Exit, Voice and Loyalty by Albert Hirschman is considered one of the most influential books in the social sciences. The book’s subheading, Responses to Decline in Firms, Organisations, and States, tells you what it is about. A decrease of quality or benefit can be met either by the exit option (one stops buying the product, or pulls a child out from the school, or emigrates from the country) or the voice option. Voice comes in two forms, vertical voice (a direct complaint or protest) and horizontal voice (the murmuring of the people — in our time, “murmuring” is a very quiet way of describing the chatter on WhatsApp groups). Horizontal voice comes before vertical voice — complaining and discussion among people precede the actual complaint or protest to the authorities. Horizontal voice can also provide some security that there is wider backing for a direct complaint. Whether one chooses exit or voice depends on loyalty — if one is loyal to the organisation, instead of deserting it, one would choose voice, and even attempt to “save” the organisation. The choice also depends on wealth. The poor often have less of a voice and less ability to exit a poorly performing public institution or state.
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First Published: Wed, August 17 2022. 23:37 IST