Resistance in Dirty Work: Street Cleaners and Refuse Collectors

  • Ruth Simpson
  • Jason Hughes
  • Natasha Slutskaya


In the previous chapter we have seen how social position and associated moral injury—the withdrawal of recognition at the interface of economic and moral principles where dirty workers fail to match the expectations of the neo-liberal market—may potentially lead to forms of resistance. Picking up this theme, this chapter explores resistance in dirty work. Resistance can be seen as an action, inaction, or process whereby individuals within a power structure engage in behaviours stemming from their opposition to, or frustration with, enactments of power (Collinson 1999; Knights and McCabe 1999). As Thomas et al. (2004) point out resistance has a long pedigree in organisation studies though orientations have altered in form—seen less as a behavioural response in the form of oppositional practices to inequality at work and more in terms of struggles against the potential colonisation of particular meanings and subjectivities. At this ‘micro-political’ level (Weedon 1993), resistance takes place when tensions occur between ‘an individual’s notion of self (itself derived from discourse) and the subjectivity offered in a dominant discourse’, thereby involving ‘contests over meanings and the articulation of counter discourses’ (Thomas et al. 2004: 6). Resistance is thus seen as socially constructed in context in that its manifestation and performance will vary between individuals in their specific temporalities and spaces.


Social Comparison White Collar Worker Discursive Practice Dominant Discourse Refuse Collector 
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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Ruth Simpson
    • 1
  • Jason Hughes
    • 2
  • Natasha Slutskaya
    • 3
  1. 1.Brunel Business SchoolBrunel UniversityUxbridgeUK
  2. 2.Department of SociologyUniversity of LeicesterLeicesterUK
  3. 3.School of Business, Management and EconomicsUniversity of SussexBrightonUK

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