Debating Labour Process Theory: the issue of subjectivity and the relevance of poststructuralism

Damian O'Doherty, H. Willmott

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This paper locates labour process theory in broader sociological debates concerned with the action-structure dualism before examining three broad programmes for research that have emerged in response to the question of subjectivity and agency. Whereas the ‘orthodox’ school tends to re-assert the structuralist and economistic features of Marx, the ‘anti-realist’ or deconstructionist position invites the abandonment of analysis that has traditionally been orientated by the polarities of ‘structure’ and ‘agency’. We identify and develop a third, ‘hybrid position’, one that is informed by poststructuralist insights but does not neglect or reject established traditions of ‘modern’ sociology and labour process research. Critical examinations of two recent studies of ‘subjectivity and the labour process’ – Mike Sosteric's (1996) case study of a night club and Douglas Ezzy's (1997) paper on ‘good work’ – are undertaken to show how poststructuralist insights may offer an instructive way of understanding how subjectivity is co-implicated in the accomplishment and reproduction of capitalist employment relations.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)457-476
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - May 2001


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