Is the High-Involvement Worker Precarious or Opportunistic? Hierarchical Ambiguities in Late Capitalism

Susanne Ekman

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review


This article addresses the recent trend in critical organization theory and sociological literature to regard employees in creative and high-involvement work as precarious. It does so by tapping into the perennial debate about control and ambiguity in organization studies. Its main contribution is to expand the focus on workers as objects of control to exercisers of control. Drawing on ethnographic material from the creative knowledge work sector, the article argues that structural and discursive developments in late capitalism generate a specific form of ambiguity which is mobilized by both managers and employees in attempts to exploit and control the counterpart. Through careful analysis of hierarchical interactions, it shows how it is highly contextual whether managers or employees come out as ‘winners’ in the game of influence and domination. This means that the study of worker precariousness needs to be combined with the study of its flip side, namely worker opportunism.
Original languageEnglish
Issue number2
Pages (from-to)141-158
Number of pages18
Publication statusPublished - 2014

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