Call for Papers
Work is fundamental to human development and wellbeing, and therefore a critical concern in understanding how to organize
for a good life. Images of ‘good work’, however, are always situated in historical and political contexts and realities and
shaped by institutions that promote or thwart them. Currently, institutionally unfettered capitalist relations – epitomized
by “shareholder value” and rising inequalities – tend to reduce work to a commodity. Yet work is not just something to be
sold on markets (Polanyi, 2001). The selling of our work generally entails relinquishing control over the modalities of working,
its product, our relations with others through it, and therefore what we can become by engaging in it (Marx, 1974). Against
this background, there is an urgent need to reassess and reimagine good work in, around and across organizations. Therefore,
the subtheme asks how the spaces of ‘good work’ can be maintained and extended, how new ones can be established, and how barriers
to ‘bad work’ can be removed (Delbridge & Sallaz, 2015): What does ‘good work’ look like in contemporary organizing? How
can we strive for ‘good work’ under extant institutions? And how can images of ‘good work’ assist collectivities to develop
organizational practices of solidarity, resistance, and change within, and potentially beyond, capitalism?
Seeking to bring together perspectives from multiple disciplines on work and organization to advance knowledge, envision alternatives and stimulate new integrative insights, we particularly welcome submissions related to the following three main subthemes:
Institutions and ‘good work’: Struggles between legacies and change
ranging from formal standards such as minimum wage laws and collective agreements to informal rules such as organizational
cultures, profoundly shape our working lives. The rules of work govern the way work is performed, organized, and remunerated
within and across organizations. Manifesting differently across time and place, and intersecting with other institutions (e.g.,
the family, education systems, colonial legacies, etc.), institutions also fail to resolve the contradictions between capital
and labour inherent in capitalism. As the dramatic dislocations caused by the Covid-19 pandemic have revealed, rule-making
mechanisms like collective bargaining, unions, work councils, and labour law are squeezed under the combined pressure of political
attacks, technological advances, demographic changes, new business and management models, global value chains, and environmental
challenges, laying bare profound dysfunctionalities and voids in the regulation of work and employment from the local to the
global level (Wilkinson & Barry, 2020, Haipeter et al., 2021; Morris et al., 2021). Inside and across organizations and
countries, precarious work arrangements have diffused and multiplied, leaving a growing share of workers without protection
(Lazzarato, 2009; Rubery et al., 2018).
Illustrative questions include: How do institutional legacies constrain or enable change in the regulation of work? How dooes public and private regulation clash or complement each other in promoting good work standards in global value chains? What are the ideational bases for different conceptions of good work? How does the intersection of work institutions and other institutions (e.g. migration regimes, family regimes, ableist cultures, colonial legacies) undermine good work? What are the pressures and possibilities for revamping existing institutions of work as well as creating better institutions for making work more democratic and sustainable?
Actors of ‘good work’: Interests and influence
The profound fragmentation and dysfunctionalities of work-related institutions
direct attention to the multitude of actors with a stake in them. Labour politics are an increasingly diverse, fragmented,
and unevenly structured field. Such complexity brings into focus democracy, deliberation, contestation, and consensus-building
as various actors popularize divergent frames of good work to suit their interests (Gahan & Pekarek, 2013). For example,
worker representation, once a unique domain of unions, is now claimed by a variety of organizations. As the reach of traditional
unionism and collective bargaining has declined, alternative forms of collective action ranging from worker centres and living
wage movements to freelancer and gig workers’ organizations as well as virtual social movements such as DemocratizingWork
have emerged (De Coster & Zanoni, 2022; Healy & Pekarek, 2020). However, the impact of such organizing is unclear;
indeed, it may be opaque in whose interests these new organizers operate. As for management, corporate reorganization through
outsourcing and subcontracting has placed downward pressure on pay and working conditions and fuelled the spread of labour
market intermediaries such as labour hire firms and HR consultants (Bonet et al., 2013). State agencies, regulating work at
different levels, face a growing challenge in monitoring and enforcing labour standards. They may also become targets of worker
campaigns or their allies. For example, the UK’s Living Wage movement has mobilised with some success in promoting higher
minimum wage levels (Dobbins and Prowse, 2022). Meanwhile, capitalist actors plead for self-regulation, with associative bodies
advancing arguments in favour of purposeful and responsible business, including employment relations (Gooberman et al., 2018).
Illustrative questions include: Which new actors are attempting to advance ‘good work’? What political strategies have been used to counter the fragmentation of labour to protect ‘good work’? With which results? How do new digital technologies enable workers to organize and mobilize for ‘good work’ in hostile environments? How can consumers and other parties be enlisted to help or hinder worker struggles across time and space?
