Webinar: How power and despotism works in flexible workplaces

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Event Details

21 July 2020 at 4:00 pm – 5:00 pm
Online - Melbourne time
Management; Global Business; General


This webinar considers the impact of flexible scheduling on managerial power and workplace control. When we understand paid work as a power relationship, argues Dr Wood, we see how the spread of precarious scheduling constitutes flexible despotism; a novel regime of control within workplaces.

He argues that flexible despotism represents a new domain of inequality, in which the post-industrial working class increasingly suffers a scheduling nightmare.

He investigated two of the largest retailers in the world, one each in the UK and USA. He uncovers how control in the contemporary "flexible firm" is achieved through the combination of "flexible discipline" and "schedule gifts." Flexible discipline provides managers with an arbitrary means by which to manage workers, but flexible scheduling also requires workers to actively win favour with managers to try to receive "schedule gifts": more or better hours.

He concludes that the centrality of precarious scheduling to control means that for those at the bottom of the post-industrial labour market the future of work will increasingly be one of flexible despotism. He has a new book, Despotism on Demand: How Power Operates in the Flexible Workplace, Cornell University Press, 2020.

This webinar is organised by the International Consortium for Research in Employment and Work (iCREW), the Centre for Global Business and the Monash Business Digitalisation Research Network.

This event will be co-hosted by Professors Greg Bamber, Fang Lee Cooke and Dr Marjorie Jerrard, from the Department of Management. Discussant will be Professor Fang Lee Cooke.

The event commemorates Emeritus Professor of Industrial Relations, William Brown CBE, University of Cambridge Faculty of Economics and Montague Burton Emeritus Professor of Industrial Relations (1945–2019).

About the speaker

Dr Alex J. Wood is at University of Birmingham, UK & Oxford Internet Institute, University of Oxford, UK. He is a sociologist of work and employment, focusing on the changing nature of employment relations and labour-market transformation. He previously researched online labour markets and virtual employment relations with the Microwork and Virtual Production Networks in Sub-Saharan Africa and Southeast Asia project. That project investigated the economic and social implications of new forms of economic activities in the context of information and communications technologies for development. He has a PhD from the University of Cambridge, where he also conducted research on potential ways of reducing workplace stress resulting from insecure scheduling. He has a first-class BSc (hons) Aston University.

CGB webinar series

The Centre for Global Business is committed to tackling the complex issues facing today’s global business community. By bringing together researchers from various disciplines in business, industry partners and policymakers, we bridge the gap between knowledge and practice, and research and impact.

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