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Professor Hirschman wrote this book while in residence at the Center for Advanced Studies

in the Behavioral Sciences at Stanford University. Reprinted by permission of the publishers
from Exit, Voice, and Loyalty: Responses to Decline in Firms, Organizations, and States by
Albert O. Hirschman, Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, © 1970 by the President
and Fellows of Harvard College.

Excerpt from Chapter Eight
Exit, Voice and Loyalty:
Responses to Decline in Firms, Organizations and States
By Albert O. Hirschman

[Editor's Note: The author argues that there are two experience is an inner struggle as well as an
types of response to unsatisfactory situations in one's outer struggle, like the slaying of a Freudian
firm, organization or country. The first is "exit" or father, and goes on in a sense forever.1
leaving without trying to fix things. The second is This preference for the neatness of exit over the
"voice," that is, speaking up and trying to remedy the messiness and heartbreak of voice has then "persisted
defects. Loyalty can modify the response, causing one throughout our national history."2 The exit from
to stand and fight (voice) rather than cut and run Europe could be re-enacted within the United States
(exit). The chapter excerpted here deals in forceful by the progressive settlement of the frontier, which
language with these choices in decisions about human Frederick Jackson Turner characterized as the `gate of
migration.] escape from the bondage of the past.'3 Even though the
It does not take much of a plunge, at this point, to opportunity to "go West" may have been more myth
take up as our last topic a special though sizable case than reality for large population groups in the eastern
— that of exit and voice in relation to American section of the country,4 the myth itself was of the
ideology, tradition and practice. greatest importance for it provided everyone with a
My principal point — and puzzlement — is easily paradigm of problem-solving. Even after the closing of
stated: exit has been accorded an extraordinarily the frontier, the very vastness of the country combined
privileged position in the American tradition, but then, with easy transportation make it far more possible for
suddenly, it is wholly proscribed, sometimes for better, Americans than for most other people to think about
sometimes for worse, from a few key situations. solving their problems through "physical flight" than
The United States owes its very existence and either through resignation or through ameliorating and
growth to millions of decisions favoring exit over fighting in situ the particular conditions into which
voice. This "ultimate nature of the American one has been "thrown." The curious conformism of
experience" has been eloquently described by Louis Americans, noted by observers ever since Tocqueville,
Hartz: may also be explained in this fashion. Why raise your
The men in the seventeenth century who fled to voice in contradiction and get yourself into trouble as
America from Europe were keenly aware of the long as you can always remove yourself entirely from
oppressions of European life. But they were any given environment should it become too
revolutionaries with a difference, and the fact unpleasant?
of their fleeing is no minor fact: for it is one It will be noted that all these "flights" are in the
thing to stay at home and fight the "canon and nature of true exits, that is, exits from private rather
feudal law," and it is another to leave it far than public goods: whatever effect they had on the
behind. It is one thing to try to establish society that was left behind was an unintended side
liberalism in the Old World, and it is another to effect. Those who departed from their communities
establish it in the New. Revolution, to borrow had no thought of improving them thereby or of
the words of T.S. Eliot, means to murder and fighting against them from the outside; they were
create, but the American experience has been immigrants rather than émigrés, and soon after their
projected strangely in the realm of creation move "couldn't care less" about the fate of the
alone. The destruction of forests and Indian communities whence they came. In this perspective,
tribes — heroic, bloody, legendary as it was — the present-day "cop-out" movement of groups like the
cannot be compared with the destruction of a hippies is very much in the American tradition; once
social order to which one belongs oneself. The again dissatisfaction with the surrounding social order
first experience is wholly external and, being leads to flight rather than fight, to withdrawal of the
external can actually be completed; the second dissatisfied group and to its setting up a separate

