The book presents the accounts of three American merchant seamen who were taken on as crew members for the course of a voyage from the Pacific Northwest to Europe.
Democratization of the workplace is a much vaunted goal in European countries, especially Scandinavia. But can it be achieved? Do increased participation and autonomy improve the quality of work life? Can productivity be increased this way? These questions form the basis for the evaluations in this book, a case study of the experimental democratization of working life aboard the Norwegian freighter, the Hoeg Mallard. The book presents the accounts of three American merchant seamen who were taken on as crew members for the course of a voyage from the Pacific Northwest to Europe. Their reactions and adjustments to democracy at sea were observed and recorded by a fourth American, reporter Sidney Roger. One of Roger's findings was that despite more open mixing among ranks, having a voice in work-detail operations, and being able to use such cruise-ship amenities as swimming pool, sauna, library, and bar, the seamen's life aboard ship appeared to be as dull and unrewarding as it was on more autocratic and less lavishly appointed merchant vessels. Robert Schrank relates these on-the-job observations to the general issues of industrial democracy and five scholars have contributed essays responding to the experiences recounted by Sidney Roger. These essays are by Richard E. Walton (Harvard Business School), William F. Whyte (New York State School of Industrial and Labor Relations), Einar Thorsrud (Work Research Institutes, Oslo), Birger Viklund (Center for the Study of Working Life, Stockholm), and Shoshana Zuboff (Harvard Business School).
Both the project and the book were sponsored by the Ford Foundation. Robert Schrank, who served as project manager for the Foundation's Worker Exchange Program, also edited American Workers Abroad, and is the author of Ten Thousand Working Days, both published by The MIT Press. Industrial Democracy at Sea is fifth in The MIT Press Series on Organization Studies, edited by John Van Maanen.