Re-embedding agency at the workplace scale: workers and labour control in Glasgow call centres

Thomas Hastings, Danny MacKinnon

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

37 Citations (Scopus)
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Following recent calls for the development of a more embedded sense of labour agency, this paper focuses on the scale of the workplace which is largely absent from recent labour geography debates. Drawing on studies in the labour process tradition, the paper presents empirical research on call centre work in Glasgow, utilising this to revisit the concept of local Labour Control Regimes. We argue that rather than being simply imposed by capital and the state ‘from above’, workplace control should be seen as the product of a dialectical process of interaction and negotiation between management and labour. Labour's indeterminacy can influence capital in case specific ways as firms adapt to labour agency and selectively tolerate and collude with certain practices and behaviours. Workers’ learned behaviours and identities are shown to affect not only recruitment patterns in unexpected ways, but also modes of accepted conduct in call centres. Accordingly, the case is made for the influence of subtle – yet pervasive – worker agency expressed at the micro-scale of the labour process itself. This, it is argued, exerts a degree of ‘bottom-up’ pressure on key fractions of capital within the local Labour Control Regime.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)104-120
JournalEnvironment and Planning A
Issue number1
Early online date22 Aug 2016
Publication statusPublished - 01 Jan 2017


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