Examines the deep structure of the discourse on the organization of work and shows that the most successful texts share a common structure: they construct an ideal model in which performance and quality go hand‐in‐hand. Provides explanations for the self‐constructed gap between the model and reality, and recipes for change. This type of discourse has widespread appeal, but there are shortcomings attached to it: an inevitable neglect of the employment relation (and accordingly inadequate analysis of resistance to organizational change), and undue optimism about the quality of working life (thereby de‐legitimizing efforts, such as in Scandinavian and Dutch working conditions legislation, to establish the quality of working life as a value in its own right). Critical and empirical evaluative alternative approaches seem unable to capture substantial mind share.
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