The Social Contract 272 Summer 1994

community nor to reject identifiably Indian uncoordinated success stories and physical moves of behavior patterns. the individuals are this kind rather than because of concerted group participating in a true cultural change. but exit of the most quality-conscious it may be of interest to see it made not for "passing" customers of a firm or of the Jews or Negroes in the United States. Neither is there higher social status. from the lower classes can make domination of the weakens the collective thrust which the group lower by the upper classes even more secure than The Social Contract 273 Summer 1994 . with few persons standing out as entire ethnic or religious minority group acquires a "more mestizo" than the others. but. individual.6 are felt to be "un-American" is not at all their act of This formulation is strikingly similar to the withdrawal. such as Italy's South and Brazil's Northeast. or is "accepted" This unsatisfactory process of individual mobility by. as a efforts. they are actually closer to voice than was the the most valuable members of an organization. finds thing. was brought up into ever better neighborhoods.8 group in our society. He takes his immediate is then compared to the group process which. but for Andean most valuable members Indians: of an organization. and pioneer In the case of a minority that has been forebears. The individual who imagination." Perhaps. discriminated against a further argument can often be made: namely.5 world dominated by urban upper classes to The successful individual who starts out at a low rung which he cannot aspire. spokesmen for seriously lagging regions within In the words of one spokesman: countries. case for their pilgrim. and so forth — in which exit was the square society they are rejecting. upward social mobility — has long been himself part of a despised "cholo" minority in a conceived of in terms of evolutionary individualism. he "passes" into. The point is familiar. Success — or. rejecting his The traditional American idea of success Indian background. the group itself is the agency may later finance some charitable activities designed regulating the adoption of the mestizo traits. however. because there is a deep sense of the American scene consists in the rejection of this ridiculousness of a person wearing a necktie. their demonstrative previously mentioned situation — railroads in Nigeria. In plans to catch up with the rest of the country. what amounts to the same becomes a mestizo by this route. particularly in the token way in spokesmen have usually assigned a quite minor role to which it has been practiced up to now … emigration which they tended to consider not as a elevates individual members of a group. Success is in fact according to the author. the next higher group. it combines scorn for individual penetration into white society of a few A similar preference for the "collective thrust" selected blacks with a strong commitment to approach over the "flight" or "melting pot" pattern of "collective stimulation" of blacks as a group. He on the other hand. when that person is unable to unworkable and undesirable for the most depressed speak Spanish. to succor the poor or the deserving of the group and The individuals within the group proceed at the neighborhood to which he once belonged. and to upward social mobility has been characteristic of the improvement of the black ghetto as a place to live. By making their ineffective while voice was fatally weakened by exit exit so spectacular. on the contrary. but contribution to their region's uplift. immigrant. these Integration. But if an same pace. this occurs essentially as the strong motivation physically to leave the cumulative result of numerous. traditional pattern of upward social mobility as for example. was made possible in Bolivia symbolized and consecrated by a succession of by the Revolution: physical moves out of the poor quarters in which he In the formerly Indian communities of Bolivia. but hardly anyone else. that exit is bound to be unsatisfactory "…voice was fatally weakened by and unsuccessful even from the point of view of the individuals who practice it. Significantly. promising members from a group while failing Upward social mobility of just the talented few to alter the lot of the group as a whole."scene. by oddly combining deviance and of the most quality-conscious customers of a firm or of defiance. group … There is no rush to acquire status The novelty of the black power movement on the symbols.7 of the social ladder necessarily leaves his own group behind as he rises. the reason for which these groups might otherwise muster. but as an paradoxically. Rather. "otherness" which is sensed as an attempt to influence public schools. family along." A normal pattern of change in the Andes is for the individual to become a mestizo by leaving his highland community of birth. in plucking many of the most unfortunate "hemorrhage" of its best talent. and assuming all possible confirms the hold which exit has had on the national mestizo status symbols.

but this time within the (fortunately exit is satisfied. but also because they formed interest groups. 1. as love may suddenly turn into hate. however. reality has often been the other: "Are you happy here?" Reply: "I am happy. To some extent. that superlatives. In retrospect. With and that problems can be solved. One asks the United States." and all manner of other mixture of the individual and the group process. Finally. Adoption environment and adjusting to it." the country having been founded on exit and having thrived on it. 2. the "old "two centuries of peace and stability. and so forth is assumed to lie with the person founded on exit and having experiencing these sensations."11 minorities have risen in influence and status not only As a country's central bank is the lender of last through the cumulative effect of individual success resort. and became pivotal in national politics." which one wants it so passionately to be.10 as slaves — exit from the country has long been Nevertheless. It will be animated by the typically American Yet. or color barriers. Situations may market dominated by two or three giant firms departs well arise. in which qualms can no longer be substantially from the ideal competitive model. The group process will because of this collective compulsion to be happy. In leaving his country the emigrant makes a The Social Contract 274 Summer 1994 . the belief in exit "adjustment" is in order. ethnic aber glücklich bin ich nicht. The result is a strong practices of this sort can be found in Japan during the psychological compulsion to like that for which so Tokugawa period when the country indeed enjoyed large a payment has been made. And one must be happy. it may be expected that the point at which one and competitive enterprise. Probably is. however. things are not fully beneficial social mechanism has been unquestioning. the come into prominence at certain intermediate stages. upward mobility for a disadvantaged the new country will be declared to be the greatest. of last resort. The crucial areas to its utter proscription. This is illustrated in the have been protracted and when economic disparities story about two immigrants from Germany meeting for are reinforced by religious." To most of its citizens — with the turned into outright majorities in some political important exception of those whose forefathers came subdivisions. and. another exit may be the basic symbolism of the national love affair with attempted. in fact. As was just shown. so has the United States long been the "country stories. it has to be made into the ideal place unquestioning. qualms. A number of reactions are then possible: long as one can transfer his allegiance from the product of firm A to the competing product of firm B. compulsion to be happy is replaced by the exit is itself responsible for the emergence of its compulsion to use voice for the purpose of opposite. ethnic. so can conviction that human institutions can be the national infatuation with exit give way in certain perfected and that problems can be solved. satisfactory — what then? In line with the earlier It may account for the strength of the national faith in argument about the effects of a high price of entry on the virtues of such institutions as the two-party system loyalty. the human institutions can be perfected ideology of exit has been powerful in America. the belief in exit as a fundamental and Suppose. word has gradually taken on a much weaker meaning and there is special need for it when social cleavages than it has in other languages. for avows any qualms will be postponed. Apart from such latter-day dissonant voices. In the first time after many years in New York. in the latter case. wide) confines of the country. as a fundamental and beneficial 3. As repressed."9 country" will appear more abominable than ever while In practice. if the country is too obviously at fault social mechanism has been after all. Hence voice will come into its own with unusual force. the black power doctrine represents a peculiarly unthinkable. Another dose of thrived on it. Since clearly the country cannot be at fault.would be achieved by rigid separation. It had immense shock value because it spurned and castigated a "[Voice] will be animated by the supreme value of American society … success via exit typically American conviction that from one's group. totally new approach to upward mobility because of its open advocacy of the group process. a mixture of exit and voice. or hitherto oppressed group is likely to require a "the last hope of mankind. "With [America] having been responsibility for unhappiness. different from ideology: as is well recognized. This is precisely the national disbelief in the economist's notion that a the phase of compulsive happiness. Additional systematic policy of adopting promising low-class payment is extracted as he is being initiated into a new youngsters into upper-class families. This becomes difficult decision and usually pays a high price in evident if one imagines a society that would have a severing many strong affective ties.

