Organizing Power and Resistance: From Coercion, to Consent, to Governmentality
The purpose of this chapter is to explore the relationship between power and resistance in the context of work and organizations, with a particular focus on the communicative, discursive processes of power and resistance. We will do this by examining some of the key research traditions in this area—traditions that encompass both Fordist and post-Fordist work contexts. Historically speaking, the Fordist organizational form was dominant from the early 20th century until the late 1970s, while post-Fordist work arrangements began to emerge in the wake of the crisis of capitalism in the 1970s. Our goal in the essay is to explore how, in the course of the various transformations of work and organization during the 20th and early 21st centuries, there have been concomitant shifts in the nature of workplace struggle; that is, in the relationship among power, resistance, and organizing. As a particular economic mode of production, capitalism is incentivized to transform labor process because, as Marx observed, the rate of profit tends to fall as markets become more competitive and saturated. As such, conceiving of new ways to intensify the labor process is one of the only ways to regain a competitive edge. Such transformations, however, always occur in an economic and political context of struggle, as workers inevitably push back against efforts to extract more and more surplus value from their labor. Power and resistance, then, are defining, constitutive dynamics of the labor process that take on particular features under capitalism. In this essay, we will explore the changing nature of these features.