For Work / Against Work
Debates on the centrality of work

"Labour as dressage"

by Jackson, Norman; Carter, Pippa (1998)


This chapter links two themes from the work of Foucault: governmentality and labour as dressage. Governmentality relates to the management of a population, at an aggregate level (the state) and also at a micro level. These levels are embedded in a matrix of apparatuses, logics, techniques, and so forth, of control – what Foucault calls the dispositif. The levels are linked through the overarching rationale of managing. Thus, management in its organizational sense, the management of labour and the organization of work, can be seen to constitute part of governmentality. Foucault identifies three functions of labour: the productive, the symbolic and dressage. We will argue that labour as dressage is a function of governmentality, that it is management not for economic or productive purposes, but for ‘reasons of state’, the reasons of the governors, which require in the governed docility, obedience, discipline and self-control.

Key Passage

One arena of control of deviance to which Foucault did not devote much concentrated attention is that of work, but, in some ways, work can be recognized as a persistent sub-text, and he clearly had interests in developing this more directly. (p.53)


Foucault, Labour, Organisational Theory, Management Theory, Obedience, Disobedience, Dispositif, Governmentality


On Foucault, Foucault, Critical Management Studies



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