The Future of Democracy and Work: The Vote in our Economic Constitution | 2021 Sefton-Williams Memorial Lecture

When and Where

Monday, March 29, 2021 3:00 pm to 5:00 pm


Dr Ewan McGaughey, Reader in Law, King's College London


A recording of the event is now available.

Dr McGaughey's lecture can also be read in text format

What should be the future of democracy?

Covid-19 has exposed a desperate need, not just for a green recovery, and a social recovery, but a political recovery, to remake our institutions for justice on a living planet.

We are seeing the vote, ‘a most transcendent thing’, become an essential part of our economic constitution: votes at work, votes in capital and votes in public services. This is already practised, however imperfectly, however forgotten, in universities like Toronto, Cambridge, Oxford or Harvard, as well as most large workplaces in a majority of OECD countries. The movement is growing.

The evidence shows we are more productive, innovative, happy, and less unequal, when we have voice. Having moved ‘from status to contract’ in the industrial revolution, the future of work involves a move ‘from contract to membership’. The ‘right to take part in the government’ of our societies is depending less and less on holding money, or ‘other people’s money’, but is becoming universal. The days where shareholders monopolize the votes in the economy, and asset managers or banks monopolize votes on shares, are numbered. The true investors in the wealth of nations, people at work, savers for retirement, and all members of our society, are the future of democracy. 

Hosted by Woodsworth College and the Centre for Industrial Relations and Human Resources, this annual lecture is now named in honour of Larry Sefton and Lynn Williams. The Sefton-Williams Memorial Lecture series presents topics of interest to scholars and practitioners of labour-management relations. For more information on this lecture series, please visit the CIRHR Library website.