In 1969, Ronald Reagan signed the “No-Fault Divorce” bill, which gave people the opportunity to divorce their spouses for any reason. We should note that his wife had applied in 1948 for a divorce, but the judge rejected it. Divorce before 1969 required two things: 1) both parties would have to show up to a hearing and (2) the judge would listen to both arguments and determine if a divorce was necessary. The vows of any marriage are supposed to be a lasting commitment, but we saw an increase of divorce, especially in the 1980s, which meant the need to ‘exit’ was stronger than the ‘loyalty’ of the vows to repair the relationship. Living in Florida, like many other states, we are a “No-Fault Divorce” state so when spouses (the customers) are unhappy (or dissatisfied) divorce becomes a product they can choose to buy (well, they pay to file for it). Most spouses have the option to seek council, but some decide to exit; maybe they bought the wrong product (marriage) and needed a refund.
Hirschman’s theory in this book, suggests that when customers are dissatisfied with a product, they can use their ‘voice’ to complain about it or choose to ‘exit’ to find the product somewhere else. His main argument is that our voice by itself only allows a platform to disagree, so it is hard to measure results without a corresponding action. Hence, when we combine ‘voice’ and ‘exit,’ a mechanism is created where we identify problems and possibly fix them. The voice has power, but it is reliant on the customer’s willingness to exercise that right. An obvious example of customers exercising their rights is this presidential election. We do not have the option just to leave our country and ‘exit’ to Canada, so our ‘voice’ is the decision through the voting process. If we never vote, political leaders would never know which areas are problems needing solutions.
The author continued by suggesting that our loyalty is the influence of voice. I am NOT a big fan of Walmart or Sam’s club because they are always crowded, and I do not like crowded places. However, I am very loyal to the company because they are cheaper than other stores in the area; plus I have the store credit card. It does not matter how many times they messed up my online order; I am always going back because of the loyalty. Since both stores have an in-store option, I can choose to go inside as a possible solution. One challenge we read was that of Adam Smith’s invisible hand, in which buyers and sellers form and destroy relationships as they move freely through the market; this is a sign of their exit. I can choose to go from store to store and speak negatively of each, or I can use my voice as a political landscape to communicate the need for change in the process. Exit and voice represent an economic and political action.
The theme throughout this book is the need to understand the existing relationship between exit, voice and how the effects of loyalty on these choices. These options create pressure because sometimes it is easier to walk away than ‘voice’ an opinion because it sometimes requires heated confrontations. These options are important to an organization because it helps to measure the decline in society. Let’s take a church, for example, when we have business meetings, the congregation has the freedom to voice their concerns. Whether the matter is trivial to us or not, it is a valid concern because their voice informs us of their opinion that might be overlooked; the ‘voice’ is informative. However, if people start leaving and we are uninformed, we know there’s a problem, but we cannot fix it; exit is simply a warning sign. Churches need these business meetings because if there’s no platform for feedback/criticism, people are only left with the option of using loyalty to guide their decisions.
Hirschman’s theory to emigration suggests that people can choose to leave one country to another as a safety-valve instead of voicing the option. The scheme also subscribes to the belief that people maintain strong social ties to their country of origin with intent to have a voice in its public affairs. Although a native of Jamaica, I have not visited since 2010 and have never voted or expressed my opinion in its public affairs. The emergence of transnational migration applies in my case, however, as an immigrant from Jamaica, I maintain no social ties with the country although I value the relationships with friends and family living there.
This book provides an excellent perspective in showing the relationship between exit, voice and the interplay of loyalty.