Thursday, December 10, 2009

Albert O. Hirschman, Exit, Voice, and Loyalty: Chapter 9, "The Elusive Optimal Mix of Exit and Voice"

In general, organizations do not respond equally well to voice and exit. This is not a problem, as long as an organization is responsive to some form of pressure to which it likely to be subjected. The pathological cases -- where exit is available but not responded to, or when voice is exercised but still nugatory -- call for reform, both by introducing institutional changes to make organizations more responsive to existing forms of pressure, and by persuading members and customers to try the alternative form of pressure.

Hirschman demurs from offering an optimal mix of exit and voice. He thinks that a stable, optimal mix is impossible. The effectiveness of any given recuperative mechanism can decay (just as organizations themselves do). Moreover, recuperation methods suffer from a feedback loop that makes whichever method is primary in a given context more dominant over time and makes the other increasingly neglected and even underestimated.