Contemporary Management Issues

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WORKERS PLAYTIME? UNRAVELLING THE PARADOX OF COVERT RESISTANCE IN ORGANIZATIONS Peter Fleming André Spicer Department of Management University of Melbourne Parkville, Vic 3010 Australia Chapter for Paradoxical New Directions in Organization and Management Theory. Edited by Stewart Clegg. Amsterdam: Benjamins. (Second Draft) July 2001 The problem of whether employee resistance is possible under corporate relations of power that target the very hearts and minds of workers has become an increasingly important issue in recent critical organization studies. With the advent of ‘cultural cleansing' (Strangleman and Roberts, 1999), ‘designer selves' (Casey,…show more content…
Although the identities of workers have been a concern for managers since the dawn of the industrial era (see Parker, 2000), the extent and reach of corporate culture manipulation as it has emerged in tandem with teams and electronic surveillance has surpassed even the wildest control fantasies entertained by previous movements. Critical management scholars have been interested in this modality of control, showing how the relaxation of formal control and the promotion of empowerment and participation is to a large extent nominal, and often belies a more insidious network of influence operating at the level of selfhood. Under this form of governance, the subjectivities of workers are ‘colonised' (Casey, 1995), thereby reducing or even erasing the desire to resist corporate hegemony. Consequently, the emphasis has been on the cultural constitution of ‘engineered selves' (Kunda, 1992), ‘designer selves' (Casey, 1995), and ‘enterprising selves' (du Gay, 1996) – that is, the production of types of worker subjectivity that identify with the company and are compatible with the maintenance of asymmetrical relations of power. One of the most striking aspects of this research is what appears to be an almost total lack of employee resistance to management. As Thompson and Ackroyd (1995) forcefully argue, these studies give

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