Democratizing work and social life on ships: A report from the experiment on board M.S. Balao

  • Ragnar Johansen
Part of the International series on the quality of working life book series (IQWL, volume 8)


Few social systems have as long a tradition of rigid social divisions, highly authoritarian, some might say oppressive, authority structures, and difficult, if not dangerous working and living conditions, as the social system typical on board a ship. Only a few hundred years ago, for example, England was able to ‘rule the waves’ only by impressing men into service, as, in effect, sailor slaves. A ship, of course, is a close-knit, 24-hours society, so the way work on board is organized determines also the kind of social life possible outside work. In the old days little about the way a ship was organized could be called democratic. Even today, although the conditions of work at sea are much improved, no one would use the typical ship organization as an illustration of a democratic place to live and work.


Social Life Work Planning Crew Member Senior Officer Planning Meeting 
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Copyright information

© International Council for the Quality of Working Life 1979

Authors and Affiliations

  • Ragnar Johansen
    • 1
  1. 1.Ship Research GroupWork Research InstitutesOsloNorway

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