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Working Class Heroes or Working Stiffs? Domination and Resistance in Business Organizations

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


In recent years, scholars have engaged in an especially sharp debate about the structural and ideological arrangements on which business organizations rely in their effort to control the workers they employ. A key issue is the degree to which workers have retained the ability to resist such controls. In this chapter, I develop a critical analysis of the scholarly debate over domination and resistance at work, in an effort to clarify the tasks facing this field. My argument hinges on three major points. First, I argue that scholars have approached the control/resistance binary largely as a class relationship, thereby neglecting intersecting inequalities such as race, gender, and sexuality, which inevitably complicate or over-determine the forms that worker resistance assumes. Second, I argue that scholars have increasingly fixated on symbolic or discursive influences, privileging them at the expense of the material or structural conditions that shape managerial control and resistance to it. Third, I contend that much of the literature has failed to acknowledge the duality of managerial control – that is, its tendency not only to limit but also to enable resistance from below. These problems, taken together, explain why the debate has so often seemed to pursue a circuitous path, as if it were chasing its own tail. The chapter concludes by discussing the conditions that resistance presupposes, and by speculating about the emergence of novel forms of resistance that might be well suited to an age of flexible accumulation.


Vallas, S.P. (2016), "Working Class Heroes or Working Stiffs? Domination and Resistance in Business Organizations", A Gedenkschrift to Randy Hodson: Working with Dignity (Research in the Sociology of Work, Vol. 28), Emerald Group Publishing Limited, Leeds, pp. 101-126.



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