An Introduction to Theoretical Issues



There is a shared view among business people that it is common sense to organize work in a hierarchical, management-led way. Notwithstanding fashionable managerial programmes about employee participation and involvement (which in the best of cases collapse like sandcastles in the storm of economic crises), within capitalism, ‘management has the right to manage’. That somebody needs to be empowered in the interests of the business to make quick decisions and impose the execution of these on working people is a principle hardly contested and indeed commonly accepted by workers themselves as the normal state of affairs. This acceptance is further reinforced by a system of work organized on the basis of a separation between planning and execution that concentrates knowledge (and consequently decision-making power) in the hands of a few. This conception about the accepted, effective and thus ‘natural’ way of organizing work in our societies is so embedded in the way we live that to think about a different, more democratic, equalitarian, less hierarchical and authoritarian way of organizing work is at best treated as a utopia. Thus, in building a convincing argument about alternatives, the first point to make is about the pervasiveness of dominant social relations in shaping the organization of work. This necessarily implies a theoretical effort to criticize the existing organization of work before practical alternatives can be envisaged.


Human Resource Management Work Organization Theoretical Issue Labour Process Labour Movement 
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© Maurizio Atzeni 2012

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