For Work / Against Work
Debates on the centrality of work

"Ideology at work: reconsidering ideology, the labour process and workplace resistance"

by Lloyd, Anthony (2017)


Purpose The purpose of this paper is to consider existing debates within the sociology of work, particularly the re-emergence of labour process theory (LPT) and the “collective worker”, in relation to resistance at work. Through presentation of primary data and a dialectical discussion about the nature of ideology, the paper offers alternative interpretations on long-standing debates and raises questions about the efficacy of workplace resistance.Design/methodology/approach The design of this methodology is an ethnographic study of a call centre in the North-East of England, a covert participant observation at “Call Direct” supplemented by semi-structured interviews with call centre employees.Findings The findings in this paper suggest that resistance in the call centre mirrors forms of resistance outlined elsewhere in both the call centre literature and classical workplace studies from the industrial era. However, in presenting an alternative interpretation of ideology, as working at the level of action rather than thought, the paper reinterprets the data and characterises workplace resistance as lacking the political potential for change often emphasised in LPT and other workplace studies.Originality/value The original contribution of this paper is in applying an alternative interpretation of ideology to a long-standing debate. In asking sociology of work scholars to consider the “reversal of ideology”, it presents an alternative perspective on resistance in the workplace and raises questions about the efficacy of workplace disobedience.

Key Passage

Foucault has been criticised as a neoliberal apologist (Zamora, 2015) which reflects the movement away from LPT as a potential site of revolutionary politics; Foucault and his followers concentrate on micro-sites, the cultural sphere and the individual subject whilst leaving the material and ideological edifice of capitalism free from critique and able to continue reproducing itself unchallenged. For example, Thompson (2003) concludes his critique on call centre surveillance systems by suggesting that conclusions should take into account-specific organisational context and not how a whole societal or workplace regime should be characterised. Without connecting the macro with the mezzo and micro, Thompson misses the opportunity to reflect on the nature of capitalism in contemporary society and the potential harm it inflicts on the workplace. (p.268)


Foucault, Worker Resistence, Sociology, Sociology Of Work, Labour Process Theory, Collective Worker, Call Centre Work


Resistance to/at Work, On Foucault, Foucault

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