This post a copy of an email from Daz – some replies to follow below.
This was an interesting read from the perspective of a relatively new employee at Valve, a games company, with regards to his view of Valve as a non-capitalist firm with no management hierarchy:
There are two kinds of non-capitalist firms: (a) Mutual, co-op like, firms whose ownership is formally dispersed among members (who may be customers, employees or both); and (b) Valve (or similar companies) where management is completely horizontal (i.e. the company is boss-less) even if ownership is held in the hands of a selected few.
There is one important aspect of Valve that I did not focus on: the link between its horizontal management structure and its ‘vertical’ ownership structure. Valve is a private company owned mostly by few individuals. In that sense, it is an enlightened oligarchy: an oligarchy in that it is owned by a few and enlightened in that those few are not using their property rights to boss people around. The question arises: what happens to the alternative spontaneous order within Valve if some or all of the owners decide to sell up? Granted that Valve’s owners do not intend to do this, the question remains, at least at the theoretical level.