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Exit, Voice, and Loyalty: Responses to Decline in Firms, Organizations, and States New Ed Edition

4.3 out of 5 stars 22 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0674276604
ISBN-10: 0674276604
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Editorial Reviews


Hirschman's work changes how you see the world. It illuminates yesterday, today, and tomorrow...His most important [book]. (Cass R. Sunstein New York Review of Books 2013-05-23)

A 126-page burst of lucidity...[Hirschman's] masterwork. (Roger Lowenstein Wall Street Journal 2013-03-22)

One of the masterpieces of contemporary political thought. (Malcolm Gladwell New Yorker 2012-07-30)

This unusual and subtle book is...an exercise in interdisciplinary analysis focused on the interaction between market and non-market forces affecting the process of development and decline... Professor Hirschman develops a theory of loyalty as a key factor in the interaction between voice and exit: loyalty is shown to postpone exit and to make voice more effective through the possibility of exit. (The Economic Journal)

This is an imaginative little book. Its message should be of use to economists, political scientists, and all those interested in policy questions related to these areas. Hirschman starts his argument by assuming that in time all organizations (firms, bureaus, political parties, governments, and so on) develop slack and experience a deterioration in the quality of their output. The clients of a declining organization have two options for reversing this trend: exit and voice. And much of the book is devoted to an explication of the ways in which these options operate, their relative advantages and weaknesses, the interdependence between them... It is in these discussions of current problems and institutions, however, that I find the book most rewarding. His basic point, that there exists a symbiosis between exit and voice, is certainly valid and significant. Its importance gets driven home by the way Hirschman applies the idea to various current issues. One emerges from the book feeling he has obtained a new analytic insight into policy questions which can be applied again and again. (Dennis C. Mueller Public Policy)

Professor Hirschman's small book is bursting with new ideas. The economist has typically assumed that dissatisfaction with an organization's product is met by withdrawal of demand, while the political scientist thinks rather of the protests possible within the organization. Hirschman argues that both processes are at work and demonstrates beautifully by analysis and example that their interaction has surprising implications, a theory that illuminates strikingly many important economic and political phenomena of the day. The whole argument is developed with an extraordinary richness of reference to many societies and cultures. (Kenneth J. Arrow)

This is a marvelously perceptive essay which illuminates some of the most interesting economic and social questions of our time. I have read it with enormous interest and admiration, and the further pleasure that one has in being with an author who can think things through. (John Kenneth Galbraith)

There is, of course, no substitute for a mind as original, playful, subtle, and fresh as Hirschman's. (Stanley Hoffmann)

I read Exit, Voice, and Loyalty with absolute fascination and found that it pulled together, in organized form, many random glimmerings that I had previously understood only dimly. (Joseph Kraft)

About the Author

Albert O. Hirschman was Professor of Social Science, Emeritus, at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, following a career of prestigious appointments, honors, and awards. Perhaps the most widely known and admired of his many books are Exit, Voice, and Loyalty (Harvard) and The Passions and the Interests (Princeton).

Product Details

  • Paperback: 176 pages
  • Publisher: Harvard University Press; New Ed edition (January 1, 1970)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0674276604
  • ISBN-13: 978-0674276604
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 0.5 x 8.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (22 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #78,683 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
Albert Hirschman's Exit, Voice and Loyality is a book written by an economist but accessible to all - a rare achieve in any academic disipline, especially economics. The book was written in the early 70's but still has relevant today. Its greatest achievment is the illumination of 'exit' as the mentality of modern western capitalist societies - the idealisation of the consumers' right to 'vote with one's feet' - and its spread into all forms of social activity. Hirschman adds a historical dimension to this by arguing that the whole of the United States has largely been built on 'exit' mentality - from the mass migration out of Europe from the 17th century onwards to the calls to 'go west' across the plains. Exit is the strategy advocated today by neo liberals as being the manifestation of democracy in the market sphere. Hirschman's observations were made in the early 70's, yet their relevance as an internal critique of the free market is perhaps even more important today in the post-cold war era when the traditional critiques of the capitalism (such as Marxism in its Communism manifestation) have so clearly failed. As liberals try to grasp the future - while opponents of liberalism turn their attention from Marx to Nietzsche (such as John Gray), Hirschman's Exit Voice and Loyalty is an accessible, refreshing and insightful look at market liberalism from within, and is therefore throughly recommended.
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Hirschman argues that rather than operating at permanently optimal level - seeking profit maximization - firms often operate at a merely "satisfactory" level. Hirschman argues that this level of inefficiency leads to "organizational slack" in the firm. In times of strong competition, firms can draw upon this slack in order to squeeze out greater production through an investment in work hours, improved productivity, and other forms of pressure. When competition is not so fierce, firms are subject to a certain level of decline and subsequently become inefficient, i.e. they experience declining quality, high prices, etc. When firms are underperforming in this manner, customers have two options to correct this inefficiency: exit and voice. Both exit and voice are used by consumers in order to snap a firm back into efficiency. When selecting exit, customers leave the underperforming firm in favor of an alternative. When using voice, customers voice their concern directly to the firm or its managers. These two options are not mutually exclusive and may be used in tandem.

Exit represents the economic side of recuperation mechanisms and often results from a decline in quality. When quality drops, customers exit and the firm's revenues fall. When management becomes aware of customer desertion, it must take an active role in repairing the damage to the firm. However, the level of response varies with the level of exit. A small number of exiting customers is unlikely to lead to corrective action by management, because the damage caused by the exit is not significant to serve as an incentive for change. The same can be said about a high number of exiting customers. If the damage is too great, no recuperation measures will be pursued as the damage is too great to recover from.
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Format: Paperback
I read this book in the 1970's when I studied Political Science in Jerusalem. The Author bridges the gap between Economic and Political Theory. He shows from his real experiences that not always a monopoly is bad for the Public. A situation where you have too many choices is worse than having a few choices. As People who have experienced Multi-Party Systems like Weimar Republic in Germany and France in the Fifties, Many Parties does not mean Effective, (Good) Parties. USA and UK Manage very Well with few Political Parties. The Implications of this book are wide. How do you encourage people to use "Voice" to improve organisations instead of Exit or Loyalty (Where people stay quiet). A must to read to Understand the Social Dynamics. Another must is Isiah Berlin on the Paradox and clash between Freedom and Equality.
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This short book is essentially a long essay examining ways in which decaying social institutions can be repaired. Hirschman looks at 2 responses to institutional failure; exit - voting with your feet and choosing an alternative product or organization, and voice - trying to reform the product or organization. Exit is the prototypical market-based solution and voice the prototypical political response. Hirschman suggests that there are a number of situations in which employment of both exit and voice would be useful. He discusses also ways in which presence or absence of one can inhibit the use of the other. Even in situations where you would think one would dominate, such as exit in typical market situations, he demonstrates that voice can still be useful. A number of these arguments are presented with considerable rigor. Hirschman has interesting arguments that different types of consumers will respond with either voice or exit in situations where traditional economic analysis emphasizes exit. Similarly, he argues well that certains forms of exit would enhance voice in some political or bureaucratic settings. Overall, however, this book is a criticism of applying simple economic concepts too broadly.

This essay is generally regarded as something of a classic and lauded for its combination of economic and political theory. It can't, however, have been too influential as it was published on the eve of the neo-liberal dominance of American life. Milton Friedman, for example, is one of this book's explicit targets but who had the biggest impact subsequently. Hirschman seems to have had relatively little influence in his own discipline of economics, a phenomenon attributed by Paul Krugman to his reluctance to engage in the mathematical modelling that came to dominate the profession.
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