Vocabulary for a New World – Autogestión

Autogestión is a form of workplace decision-making in which the employees themselves agree on choices (for issues like customer care, general production methods, scheduling, division of labour etc.) instead of the traditional authoritative supervisor telling workers what to do, how to do it and where to do it. Examples of such self-management include the Spanish Revolution during the Spanish Civil War, Titoist Yugoslavia, the “recovered factories” movement in Argentina (in Spanish, fábrica recuperada), the LIP factory in France in the 1970s, the Mondragón Cooperative Corporation which is the Basque Country‘s largest corporation, US AK Press, etc.

In Argentina, workers took over control of the firm, commonly after intentional bankruptcy by the management or after a factory occupation to prevent the risk of a lock out. The Spanish verb recuperar means not only “to get back”, “to take back” or “to reclaim” but also “to put back into good condition”. Although initially referring to industrial facilities, the term may be extensive to businesses other than factories (i.e. Hotel Bauen in Buenos Aires).

English-language coverage of this phenomenon employs several different translations of the original Spanish expression besides recovered factory. Commonly attested ones are recuperated factory, reclaimed factory, and worker-run factory. It is also known as “autogestion,” which comes from the French word designing self-management (whether in factories or in popular education systems or anywhere else).

Workers’ self-management is often the decision-making model used in co-operative economic arrangements such as worker cooperatives, workers’ councils, and in participatory economics, and similar arrangements where the workplace operates without a boss.

Critics argue that consulting all employees for every tiny issue is time consuming, inefficient and thus ineffective. However, as seen in real world examples, only large-scale decisions are made by all employees during a council meeting and small decisions are made by those implementing them while coordinating with the rest and following more general agreements.

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