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Contradictions at work: a critical review

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  • McGovern, Patrick

Abstract

Despite significant achievements in empirical research, considerable unease exists about the lack of conceptual and theoretical debate within the sociology of work. One potentially significant problem is the uncritical use of concepts that have their origins in Marxism and purport to explain the essential features of the employment relationship. Using evidence from a systematic review of four highly ranked British journals I chart the growing influence of the concept of contradiction, notably within the labour process perspective where it has become a key concept, especially in relation to the problem of labour control. In spite of its popularity, I argue that the concept contains two sets of flaws. The first set, which relate to its utility as a concept, include problems of logic, differentiation and operationalization. The second set relate to the substantive use of the concept, especially its dependence on supporting assumptions, and its expectation of social change. The article concludes by calling for a moratorium on further usage.

Suggested Citation

  • McGovern, Patrick, 2014. "Contradictions at work: a critical review," LSE Research Online Documents on Economics 45188, London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library.
  • Handle: RePEc:ehl:lserod:45188
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. Robin Burrow & Rachel Williams & Daniel Thomas, 2020. "Stressed, Depressed and Exhausted: Six Years as a Teacher in UK State Education," Work, Employment & Society, British Sociological Association, vol. 34(5), pages 949-958, October.
    2. Kohtamäki, Marko & Einola, Suvi & Rabetino, Rodrigo, 2020. "Exploring servitization through the paradox lens: Coping practices in servitization," International Journal of Production Economics, Elsevier, vol. 226(C).
    3. Vanessa Beck & Paul Brook & Bob Carter & Ian Clark & Andy Danford & Nik Hammer & Shireen Kanji & Melanie Simms, 2016. "Work, employment and society sans frontières: extending and deepening our reach," Work, Employment & Society, British Sociological Association, vol. 30(2), pages 211-219, April.
    4. Tony Dundon & Tony Dobbins, 2015. "Militant partnership: a radical pluralist analysis of workforce dialectics," Work, Employment & Society, British Sociological Association, vol. 29(6), pages 912-931, December.
    5. Anuratha Venkataraman & Girish Balasubramanian & Santanu Sarkar, 2014. "Changing Workforce and Transforming Industrial Relations Scenario," Management and Labour Studies, XLRI Jamshedpur, School of Business Management & Human Resources, vol. 39(2), pages 219-228, May.

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    More about this item

    Keywords

    concept redundancy; concept stretching; contradiction; labour control; labour process; Marxism; qualitative research;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • R14 - Urban, Rural, Regional, Real Estate, and Transportation Economics - - General Regional Economics - - - Land Use Patterns
    • J01 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - General - - - Labor Economics: General

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