Complex situations often require us to take a step back for what consultants call the 10,000 feet view. The problems facing the EU these days—from Grexit to Brexit—surely seem impenetrable. A convoluted potpourri of economic, financial, and political crises leaves most observers either completely disengaged or increasingly reliant on their gut feelings. To wrap one’s head around the forces that threaten the European project, it helps to think in very simple categories: exit, voice, and loyalty.
Few theories still prompt real-life insights almost half a century after their publication. Albert O. Hirschman’s “Exit, Voice, and Loyalty” surely falls into this category. Put simply, Hirschman postulated that members who are unsatisfied with an organization they are part of, can either exit it or try to change its course by voicing their qualms. The ease of exit is very different, depending on the organization; it is considerably less costly to leave a scrabble club than say one’s family or street gang. The easier the exit, the less likely is one to voice concerns, which clearly affects the workings of an organization.