Chapter 23 » 23.57

The individual and the community

Work and economic affairs

In the aftermath of the Second World War, Quakers began experimenting with democratic forms of economic enterprise. The best-known case is probably Scott Bader, a synthetic resin and polymer manufacturing company in Wollaston, Northamptonshire. The original company was founded in 1920 and organised along orthodox lines of corporate authority by Ernest Bader, who joined the Society of Friends in 1943. During the 1940s he and his family decided to re-organise his firm upon stewardship principles. In 1951 he and his co-founders gave 90% of their shares to the Scott Bader Commonwealth, a company limited by guarantee and a registered charity, inviting employees to become members; in 1963 they gave the remaining 10% of their shares to the Commonwealth.

Power should come from within the person and the community, and be made responsible to those it affects. The ultimate criteria in the organisation of work should be human dignity and service to others instead of solely economic performance. We feel mutual responsibility must permeate the whole community of work and be upheld by democratic participation and the principle of trusteeship.

Common-ownership of our means of production, and a voice in the distribution of earned surplus and the allocation of new capital, has helped in our struggle towards achieving these aims.

The Commonwealth has responsibilities to the wider national and international community and is endeavouring to fulfil them by fostering a movement towards a new peaceful industrial and social order. To be a genuine alternative to welfare capitalism and state-controlled communism, such an order must be non-violent in the sense of promoting love and justice, for where love stops, power begins and intimidation and violence follow. One of the main requirements of a peaceful social order is, we are convinced, an organisation of work based on the principles outlined here, a sharing of the fruits of our labours with those less fortunate instead of working only for our own private security, and a refusal to support destructive social conflict or to take part in preparations for war.

Scott Bader Corporate Constitution, 1963

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