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Institutions, learning and labour : state policy, management strategies and worker response

The thesis considers the interplay of institutions, lifelong learning and workplace relations. Learning has become a prominent notion in contemporary considerations of the workplace, particularly in the accounts of managerialists and policy makers (Keep & Rainbird, 2000). In its articulated forms of organizational learning and lifelong learning it is seen as a means whereby production can be more dynamic and flexible, while at the same time providing fulfilling experiences of work (Senge, 1990). This thesis - and the papers in it – contends that these notions of learning merit closer critical scrutiny from which an enhanced understanding of a particular (and arguably important) dimension of contemporary workplace relations can emerge. This thesis takes a critical position for its investigations, seeking to challenge orthodoxies constructed from the standpoint of managerialist ideology (Legge, 1995). It finds labour process theory (Thompson & McHugh, 2002) particularly useful in the manner that workplace relations are seen as antagonistic and that the politics of production are regarded as ‘contested terrain’. Managerialst techniques (such as the learning organization) – especially those with a humanistic, unitarist and emancipatory rhetoric – cannot be viewed outside of the wider political economy of the workplace and the social organization of economic activity (Granovetter, 1992). As such, much of the espoused intentions of such managerialist techniques can be viewed as questionable, doing little to reconcile asymmetrical power relations and exploitation.The five papers published over a period of four years vary in scope and method of enquiry. However, what links them is a concern for the concepts represented in the title of this thesis: institutions, learning and labour. More specifically, the papers cover state policy on lifelong learning, the changing management of public sector organizations, social capital, the learning organization (and by implication contemporary management discourses in general) and the industrial relations of lifelong learning. In doing so, critical perspectives on workplace organization are used. Ultimately, a challenge is presented to managerialist and policy discourses of learning which are considered to be instruments of control rather than a means of emancipation for workers. The thesis concludes with the idea that the apparatus and discourses of learning and lifelong learning have been dominated by the state and capital in order to manipulate the culture of the workplace and to establish control of labour processes. As such, the imperative is for organized labour and workers to resist this hegemony and to assert their own learning frameworks.
Date January 2007
CreatorsSymon, Graham
Source SetsDiVA Archive at Upsalla University
Detected LanguageEnglish
TypeDoctoral thesis, comprehensive summary, info:eu-repo/semantics/doctoralThesis, text

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