Academic journal article Capital & Class

Hidden Forms of Resistance among Turkish Workers: Hegemonic Incorporation or Building Blocks for Working Class Struggle? *

Academic journal article Capital & Class

Hidden Forms of Resistance among Turkish Workers: Hegemonic Incorporation or Building Blocks for Working Class Struggle? *

Article excerpt

Introduction

This paper aims to go beyond the limits of the recent debate on the changing nature of the capitalist labour process. This has been developed in the context of increasing empirical evidence on managerial practices in industrialised countries.The enduring debate is characterised by a lack of theoretical concern for change, its subjects (i.e. workers) and a disregard for the experiences of newly industrialising countries.The prevailing themes of the debate are to be seen less as deliberate choices than an effect of the dominant ideological and political climate of the capitalist world order. Hence, this study aims to bring back to the debate an unfashionable class, industrial workers, in an unfashionable part of the world, a newly industrialising country through the unfashionable analysis of labour process theory.

First, given that the particular forms of labour process bear the imprint of the social formations in which they develop, this paper aims to draw the Turkish experience, with its distinct labour market dynamics, regulatory context and tradition of social relations, into the discussion. Second, in opposition to the recent dominant tendency in workplace analysis which removes workers from the academic gaze leading to the loss of the distinction between the intent and outcome of managerial strategies and practices, the central conviction behind this paper is to explore the emergent pattern of control. I do this by locating worker action within the development of a particular managerial regime. Thus, this paper aims to inscribe Turkish workers' perceptions, attitudes and experiences in the construction and reproduction of the so-called 'total quality management' and 'lean management' as recounted by themselves. Third, this paper aims to conceptualise the form and content of changes in the contemporary Turkish workplace The literature on the changes in the capitalist labour process, in general, exists in the form of journalistic enquiries of plant-level studies. These studies do tell us about what is happening hut they certainly miss why it is happening. Recently labour process theory, which seeks to retrieve and update the Marxist critiques of the capitalist labour process and encourages studies of the workplace to be located in the context of the political economy of class relations, has received severe critical reviews concerning its validity. Having said this, it is ironic that the concepts of labour process analysis, notably 'managerial control', and 'deskilling' are the central issues of the debates on work, even for some who refute it, I maintain that as against merely descriptive plant studies, labour process theory generates a critical understanding of the world of work and of the submerged issues of management, control and the politics of work.

The new management techniques, under the various epithets of 'the Japanese model of production', 'lean production' or 'total quality management' have a powerful influence on work and on workers' role in production. On the one hand, the managerial approaches celebrate the emerging capital and labour relations in the capitalist workplace and give particular emphasis to 'the empowerment of the worker', to 'the democracy at the workplace' and to 'the respect and trust shown to workers by management' (see for example Womack et al., 1990; Kenney and Florida, 1993; Kaplinsky, 1994; Adler et al., 1997). The 'new orthodoxy' does not, however, provide tiara from the shop floor to support their claims. As Babson notes on the work of the most influential representatives of the model, 'significantly, Kenney and Florida cite no matching chorus of workers to verify these management claims about an empowered workforce' (1995:14). Some labour process critics, based on a totally different theoretical and analytical position, underline the role of ideological practices in the new management techniques, such as team working in which workers' consent is secured (Delbridge et al. …

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