Power through empowerment? The managerial discourse on employee empowerment

Ivanova, Mirela and von Scheve, Christian. (2020) Power through empowerment? The managerial discourse on employee empowerment. Organization, 27 (6). pp. 777-796.

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Official URL: https://edoc.unibas.ch/72044/

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Informed by the sociology of knowledge approach to discourse, the current study explores how employee empowerment is discursively constructed as a management technique. Combing insights from labour process theory, Foucauldian approaches to governmentality and neo-Weberian interpretations of the ideological basis of capitalism, we develop an empirically informed theoretical framework that accounts for the multifaceted character of employee empowerment. Results show, first, that discourse justifies the necessity of this technique by presenting it as an efficient answer to perceived increases in competitive pressures and an ever-changing economic environment since the beginning of the 1990s. The discourse promotes advanced liberal modes of (self-)governance, which are created and maintained through a complex set of means for the control of labour. Second, although the ideological structure of the empowerment discourse is in accordance with the third spirit of capitalism, as identified by Boltanski and Chiapello, it also introduces changes by removing the neo-manager and granting the empowered employee a central role. Furthermore, our analysis suggests that empowerment is associated with strategies for reducing labour costs, such as de-layering and work intensification.
Faculties and Departments:04 Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences
04 Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences > Departement Gesellschaftswissenschaften > Fachbereich Soziologie > Sozialstrukturanalyse (Nachtwey)
UniBasel Contributors:Ivanova, Mirela
Item Type:Article, refereed
Article Subtype:Research Article
Publisher:SAGE Journals
Note:Publication type according to Uni Basel Research Database: Journal article
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Last Modified:07 Jan 2021 15:48
Deposited On:07 Jan 2021 15:48

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