Churned and Spurned in the Flexible World of Work: A Corporate Narrative

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Jane Messer


Accelerated by the new internet technologies, the past two decades have been characterised by a globalisation of trade and communications, along with major shifts in the balance between manufacturing and knowledge driven economies. New organisational cultures have grown out of and have reflexively driven these changes, and these new organisational cultures of work are registered and enacted by employees through a plethora of micro-practices in the workplace. While it is potentially empowering to be aware of the links between one’s individual agency and the macro structure surrounding your own particular micro-experience, awareness is particularly hard to come by in the modern flexible workplace. Narrative can address this gap in felt knowledge, because in helping us have an imaginary about our experience as workers, narrative supports thinking more broadly about the contradictions inherent in the current system of globalised profit and productivity through flexible labour paradigm. Sociologist Richard Sennett and psychoanalyst Christophe Dejours’s work on character and subjectivity are used here to frame the author’s ethnographic research, which has included a series of extended interviews with IT executive salespeople in Sydney and brief workplace immersions, leading to a series of narratives of character; analysis of ‘The IBM Global Human Capital Study 2008’; and excerpts from J.M. Coetzee’s memoir Youth.

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Author Biography

Jane Messer, Macquarie University

Jane Messer’s recent work engages practice-led research in the areas of fiction, ethnography and cultural studies. The conjoined projects include a series of papers, Writing Corporate Culture: An Australian Narrative, and a novel, The Happiness Project. Her most recent book publication is the novel Provenance (2007).