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New Left Review I/219, September-October 1996

Richard Minns

The Social Ownership of Capital

Over the last twenty years a number of governments have sought to reconcile the competing claims of capital and labour by encouraging employees to acquire ownership of capital in lieu of wage or salary increases. In the post-Keynesian world of stagflation, this has often been a trade-off between consumption against savings and investment in which wages are ‘deferred’ for a share in capital. The countries where this has taken place include Sweden, Australia, the United Kingdom and, surprisingly, the United States. From Scandinavian wage-earner funds to Anglo-American pension funds, ownership of corporate equity through share markets has, more or less successfully, been transferred from personal and corporate owners of capital to groups of employees organized around the workplace. While these financial forms were by-products of macroeconomic policy, they have also been represented as contributions to social welfare.

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