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Title: The politics of algorithmic management class : composition and everyday struggle in distribution work
Author: Gent, Craig
ISNI:       0000 0004 8505 0663
Awarding Body: University of Warwick
Current Institution: University of Warwick
Date of Award: 2018
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This research enquires into the politics of organization, control and resistance in distribution workplaces. Situated within an autonomist Marxist conceptual framework, I make a case for the restoration of the spirit of the workers inquiry to class composition analyses of contemporary workplaces, particularly regarding the strategic need to understand the politics of algorithmic management. Although largely lost since the ‘post-autonomist’ turn, I argue the ‘interested’ methodological approach of the workers inquiry as developed within operaismo is especially pertinent to understanding contemporary class struggle within algorithmically-mediated workplaces. I highlight the political deficit in initial studies of the emergence of algorithmic management through engagement with a genealogy of scientific, cybernetic and humanistic management approaches. In doing so, I excavate the class politics of knowledge and communication, which remain prevalent in softwarized managerial forms. Combining an interdisciplinary theoretical basis with original empirical engagement, the inquiry builds an understanding of the technical composition of a number of distribution workplaces, detailing the managerial and working processes and highlighting the role of tracking, metrics and communication. Devices such as handheld radio data terminals provide the research with a space for thinking about the politics of algorithmic management because they mediate informational asymmetry between workers and managers, which I examine through consideration of such effects as ‘managerial distantiation’ and the uncertain place of supervisors within the algorithmic management infrastructure. I argue that workers are politically active in distribution workplaces, often aside from trade union involvement, and that there exists an infrapolitical realm where workers take advantage of the technologically reshaped terrain of struggle. These subversive actions, I argue, are characterised by metis (cunning intelligence), which challenges the forms of political action typically found in the workplace organizing repertoire by providing an alternative basis of commonality and collectivity based on the use of guile despite initially adverse conditions.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Economic and Social Research Council
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: HD Industries. Land use. Labor ; HD28 Management. Industrial Management ; JC Political theory