Processes of Domination in the Contemporary Workplace: Managing Disputes in the Swedish Healthcare Sector

Daniel Nyberg, Christian De Cock

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review

188 Downloads (Pure)


The aim of this article is to explain how forms of consent-driven domination are produced over actors with critical capacity to question the processes of domination to which they are subjected. Drawing on observations of meetings during which actors evaluated employee sick leave, we show how domination is locally achieved in situated interactions by (a) constructing a specific situational reality, (b) transferring responsibilities in accordance with this reality, and (c) positioning the actors within the confirmed bounds of the situation. Domination is produced by exploiting a gap between the reified instituted reality and the lived realities of embodied actors. Doing so enables critiques of the workplace to be absorbed and situational responsibility to be directed towards individual employees. Engaging with French sociologist Luc Boltanski’s recent work, we refer to these processes as ‘complex domination’: the domination appears centre-less and well-intentioned politics result in permanent asymmetrical outcomes – that is, the same people always lose.
Original languageEnglish
JournalThe Sociological Review
Issue number3
Pages (from-to)689–705
Number of pages17
Publication statusPublished - May 2019


  • Boltanski
  • Discourse
  • Domination
  • Healthcare
  • Sickness absence

Cite this