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Revisiting conflict: Neoliberalism at work in the gig economy

Tirapani, A. N. & Willmott, H. ORCID: 0000-0003-1321-7041 (2022). Revisiting conflict: Neoliberalism at work in the gig economy. Human Relations, 76(1), pp. 53-86. doi: 10.1177/00187267211064596


What is the role of conflict in bringing about radical change? Taking the case of the gig economy, we study the conditions of possibility for fairer alternative ways of organising to emerge. Currently, some commentators underscore the sense of freedom of working as a self-employed contractor; others focus on its negative and exploitative dimensions. Less attention has been given to the potential emergence of (radical) conflicts around the nature of gig work. Thus, we contribute to the study of conflict in organisation theory by appreciating two different yet interrelated phenomena. First, how neoliberal gig work mobilises positive fantasies of individualised economic prosperity and independence, leading to reformist responses to social and contractual disputes. Second, how the dark side of gig work can trigger radical conflicts, which reject the assumptions underpinning the ‘self-employed contractors’ business model. We argue that the potential for radical (labour) revolts is buffered by neoliberal individualisation and hegemonic ideology – articulated in the phenomenon that we term ‘econormativity’. Yet, as the latter offers no resolution to structural grievances, conflict continues to simmer in the background. The article aims to advance, principally from an organisation studies perspective, our understanding of conflict and its role in unleashing radical alternatives.

Publication Type: Article
Additional Information: Copyright ©, 2022, the authors.
Publisher Keywords: Conflict, gig economy, individualisation, neoliberalism, precarious employment, poststructuralism
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 > Management
SWORD Depositor:
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