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Democratizing Work


In May 2020, at the onset of the Covid-19 global pandemic, an op-ed-turned- #DemocratizingWork Manifesto was published in 43 newspapers in 36 countries around the world. Academics, who had signed the op-ed, took the lead in translating the piece into 27 languages and in reaching out to publications in their own country. This mobilization reflected what the academic community is capable of undertaking in the hope to illuminate possible paths forward for societies to choose. The #DemocratizingWork (#DW) global initiative has mobilized more than 6,000 researchers from more than 750 universities and academic institutions around the world around three guiding principles for a worker-centered just transition in our social and economic systems: by democratizing work, decommodifying labor, and decarbonizing the economy, we can ensure the dignity of all while marshaling the collective strength to nurture democracy, and preserve life together on this planet.

Co-led by CLJE Senior Research Associate Isabelle Ferreras, with Julie Battilana and Dominque Méda, the initiative came from a hope to help workers in the unfolding crisis – in health, climate, the economy, and political life – that we are facing in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Amid mounting inequalities tied to race, gender, and class – and with huge implications for the future of democracy and the ecological fate of the planet, the status quo is untenable. If we continue on the current trajectory, we can expect growing extractivism of the planet’s resources, mounting social and economic inequalities between the Global North and South as well as within countries, deeper alienation at work, and weakened democracies. As the IPCC stated clearly in 2018 already, we need “rapid and far reaching transitions.” The defining challenge of the 21st century is to ensure a just transition to new social and economic systems. Therefore, we must fundamentally reorganize our economy according to these 3 principles. The goal of this program is help society, in particularly labor leaders, climate and human rights activists, progressive business leaders and public servants, harness the power of research to lead on implementing the 3 principles.


The #DemocratizingWork global initiative is led by a core group of 13 female scholars and has been consistently developing initiatives in order to bridge the gap between research and society, and help channel scientific knowledge into illuminating the path toward a just and sustainable future. 

The book is also available in French, Italian, Portuguese, (with more languages forthcoming), and has helped nurture important conversations around the globe.


The core group published a volume Democratize Work. The Case for Reorganizing the Economy, published at the University of Chicago Press in 2022. 

Watch the global launch with panelists Sharan Burrow (General Secretary of the International Trade Union Confederation), Jayati Ghosh (Professor at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, member of United Nations High-Level Advisory Board on Economic and Social Affairs, and former Chairperson of the Centre for Economic Studies and Planning at the Jawaharlal Nehru University, India), Nicolás Grau (Minister of Economy, Development and Reconstruction of Chile), Thomas Piketty (Professor of Economics at the Paris School of Economics-EHESS), in a debate moderated by Sharon Block (Professor of Practice and Executive Director of the Center for Labor and a Just Economy and former Acting Administrator of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) for the Biden Administration).

A shorter version of the video containing highlights from the discussion is available here.

The Real Utopias Project: Democratizing the Corporation, published March 2024.

Although contemporary Western societies refer to themselves as “democratic,” the bulk of the population spend much of their lives in workplaces that have more in common with tyranny. Gigantic corporations such as Amazon, Meta, Exxon, and Walmart are among the richest and most powerful institutions in the world yet accountable to no one but their shareholders. The undemocratic nature of conventional firms generates profound problems across society, hurting more than just the workplace and contributing to environmental destruction and spiraling inequality.

Against this backdrop, Isabelle Ferreras proposes a radical but realistic plan to democratize the private firm. She suggests that all large firms should be bicamerally governed, with a chamber of worker representatives sharing equal governance power with the standard board representing owners. In response to this proposal, twelve leading experts on corporate behavior from multiple disciplines consider its attractiveness, viability, and achievability as a “real utopian” proposal to strengthen democracy in our time.

Democratize Work. The Case for Reorganizing the Economy Global Book Launch

Global Forum

On October 5-7, 2021, the first-ever Global Forum on Democratizing Work was held online. 3,043 attendees from 85 countries, 387 speakers, 16 #DemocratizingWork national chapters were constituted to organize the conversation at the national level too, all of this took place through 129 panels held in 9 languages. Stellar speakers from academia as well as union leaders, climate activists, progressive elected leaders from across the globe and well as progressive business leaders, joined during these 3 days. With the consent of the speakers, almost all the panels have been recorded and made available on the #DW YouTube channel. The entire program is available here.

Global Forum on Democratizing Work Highlights October 2021


In the Fall 2022, the #DemocratizingWork Global Workshop Series was launched as a forum bridging the North and the Global South to discuss current progress and experimentation along the 3 principles across the globe, and provide for a space to build and support this emerging global community, including academics, labor leaders, climate activists, progressive business leaders, progressive elected officials, etc. The workshop series is announced here and will take place online on a monthly basis: Global Workshop Series 2023-2024 — Democratizing Work.