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Neither a dream nor a nightmare: Exploring precariousness from an organisation studies perspective.

Tirapani, A. N. (2021). Neither a dream nor a nightmare: Exploring precariousness from an organisation studies perspective.. (Unpublished Doctoral thesis, City, University of London)


This thesis explores the phenomenon of uncertain, unstable, and insecure employment relations. With the explosion of the so-called gig economy, the issue of precariousness has (re)entered public and academic debate. However, it has a much older history and larger implications for organisations and societies. If these forms of work organisation are deemed problematic, how are they reproduced encountering limited overt conflict? To solve this puzzle, I study precariousness both as an epiphenomenon of neoliberalism (Chapter One) and as a self-standing object of inquiry (Chapters Two and Three). I do so from an organisations studies perspective in order to bridge our field with sociology and political theory, expanding our understanding of precariousness. This approach draws attention to the consequences of increasing overlap between the professional and private spheres along with alternative pathways that might address them. It also captures precariousness by acknowledging that it can be perceived both positively (as empowering and emancipating) and negatively (as exploitative and oppressive).

The first chapter theorises radical conflict in the context of gig work. Using a poststructuralist framework, it shows how employment relations nurture grievances and conflict, yet the responses are recurringly reformist. The reason, it argues, is that two main dimensions of neoliberalism – individualisation and hegemonic ideology – ‘filter out’ radical solutions. This process further destabilises the social order as it neither solves the causes underpinning radical conflict nor allows a radical alternative to prosper.

To study how precariousness reproduces, the second chapter takes up an empirical case of interns in and around European institutions in Brussels, Belgium. This case contributes to the literature on precariousness by revealing the role of (de)politicisation in fostering or undermining radical change. More specifically, depoliticisation undermines conditions that are conducive to the possibility of emancipation among precarious workers. I argue that if politicisation is present, individuals can challenge the regime of precariousness. Yet this seldom happens, and the result is the reproduction of precariousness instead.
The third chapter takes stock of the above reflections by reviewing the literature on precariousness as a grand challenge. It looks at two inter-related dimensions: precariousness of work as the material conditions for employment, and precariousness of lives as the lived experiences of individuals. It spells out the definitions, antecedents, and consequences for precariousness surfaced in literature. I conclude with the concept of ‘received precariousness’, which ties them together and enables the identification of moderating factors as well as future research avenues for organisation scholars.

Publication Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HD Industries. Land use. Labor
H Social Sciences > HD Industries. Land use. Labor > HD28 Management. Industrial Management
Departments: Bayes Business School
Bayes Business School > Management
Doctoral Theses
[img] Text - Accepted Version
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