" The Rise of Meritocracy (1958. "Black Studies at San Francisco State.321). 184. no. Hall and Marius E." As another example of 1 Louis Hartz. 11 NOTES Translation: "but happy I am not. that the demand for primary elections. stupid babies from elite homes being some of its greatest achievements just as it owes sent. 220. 1945). That integration.. [The author goes on in this chapter to discuss the 10 For some forceful and well documented remarks along "extreme reluctance of Americans in public office to these lines. deprives the black community of "leadership potential" is also argued in Stokely Carmichael and Charles V. 1969). Hamilton." The Public Interest. in exchange for its origin to exit. 1968 edition). sometimes with princely dowries. pp. Dore.. Taylor. Il Canzoniere (Rome: Giulio Einaudi. as quoted in John H. The Liberal Tradition. American languages. 1955). The Turner Thesis (Boston: D." The Annual of the American Academy of Political and Social Sciences. Bunzel. Shannon. for popular choice of senators. 53. F. 65 n." would have to take the frontier's place if democracy was to be kept vigorous in the United States. p. and that the regions once the center of pioneer democracy exhibit these tendencies in the most marked degree.C. Heath & Co. the disappearing free lands. referendum. reprinted by George R. History (New York: Henry Holt. Turner noted in a later essay that with the closing of the frontier new political processes." reprinted word)…" Saba.A. 64-65. clever ones from the lower class. 349.P. 1967). pp. Knoph. 19:31-37 (January 1945). The Liberal Tradition in America (New York: the intensity associated with the word "happy" in non- Harcourt." which translates feebly into: "At that time when I was still 2 From the last paragraph of his famous 1893 paper "The happy (may God forgive me the great and awesome Significance of the Frontier in American History. Penguin Books. initiative. 6 Nathan Hare. p. In quel momento ch'ero giá felice in the same footnote: "In a real sense physical flight is the (Dio mi perdoni la parola grande American substitute for the European experience of social e tremenda) … revolution. p. pp. p. 9 R. They are efforts to find substitutes for that former safeguard of democracy. 1949). "A Post-Mortem on the Labor Safety-Valve Theory. disagree. "Bolivia: The Restrained Revolution. 1920). in mobility there develops a "disturbing growth in the black fact. Jansen. They are the sequence to the extinction of the frontier" (p. In his anti-utopia where the upper and lower classes are increasingly separated as a result of individual The Social Contract 275 Summer 1994 . It is. 30. Social Darwinism in American Thought (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press. and recall. Studies in the Institutional History of Early Modern Japan (Princeton: Princeton University Press. 7 Richard Patch. The Agony of the resign (exit) in protest against policies with which they American Left (New York: Alfred A. eds. p. to this compulsion that the country owes market of baby traffic. akin to "voice. Black Power (New York: Vintage Books. in Frederick Jackson Turner. Brace & World. for example. Note also his phrase."] 134-141.. as practiced so far. p. "Talent and the Social Order in Tokugawa Japan. is spreading." Agricultural History. The Frontier in American 1945). The imagination of Michael Young takes the process one step further. 8 Ibid. 354. Interestingly enough. Ed. that parties are forming on new lines. 5 Richard Hofstadter. 1968). "The present finds itself engaged in the task of readjusting its old ideals to new conditions and is turning increasingly to government to preserve its traditional democracy. take the opening lines of a poem by 2 Umbert Saba: Hartz. It is not surprising that socialism shows noteworthy gains as elections continue. 38. see Christopher Lasch. 4 See." in John W. 334:130 (1961). making the country live up to its image. 13 (Fall 1968).