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The Dynamics of Dignity at Work

A Gedenkschrift to Randy Hodson: Working with Dignity

ISBN: 978-1-78560-727-1, eISBN: 978-1-78560-726-4

Publication date: 5 February 2016


Randy Hodson’s categories offer an ambitious, comprehensive framework for analysing the objective and subjective conditions that shape dignity and resistance at work. In this chapter, we engage with Hodson and his collaborators work through exploring its potential usefulness in helping understand the experience of low-skill and low-paid factory workers at the end of supermarket supply chains in the United Kingdom. In emphasising the purposeful and strategic actions of workers to attain and maintain dignity within work, and management-influenced conditions that destroy or deny it, Hodson’s perspectives overlap with themes in more recent labour process theory that elaborate expanded notions of labour agency. While we share such concerns, we also identify some limitations to the framework and its explanatory powers, particularly where threats to dignity are associated with concepts of abuse and mismanagement. Our investigations of the supermarket supply chain reveal that management, authority and work organisation in these plants is not, by and large, ‘abusive’, ‘chaotic’ or ‘anomic’. Such terminology creates the unavoidable impression of pre-rational workplaces based on arbitrary, personal power. In our cases, the plants are not much ‘mis-managed’ as managed rationally according direct and indirect pressures exerted through supply chain power dynamics. Hodson’s framework for addressing issues of dignity and to a lesser extent resistance, remain an indispensable but incomplete entry point for understanding its dynamics.


Thompson, P. and Newsome, K. (2016), "The Dynamics of Dignity at Work", A Gedenkschrift to Randy Hodson: Working with Dignity (Research in the Sociology of Work, Vol. 28), Emerald Group Publishing Limited, Leeds, pp. 79-100.



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