Loek and Daan van der Linde. 2017. “The Labor-Managed Firm: Permanent or Start-Up Subsidies?” Journal of Economic Issues 51, 1074-1093.
  • Holmberg, Susan R. 2017. “Fighting Short-Termism with Worker Power.” Roosevelt Institute.
  • Jäger, Simon, Benjamin Schoefer, and Jörg Heining. 2020. “Labor in the Board Room.” NBER Conference Paper.
  • Kaarsemaker, Eric, Andrew Pendleton, and Erik Poutsma. 2010. “Employee Share Ownership.” In Oxford Handbook of Participation in Organizations, edited by Adrian Wilkinson, Paul J. Gollan, Mick Marchington, and David Lewin. Oxford University Press.
  • Kochan, Thomas A., William T. Kimball, Duanyi Yang, and Erin L. Kelly. 2019. “Voice Gaps at Work, Options for Closing Them, and Challenges for Future Actions and Research.” ILR Review.
  • Levine, David I. and Laura D’Andrea Tyson. 1990. “Participation, Productivity, and the Firm’s Environment.” In Paying for Productivity, edited by Alan S. Blinder. Brookings Institution.
  • Markey, Raymond, Nicola Balnave, and Greg Patmore. 2010. “Worker Directors and Worker Ownership/Cooperatives.” In Oxford Handbook of Participation in Organizations, edited by Adrian Wilkinson, Paul J. Gollan, Mick Marchington, and David Lewin. Oxford University Press.
  • National Center for Employee Ownership, “Research on Employee Ownership.”
  • Pontusson, Jonas and Sarosh Kuruvilla. 1992. “Swedish Wage-Earner Funds: An Experiment in Economic Democracy.” Industrial and Labor Relations Review.
  • Rosenfeld, Jake. 2014. What Unions No Longer Do. Harvard University Press.
  • Rothstein, Bo. 2021. “Why No Economic Democracy in Sweden? A Counterfactual Approach.” Social Europe Research Essay 12.
  • Trickey, Erick. 2020. “How Boston Is Becoming the City Where Workers Rule.” Politico, March 12.
  • UK Labour Party. 2017. “Alternative Models of Ownership.”
  • Wikipedia. “Worker Cooperative.”
  • Wikipedia. “Workplace Democracy.”
  • Wilkinson, Adrian and Tony Dundon. 2010. “Direct Employee Participation.” Oxford Handbook of Participation in Organizations, edited by Adrian Wilkinson, Paul J. Gollan, Mick Marchington, and David Lewin. Oxford University Press.
  • Witkowsky, Patrik. 2018. “Employee Owned Companies and the American ESOP Model.”