start of page content

Dr David Erdal

Dr David Erdal

BA (Oxon), MBA (Harvard), PhD (St Andrews)

Honorary Senior Research Fellow


After obtaining his BA in Chinese at Oxford in 1970, David Erdal worked as a teacher in Mao's China, before returning to the UK to join Tullis Russell, his family's paper manufacturing business. He obtained his MBA at Harvard with distinction in 1981, and became executive chairman of the company in 1985, immediately introducing policies of informing and involving all the workforce, and sharing both the profits and, gradually, the ownership of the company with all employees. He was awarded the Scottish Business Achievement Award in 1989. In 1994 he led the transformation of the company's ownership in a leveraged buyout; it became wholly owned by the employees and by trusts for the employees.

Impressed by the obvious power of that system in motivating people and achieving high productivity, he studied part time for a PhD in 'The psychology of sharing: an evolutionary approach', the degree being awarded by the University of St Andrews in 2000. He was MD of Baxi Partnership Limited from then until 2006, when he gradually moved to part time working. Most of his time is spent researching and writing about employee ownership. In 2011 Bodley Head published Beyond the Corporation: Humanity Working, his book on employee-owned companies, their outstanding performance in terms of productivity and in terms of the happiness of those involved, and the light that this sheds on modern theories of business and finance. From 2010 to 2014 he served as Chancellor's Assessor on the University Court. He speaks widely and writes on employee ownership.

In 2016 with Dr Juliette Summers from the School of Management, he helped Drs Donald George and Rick Woodward at the University of Edinburgh create a MOOC on 'Economic Democracy: The Cooperative Alternative'. He is the presenter for section one. Juliette Summers created and performs section two. The course is available free.

Beyond the Corporation coverSelected publications

Erdal, David, 2017. 'Recognising Facts in Economic Democracy' in Nina Boeger and Charlotte Villiers (eds) Shaping the Corporate Landscape: Towards Economic Reform and Enterprise Diversity. London: Hart.

Erdal, David, 2017. 'Creating Socially Sustainable Enterprise' in Jonathan Michie, Joseph Blasi and Carlos Borzaga (eds) The Oxford Handbook of Mutual, Co-operative and Co-owned Businesses. Oxford: OUP.

Erdal, David, 2014. 'Employee Ownership and Health: an Initial Study' in Sonja Novkovic and Tom Webb (eds) Co-operatives in a Post-Growth Era: Creating Co-operative Economics. London: Zed Books.

Whiten, Andrew and David Erdal, 2012. The human socio-cognitive niche and its evolutionary origins. In Heyes, Celia and Uta Frith (eds) 'New thinking: the evolution of human cognition' Philosophical Transaction of the Royal Society (B) Vol. 367, No. 1599.

Erdal, David, 2011. Beyond the Corporation: Humanity Working. Bodley Head/Random House.

Erdal, David, 2008. Local Heroes: how Loch Fyne Oysters embraced employee ownership and business success. London: Penguin/Viking.

Erdal, David and Andrew Whiten, 1996. Egalitarianism and Machiavellian Intelligence in Human Evolution, in Paul Mellars and Kathleen Gibson, eds. Modelling the Ancient Human Mind. Cambridge: McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research, 139-150.
Available on ResearchGate: Egalitarianism and Machiavellian Intelligence in Human Evolution

Erdal, David and Andrew Whiten, 1994. On Human Egalitarianism: An Evolutionary Product of Machiavellian Status Escalation? Current Anthropology 35, 175-178.