Practices of ‘good work’: Identities, mobilization and resistance
To understand how managers, workers, unions, state agencies
and the courts engage with and shape organizations, the labour process, and the (collective) regulation of ‘good work’, it
is important to delve into social practice (Vaara & Whittington, 2012). There has been ongoing debate about the essence
of good work practices. For example, purportedly progressive programs such as Employee Engagement have been critiqued (Keenoy,
2013). Practices of ‘good work’ need to be understood not in universal, abstract terms, but from the perspectives and experiences
of those in work. These workers are heterogenous due to differences in legal status, bargaining power on the labour market,
position in society, role in social reproduction, and embodiment, to name only a few. Reinventing institutions of ‘good work’
requires working through these multiple positionalities as opposed to recovering a lost ‘standard’ which was never meant for
them. The debate around ‘essential work’ under the Covid-19 pandemic has foregrounded the contradiction between the value
of certain jobs, disproportionately carried out by subordinated social groups, for our life and how they are valued under
capitalism (Stevano et al., 2021).
Illustrative questions include: What practices of ‘good work’ reflect the multiple perspectives and need of a heterogeneous labour force? What processes are needed to define a bottom-line of ‘good work’ practices? How can workers and their allies mobilize effectively in pursuit of ‘good work’? How can ‘good work’ practices be envisioned for structurally undervalued work of social reproduction disproportionately carried out by subordinated subjects? What novel practices of ‘good work’ exist that challenge capitalism?
- Bonet, R., Cappelli, P., & Hamori, M. (2013): “Labor market intermediaries and the new paradigm for human resources.” Academy of Management Annals, 7 (1), 341–392.
- De Coster, M., & Zanoni, P. (2022): “More than prefigurative politics? Redefining the institutional frames to reduce precarity under neoliberal capitalism.” Organization Studies, first published online on July 28, 2022, https://doi.org/10.1177/01708406221113110.
- Delbridge, R., & Sallaz, J.J. (2015): “Work: Four worlds and ways of seeing.” Organization Studies, 36 (11), 1449–1462.
- Dobbins, T., & Prowse, P. (2022): The Living Wage: Advancing a Global Movement. London: Routledge.
- Gahan, P., & Pekarek, A. (2013): “Social movement theory, collective action frames and union theory: A critique and extension.” British Journal of Industrial Relations, 51 (4), 754–776.
- Gooberman, L., Hauptmeier, M., & Heery, E. (2018): “Contemporary employer interest representation in the United Kingdom.” Work, Employment and Society, 32 (1), 114–132.
- Haipeter, T., Helfen, M., Kirsch, A., Rosenbohm, S., & Üyük, C. (2021): “Industrial relations at centre stage: Efficiency, equity, and voice in the governance of global labour standards.” Industrielle Beziehungen, 28 (2), 148–171.
- Healy, J., & Pekarek, A. (2020): “Work and wages in the gig economy: can there be a high road?” In: A. Wilkinson & M. Barry (eds.): The Future of Work and Employment. Cheltenham: Edward Elgar Publishing, 156–173.
- Keenoy, T. (2013): “Engagement: a murmuration of objects?” In: C. Truss, K. Alfes, R. Delbridge, A. Shantz, & E. Soane (eds.): Employee Engagement in Theory and Practice. London: Routledge, 211–234.
- Lazzarato, M. (2009): “Neoliberalism in action: Inequality, insecurity and the reconstitution of the social.” Theory, Culture & Society, 26 (6), 109–133.
- Marx, K. (1974): The Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts. Marx/Engels Internet Archive; available at: https://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1844/epm/1st.htm#s4.
- Morris, J., Jenkins, J., & Donaghey, J. (2021): “Uneven Development, Uneven Response: The Relentless Search for Meaningful Regulation of GVCs.” British Journal of Industrial Relations, 59 (1), 3–24.
- Polanyi, K. (2001): The Great Transformation. Boston: Beacon.
- Rubery, J., Grimshaw, D., Keizer, A., & Johnson, M. (2018): “Challenges and contradictions in the ‘normalising’ of precarious work.” Work, Employment and Society, 32 (3), 509–527.
- Stevano, S., Ali, R., & Jamieson, M. (2021): “Essential for what? A global social reproduction view on the re-organisation of work during the COVID-19 pandemic.” Canadian Journal of Development Studies, 42 (1/2), 178–199.
- Vaara, E., & Whittington, R. (2012): “Strategy-as-practice: Taking social practices seriously.” Academy of Management Annals, 6 (1), 285–336.
- Wilkinson, A., & Barry, M. (eds.) (2020): The Future of Work and Employment. Cheltenham: Edward Elgar Publishing.