For Work / Against Work
Debates on the centrality of work

"All I want to do is get that check and get drunk"

by Rhodes, Carl (2009)


The purpose of this paper is to examine the themes of resistance to organizations in Charles Bukowski’s novel Factotum in relation to contemporary theory in organization studies, and to consider the ways in which the literary depiction of resistance can be used to extend theoretical debates on the subject.

Key Passage

It is in this spirit that this paper offers a reading of Factotum, a novel that is indubitably a testimony to the experience of working in organizations. But not just any work, Bukowski shirks off the cultural reality of work that sees labour as virtuous, replacing it with a particular rendering of reality that “targets the deadening oppressiveness of the workplace [and] the questionable aspects of traditional masculinity” (Charlson, 2005, p. 9). Chinaski, isn’t a Factotum in that he has a job with many tasks – he is a person who has many jobs. He drifts between them, as he criss-crosses 1940s America, always anticipating quitting or getting sacked, always looking for the next drink. Factotum is an experiment in extreme organizational resistance – an experiment well beyond the capacity of most people and well beyond the purview of current organizational theory. While this resistance remains constrained by power relations on all sides, it radically confronts those relations in the extremities of its own actions, always refusing subjective co-option. As a cultural text, I read Factotum as a “valuable means through which organisations and organizational life can be understood” (Rhodes and Brown, 2005, p. 471); one that offers a legitimate alternative way to understand the goings on in organizations (Parker et al., 1999). I use this reading to suggest that while resistance in Charles Bukowski’s Factotum 387 and to organizations is most commonly positioned as being either overt and organized (Ackroyd and Thompson, 1999) or covert and disorganized (Fleming and Sewell, 2002) there is a form of resistance that has been elided in theory – that which is highly individualistic and disorganized yet extreme and overt. This is a resistance that does not just work against the power structures of one organization, but rather rejects all aspects of capitalist work relations other than those necessary for survival. The contribution of the paper emerges from using Factotum as a means of exploring the meaning of this form of resistance. (p.387)


Bukowski, Anti Work, Against Work, Resistance, Organisational Studies, Organisation Theory, Alcohol, Alienation, Literature, Fiction


Resistance to Work

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