Authoritarianism, oligarchy, localism or democracy? Alternative Futures for the Digital Transformation

18 May 2022



There are many uncertainties in the current digital transformation. In this talk, Zlatko Bodrožić, discusses how collective organisational and public policy choices point to four possible scenarios: digital authoritarianism, digital oligarchy, digital localism, and digital democracy.

Presenting a study co-authored with Paul Adler, Bodrožić will outline a theoretical framework that builds on Schumpeter’s macro-level theory of economy-wide technological revolutions and on the work of several scholars who have extended that theory. In this perspective, such revolutions’ trajectories are shaped primarily by the interaction of changes within and between three spheres—technology, organization, and public policy.

Bodrožić and Adler (2021) enrich this account by identifying the critical problems and the collective choices among competing solutions that together shape the trajectory of each revolution. They argue that the digital transformation represents a new phase—deployment—in the wider arc of the Information and Computer Technology revolution, and that the trajectory of this deployment depends on collective choices to be made in both the organizational and public-policy spheres. Combining in a two-by-two matrix the two main alternative solutions on offer in each of these two spheres, they identify four scenarios for the future trajectory of the digital transformation: digital authoritarianism, digital oligarchy, digital localism, and digital democracy.

How can these scenarios help us trace and understand the future trajectory of the digital transformation?


Zlatko Bodrožić is an Associate Professor in Technology, Organization and Sustainability, and co-leader of the LESS research group on system-level sustainability at the University of Leeds. Zlatko’s research focuses on the evolution of technologies, organisational paradigms/ management models, and public policy (see for example Administrative Science Quarterly, March 2018; Organization Science, forthcoming). He studies the interplay of these three spheres in epochal transformation processes—in particular in the digital transformation and the transition to a sustainable society. At the European Group of Organizational Studies conferences (2021-2024), he acts as co-coordinator of the Standing Working Group “Organization Studies in the Anthropocene: System Change, Not Climate Change.”

Related reading

Bodrožić, Z. and Adler, P. (2021) Alternative Futures for the Digital Transformation: A Macro-Level Schumpeterian Perspective, Organization Science.