Workplace Privacy Under Surveillance

Well one could argue whether there is such a thing like workplace privacy. However, the Workplace Surveillance Team thinks there is and it is under threat. This is most likely the reason why they produced the following video clip.

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Arbeitsprozesstheorie / Labour Process Theory

Harry Braverman gehört sicher zu den Autoren, welche die kritische Forschung aber auch die Lehre zur Organisation des Arbeitsprozesses in der kapitalistischen Wirtschaftsordnung entscheidend beeinflusst haben. Innerhalb der BWL-Lehre lassen sich Bravermans Erkenntnisse auf vielfältige Weise nutzen, um z.B. die Rolle des Managements, den Charakter von Arbeit sowie manageriale Kontrolle und den Widerstand der Arbeiter zu adressieren. Lehrende können herbei natürlich die Studierenden Bravermans Buch “Labor and Monopoly Capital” (1974) lesen lassen oder es zusammen mit den Studierenden im Kurs lesen. Jedoch existiert auch eine recht gute Zusammenfassung des Buches, welche auf Youtube verfügbar ist. In zwei Videos (zusammen etwa 20 Minuten) werden nicht nur Bravermans Ideen referiert, sondern es werden auch Bezüge zu Marx’ Kapitalismuskritik oder Taylors Ansatz des Scientific Management hergestellt.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MI9RJE-Nf2U Teil 1

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gUZMJOli09w Teil 2

 

Zum Hintergrund der Videos – die Arbeitsprozesstheorie

Ronald Hartz

Ausgangspunkt der sogenannten Arbeitsprozesstheorie (Labor Process Theory, machmal auch Labor Process Debate) ist die 1974 erschienene Monographie „Labor and Monopoly Capital“ von Harry Braverman und der damit verbundene Versuch einer Revitalisierung und Modifizierung Marxscher Überlegungen für eine Analyse von Arbeits- und Produktionsverhältnissen im 20.Jhd. Braverman interessierte sich für die Dynamik kapitalistischer Produktionsverhältnisse, “underlying the incessant transformation of work in the modern era“ (Braverman 1998, S.3). Die grundlegende Transformation menschlicher Arbeit und den damit verbundenen Formen „reeller Subsumtion“ leitet Braverman, Marx folgend, aus der fortschreitenden Kapitalakkumulation ab. Braverman postuliert anhand einer Analyse des Taylorismus die Kontrolle und Inwertsetzung von Arbeit als die zentrale Managementaufgabe, welches zu Gleich mit der Unterwerfung/Entfremdung durch ein fortschreitendes ‚deskilling‘ der Arbeitskraft einhergeht: “It thus becomes essential for the capitalist that control over the labor process pass from the hands of the worker into its own. This transition presents itself in history as the progressive alienation of the process of production from the worker; to the capitalist, it presents itself as the problem of management“ (Braverman 1998, S.40). Braverman unterscheidet hierbei zwischen dem ‘Wesen’ oder der zu Grunde liegenden Struktur des Produktionsprozesses (Logik der Kapitalakkumulation) und der historisch wandelbaren ‚Erscheinungen‘ der Kontrollformen. In diesem Zusammenhang wird auch der Begriff der Charaktermasken und der Klasse-an-sich reaktiviert, “as the shape given to the working population by the capital accumulation process“ (Braverman 1998, S.19). Thompson und McHugh (2009, S.367) fassen diese Perspektive auf Management und Organisation wie folgt zusammen: ”Control and cost reduction structure the division of labor, involving the design of work and the division of tasks and people to give the most effective control and profitability. This is sustained by hierarchical structures and the shaping of appropriate forms of science and technology“. An Braverman anschließende Analysen nehmen zahlreiche Ausdifferenzierungen im Hinblick auf die Kontrollrealität vor. In den Blick geraten u.a. unterschiedliche Managementstrategien (Friedman 1977), der historische Wandel von Kontroll- und Widerstandsformen (Edwards 1981) sowie schließlich die Untersuchung konsensgenerierender Mechanismen im Arbeitsprozess (Burawoy 1979, 1985).

