For Work / Against Work
Debates on the centrality of work

"“Disciplinary Power,” The Labor Process, and the Constitution of the Laboring Subject"

by Sakolsky, Ron (1992)


My purpose here in applying Foucault’s theory of “disciplinary power” to the labor process is not to create an adversarial relationship to Marxist research on a subject that has traditionally been squarely within that domain. As Foucault himself has said, “I am neither an adversary nor a partisan of Marxism” (in Rabinow 1984, 355). Rather, my project is to offer what I trust will be a complimentary approach, building on both the insights of Marxian and Foucauldian analysis-the goal being to create a more nuanced analytical framework for viewing the labor process, which in turn points toward new directions not encompassed by previous frames of reference. In accomplishing this task, I focus on the relation of Foucault’s theory of disciplinary power to the constitution of both the labor process and the body and psyche of the laboring subject. Then, in order to ground these theoretical abstractions in the constructed reality of the contemporary workplace, 1 examine management discourse as a powerknowledge discourse in relation to such specific disciplinary techniques as computer surveillance and quality circles.

Key Passage

If one is to apply Foucault’s concept of “discipline” to the labor process, discipline must be understood in Foucauldian terms as constitutive of that process in the first place.  (p.114)


Foucault, Marx, Marxism, Disciplinary Power, The Labor Process, Power, Surveillance, Worker Surveillance, Worker Monitoring


On Foucault, Foucault

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