The emancipated worker? : a Foucauldian study of power, subjectivity and organising in the information age
This study is about organisational control in the information age. Organisational control is examined through the changing landscape of power, subject and organisation. The focus is on examining escapes from the traditional practice of organisational control and the spaces of freedom which open up for workers to exercise their own agency. This examination takes place in the avant-garde professional work organisations of a pioneer industry in the world's leading information society, Finland. Theoretically, the study draws on the later works of Michel Foucault and on Critical Management Studies. Empirically, the contemporary operation of organisational control is examined as a case study, in which the Finnish mobile content providing industry constitutes the case. The research is qualitative, consisting of semi-structured interviews and thematic analyses. The findings indicate that the contemporary worker is a subject rather than an object. This impacts on organisational control, as objects can be externally controlled, but subjects cannot. Correspondingly, the ways of controlling and the locus of control have changed from external to internal. The traditional structures of domination, practices of management and preconceived worker subjectivities are largely absent in the organisations researched - and instead there is self-control. This form of control operates through the subjects actively working upon themselves and their own conduct. In contemporary organisations this culminates in the practice of self-management. Self-management is founded on the premise of agency. Overall, the means of control are no longer supported by structures of domination or based upon disciplinary techniques, but rely on relational, pastoral, power. This form of power operates directly through subjectivity. There is no objectifying system, but a subjectifying self. The findings also indicate that contemporary organisations, or any part of them, are no longer viewed as socio-technical systems that can be externally managed and controlled Instead they are seen as essentially consisting of human social processes - lateral relations, which are deeply embedded in action and in their contextuality, historicity and politicality. By implication, social processes and agency need to be incorporated into the analysis, and the social and political reality of organising, managing and working put on the agenda of future organisational research.