I’m guessing when the Clash released their new-wave punk anthem that they didn’t have social organizations, governments and economic systems in mind. Should I Exit or Should I voice? But the entire time I ready through Albert O. Hirschman’s book on Exit, Voice, and Loyalty: Responses to Decline in Firms, Organizations, and States, I couldn’t get this song out of my head. That probably says a lot more about me than it does Hirschman’s intentions.
Hirschman proposes that when an organization/government/economy/business etc. deteriorates in it’s performance, people generally respond in their disappointment in 2 ways:
- Some customers stop buying the firm’s products or some members leave the organization: this is the exit option. As a result, revenues drop, membership declines , and management im impelled to search for ways and means to correct whatever faults have led to exit. (4)
- The firm’s customers or the organization’s members express their dissatisfaction directly to management or to some other authority to which management is subordinate or through general protest addressed to anyone who cares to listen: this is the voice option. As a result, management once again engages in a search for the causes and possible cures of customers’ and members’ dissatisfaction. (4)
The final part of Hirschman’s equation is a specific kind of “voice” customers that believe they have power or influence to ‘right the ship’ and not only voice their displeasure, but their attachments exhibit loyalty as a barrier to those who would exit. “Loyalty can serve the socially useful purpose of preventing deterioration from becoming cumulative, as it so often does when there is no barrier to exit.” (79) Loyalty has a kind of gravitational pull to the organization and it keeps the person in the conversation seeking an alternative solution to that of exit. It cares, it has deep attachments, invested interest, so it stays in the fight to see things made right. It is not tempted towards exit unless it perceives itself utterly powerless and the future hopeless for the entity at hand. Only at a place of powerlessness would loyalty break down to exit.
It would seem a great example of this with America is the strong push for a true alternative 3rd political party to the entrenched two-party system of Republicans and Democrats. There is growing massive fatigue with gross bi-partisanship, sophmoric rhetoric, incompetent leadership and unsustainable economic decisions. From within the conservatives up grew a loyal voice called the “tea party” movement. Recently, from within the liberal side grew up a loyal voice called “Occupy Wall Street”. Both are not pleased at all and are acting with fierce voices of protest, but neither are exiting the system. They want to see a true alternative formed so that America can be great again. They have sharply different ideas to do so, but they agree that what ‘is’ will no longer be tolerated and are ardently voicing their protest. They believe within democracy that they have the power to protest, gather, speak freely and offer harsh critiques of their governance. If the established powers have any care for these passionate and loyal sects of Americans, they will listen and respect their rights of protest. To disrespect these constitutional rights may eventually lead to the anarchy nobody wants and no nation could survive.
My fear is that the Tea Party will be completely co-opted by the Republicans and that the leadership and influence of #OWS will be co-opted by the Democratic party. When the powers corrupt the upstarts, there is no hope for a true alternative 3rd party of loyalitst voicing their discontent. They become a part of what they loathe, but I guess the positive is that they haven’t exited.
Should I stay or should I go when it comes to American politics? Some days I wonder what is the best alternative, my loyalties are deeply tattered.