Labor Democracy in Digitalizing Industries: Emancipating or “Sandboxing” Participation in Discourses on Technology and New Forms of Work?

  • Yannick KalffEmail author


Democratic participation is a good example to illuminate the complex reality of digitalization in contemporary industries. Digitalization offers new ways to strengthen democratic processes in organizations. However, the concepts of democratic participation differ in concept, scope, and political entitlement. Hegemonic discourses shape their implementation according to powerful interests. This contribution analyzes the consultation process “Work 4.0” of the Federal Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs that discusses the effects of digitalization and Industrie 4.0. It shows that participation and co-determination are sandboxed in their emancipatory scope and are vehicles to sustain flexibility and agility in production and on markets. This contradicts democratic participation in an emancipatory sense and installs a deterministic reading of technology and its effects on labor processes and organizational participation.



I would like to thank Elena Arnold, who aided in the preparation of this contribution, and the editors for their comments, which improved my paper and argument.


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© The Author(s) 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of OsnabrückOsnabrückGermany

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