An der Bravermanschen Aktualisierung von Marx sowie auch den hieran anknüpfenden weiteren Arbeiten wurde insbesondere aus poststrukturalistischer Perspektive Kritik geübt, welche sich in vier Punkten zusammenfassen lässt:

  • Determinismus: teleologisches Verständnis der kapitalistischen Entwicklung; direkte Beziehung zwischen Phasen des Kapitalismus und der Entwicklung des Arbeitsprozesses;
  • Objektivismus: Annahme objektiver Verhältnisse, Ausblendung der subjektiven Repräsentation und ideologischen Reproduktion dieser Verhältnisse;
  • Funktionalismus: Kontrolle der Arbeitnehmer ist funktional i.S. des Kapitalinteresses und notwendige Bedingung kapitalistischer Produktion;
  • Essentialismus: essentialistischer Arbeitsbegriff, orientiert am Ideal ganzheitlicher und komplexer Handwerksarbeit, vor deren Hintergrund der Taylorismus als Niedergang (Stichwort: Entfremdung) erscheint.

Zusammengefasst wurde dies im Vorwurf einer dualistischen Konstruktion von Organisation, ”that reduce the complexity of social life into a polarisation where the ‘free’, expressive and creative actions of voluntary subjects are seen to be struggling against, or determined by, the oppressive forces of objective structures and reality” (Knights 1990, 297).

Quellen

Braverman, Harry (1998): Labor and monopoly capital. The degradation of work in the twentieth century. 25. anniversary ed., New York, NY.

Burawoy, Michael (1979): Manufacturing Consent. Chicago und London.

Burawoy, Michael (1985): The Politics of Production. London und New York.

Edwards, Richard (1981): Herrschaft im modernen Produktionsprozeß, Frankfurt/Main und New York.

Friedman, Andrew (1977): Industry and Labour. London.

Knights, David (1990): Subjectivity, Power and the Labour Process, in: Knights, David/Willmott, Hugh (Hg.): Labour Process Theory, Houndsmills u.a., S. 297–335.

Weiterführende Literatur

Hartz, Ronald (2009): “Dieses Anderssein aufzuheben…”. Grundlagen einer dialektischen Theorie der modernen Arbeitsorganisation, Münster. à enthält ein Kapitel zur Arbeitsprozesstheorie

Jaros, Stephen J. (2000): Labor Process Theory, in: International Studies of Management & Organization, H. 4, Jg. 30, S. 25–39.

Neuberger, Oswald (1995): Mikropolitik, Stuttgart. à enthält ein Kapitel zur Arbeitsprozesstheorie

Nienhüser, Werner (2002): Politisierende Ansätze zur Analyse des Personalmanagements: Neomarxistische und foucaultianische Perspektiven. Arbeitspapier Universität Essen. [abrufbar unter: https://www.uni-due.de/apo/Download/EBPF1.pdf%5D

What it means to work in a manager or a worker position – A little simulation game

Is it possible that students gain some experience about work and organisations while being in the classroom? Well, referring to the discussion on experience-based learning, it is in fact possible. I try to enable students to make some experiences about the meaning of being a worker and/or a manager by doing a little simulation game. I found this exercise in Stephen P. Robbins, Timothy Campbell & Timothy A. Judge (2010) Organizational Behavior (1st edition, European Edition), Financial Times/ Prentice Hall. They adapted it from Lee Bolman and Terrence E. Deal (1979) ’A Simple – But Powerful – Power Simulation’, EXCHANGE: THE ORGANIZATIONAL BEHAVIOR TEACHING JOURNAL, pp. 38-41.

This little simulation game was originally designed to let students experience power in organisations. I, however, use it a bit differently. I do this game after I introduced students to research on the meaning that work has for employees (one session on the look from beyond) and to research about what managers actually do (one session on the look from above). With the game I attempt to offer them an opportunity to experience some of the aspects that I addressed in these sessions.

The students are allocated to one of three groups (top group, middle group, lower group). The top group has the overall responsibility for the effectiveness of the organisation. The lower group manufactures the products of the organisation, that is slogans to promote the management profession (although, I am very creative with regards to the profession, for which the slogans should be, depending on the study programs the students take). Each member of the middle group is responsible for one team of the lower group and for communicating both downwards and upwards. I play the customer, negotiating terms and conditions with the top group, which is then supposed to ensure that both the agreed quantity and quality is delivered on the stipulated deadline.

I am not only playing the customer, though, but also observe what is going on and from time to time add a bit of social dynamic to the play. For example, after a while I ask the members of the lower group whether they have received any payment (the top group has sweets at their disposal in order to pay staff) or to what extent they expect to receive one. I also prompt them to think about breaks (the simulation, easily runs for more than one hour). Beginning to consider payment and breaks, along with other working conditions, the lower group usually formulates demands towards their direct supervisor from the middle group. Subsequently, the middle group brings this aspect to the table of the top group, what sometimes creates some confusion…

Even though the direction that the play takes very much depend on the group of students, I observed that in every case, they ‘tasted’ what it might mean to work in a management or worker role. The top group, for instance, usually tell that they feel the burden of being responsible for both the organisation, yet, also satisfying the need of the customer. This often results is stress and a focus on economical aspects; sometime neglecting the people. They also learn that the classical function of managing, i.e. planning, organising, motivating, controlling and co-ordinating, do not really match their experiences. What they experience comes much closer to Mintzberg’s (1989) observations of what managers do. The lower group usually experiences quite a bit of pressure to perform well and to deliver the expected amount of slogans. Although they all agree that developing slogans is creative work, hardly anyone of them would go for such a job. This group also experienced the constraints that are set by the organisation and the behaviour of the groups above them. The middle group rather often experiences to be in-between, receiving pressure from the top and the lower-group. Coping with this pressure often proves to be difficult and they  feel a uncomfortable.

Overall I believe that this little simulation in fact enables students to experience what it means to engage in paid work under the constrains of an organisation that is hierarchically structured.

 

Film Festival “Corporate Bodies” in Den Haag, 11-13th February

Showing films during class makes organizational life more tangible. Films give us catchy images, situations and dialogues to illustrate organizational theory and management and open up space for critical discussion. Furthermore, films can also be analyzed as cultural artifacts that tell us about current societal understandings of organizations. This makes them a valuable resource for teaching that moves beyond cognitive learning. Good films make us feel something about the characters we watch. We suffer with them, we laugh with or about them, we are disgusted by them and so forth. In an educational context, this capacity of films can enable an affective and emotional learning and thus create a more holistic learning experience.

Some fresh inspiration for using films in teaching can be found here: The film festival “Corporate Bodies: Where Film Meets Organization”, taking place on 11-13th February in Den Haag, aims to shed new light on the relation between organization and film. It offers not only an extensive film programme, but also various interesting speakers.

Work and its different realities

A key challenge in teaching about work and organization is to heighten the awareness for different worlds of work and life realities.

In their project “Labour in a Single Shot” Harun Farocki and Antje Ehmann assembled a wide array of short videos on different work practices across the globe. The one to two minutes sequences portray different types of work – paid and unpaid work, knowledge and physical work, prestigious and pecarious work – in different cultural contexts.

Being taken in a single shot, they enable the viewer to observe, contrast, compare, and reflect on different work practices. “Labour in a Single Shot” thus offers a rich source for bringing the diversity in work to the classroom.

The videos can be found here: Labour in a Single Shot

 

Textbooks for Critical Management and Organisation Teaching

In the following a small collection of textbooks. As they are all written in English language, I decided to provide an English summary as well:

Fiona Wilson (2013) Organizational Behaviour and Work: A Critical Introduction [Paperback], Oxford University Press (fourth edition)

This book is fairly easy to read and to comprehend. Fiona Wilson did a great job raising numerous aspects beyond the traditional Organisational Behaviour knowledge, such as the view from above (i.e. what managers actually do), the view from below (i.e. the meaning of work) in addition to the chapter on the rationality of management. The books pays particular attention to aspects around gender, age, race and ethnicity, all of them being neglected in more traditional management textbooks

David Knights & Hugh Willmott (2012) Introducing Organizational Behaviour and Management [Paperback], 2nd edition, Cengage Learning

A very comprehensive book that is particularly useful in case you have loads of time in your course. Different authors wrote the chapters. Some of the chapters may be difficult to understand.

Martin J. Corbett (1994) Critical Cases in Organisational Behaviour. Macmillan (reprinted 2003)

Some may argue that this is rather outdated stuff. No, it isn’t! The topics addressed in the cases are still up-to-date and I mean there must be reason why Macmillan decided for a reprint in 2003.

Suzette Dyer, Maria Humphries, Dale Fitzgibbons & Fiona Hurd (2014) Understanding Management Critically. A Student Text, Sage

The authors address topics such as organisational structures, work, politics and power, gender, race and leadership. In chapter 2 the authors provide an overview of influential thinkers and the critical discourse. Although, some may argue that this is done in a somewhat superficial way, I believe this chapter has the potential to introduce the students to the variety of thoughts present in critical management and organisation studies.