Effects of Globalization on Work and Organizations: Exploring Post-Industrialism, Post-Fordism, Work and Management in the Global Era

By Tasnim B. Kazi
2011, Vol. 3 No. 12 | pg. 2/2 |

The rise of the global economy thus meant a radical change in work and organizations. Although multinationals are creating economic growth, this happens as the result of job debasement and job loss (Klein, 2000). Thus, a healthy economy no longer translates into job stability or an increase in jobs. Klein (2000) states that while this may mean increased profits for corporations, workers are no longer willing to accept lower wages, joke jobs and lack of job security, and that the “rising inequalities pose a serious threat of a political backlash against globalization” (p262). While job creation once protected corporations from unrest and fostered loyalty, mergers, outsourcing, and layoffs have led to the corporations losing their natural allies.

Furthermore, because they have not only affected work, but also democracy, communities, culture and the biosphere, they have given labor, human rights and environmental organizations a way to put together issues and see it as one major problem. It is also no longer about personal grievances against the nature of work, as Klein (2000) states, it is about “an economy that consistently and unapologetically puts profits before people” (p267). This has resulted in the new generation of workers growing up self-reliant, with lower expectations and the belief that they will receive nothing from anyone, leading to them being “greedier, tougher, more focused” (Klein, 2007, p268). In addition, casual, part-time, temporary, and low-wage work does not create commitment and loyalty, and it is among these workers that anticorporate backlash will probably be found.

Interestingly, it is at Microsoft where, as Klein (2000) states, “temp rage seethes like nowhere else” as they openly admit that these workers only exist to protect the permanent workers, as a quick way to cut costs, to “absorb the blows” (p270). And, in 1998, it was felt when internal workers created a made-for-Microsoft hacking program that was downloaded 300,000 times. Nike also had an anticorporate campaign focusing on their Asian factory conditions, and McDonalds had one prompted by the McLibel trial. So, while companies have divested from their workers, the new generation of workers are divesting from work in that they no longer depend on stable work, and work is no more an extension of the self.

Due to the changes that globalization is creating for work and for organizations, new forms of workplace control are also coming about (Deetz, 1998). The new work environment of high-end industries and changing workforces brings with it subtler forms of domination even though the older forms of apparent, direct domination still exist. As Rose (1990) argues, as capitalism progresses it creates newer and better forms of domination, more manipulative and understated. These newer forms of domination can be understood using Foucault’s concept of disciplinary power that targets individuals or groups of individuals and is regarded as having facilitated capitalism (Clegg, 1998).

The Panopticon can be used to explain disciplinary power. Deetz (1998) applies the concept to a corporation: Applied Integrated Management Systems or AIMS. Foucault describes four types of technologies of self-understanding, each related to a particular kind of domination, present in power (Deetz, 1998). These are technologies of: production, sign systems, power, and the self. The four technologies interact, and even though they facilitate productivity and define identities and relations, they also create needless conformity, restrictions on learning and one-sided identities. So, at the same time that they enable, they constrain; one cannot happen without the other. Individuals need to be empowered to create more satisfying identities and power relations need to be reconfigured. Technologies of self is essential to domination in workplaces, and in AIMS, it is explored how employees “consented within a discursive formation through strategizing their own subordination and engaged in active self-surveillance and self-control” (Deetz, 1998, p153).

AIMS is a service component of a multinational telecommunication corporation (LTC). It is made up of six work groups of six to fifteen people. These employees are well educated, well paid and have high job security and career mobility, and work with information systems and computer software. Most employees have worked for LTC for their entire career and for AIMS since it was created. Deetz (1998) states: “AIMS members invest a high degree if their personal identity in their work and employment situation” (p154), appear to be more attached to their work than to anything else, and would like to continue doing their jobs even if it means pay cuts. During the study, AIMS was experiencing an economic crisis yet morale remained high. AIMS employees believe that even if AIMS is broken up, they would be employed in another part of LTC. Management however, does not wish for this to happen and are attempting to increase loyalty to AIMS by creating fear.

Work at AIMS is knowledge-intensive, depending on individual intellectual capital. There are three characteristics of knowledge-intensive work (Deetz, 1998). First, work groups are highly autonomous and self-managed. Direct control is reduced, reducing the managerial control and Foucault’s ‘sovereign’ power. Also, even though orders are given and people are watched, these are infrequent and subtle. In addition, while traditional companies rely on financial capital, knowledge-intensive companies rely on intellectual, relational and artefactual capital, all highly symbolic and mobile, needing constant reproduction, and more a property of the employee than the company. Thus, control processes are unobtrusive and use technologies of power. The strong culture and shared values provides control and coordination. The lack of direct control “leaves employees with a sense of liberation and capacity for negotiated self-identity and reality, as well as potential for different operations of power and forms of domination. Cultural and other forms of disciplinary control… are internalized… as a form of self-control” (Deetz, 1998, p356).

Secondly, ambiguous and uncertain tasks characterize knowledge-intensive work, so solutions to problems require ongoing communication and interaction, in this way establishing roles, identities and competencies. This fluid nature of work creates symbolic labour, using technologies of sign systems. Thirdly, because the client plays an important role in task activities, power moves to employees creating a loose work environment. Technologies of production come into play here. These technologies have different forms of domination that over-determined the technologies of self, the actual domination.

Despite the mutually beneficial nature of work at AIMS, a dominant logic prevails, that is detrimental to the company and employee (Deetz, 1998). The logic represents a discursive formation: a system that creates meaning and organizes process. This was facilitated by the consultant nature of AIMS and endorsed by active employee consent. Employees stay in a company because of either ‘loyalty’ or ‘voice’. Loyalty is a kind of consent, which is direct when members subordinate themselves for money, security or identity. Voice is the resistance to consent, which, if present in AIMS – is privatized. To prevent employees from leaving AIMS, the management group attempted to increase loyalty or voice.

With direct control, “management watches the work effort, rewards and punishes according to personal standards for desired work characteristics”, but in subtle control, “management instrumentalizes the employee… and hires experts to construct systems to get the most from the employee” (Deetz, 1998, p164). On the one hand, employees may assume their subjectivities in the system are their own and passively accept it as natural. On the other hand, by creating a false sense of autonomy in employees, management ensures active consent. This is described as strategizing or participating in one’s own subordination where employees are accomplices in their own exploitation, and it is this, which more than destroying subjectivity, makes employees instrumentalize and strategize themselves. Thus, through self-surveillance and self-management of one’s behavior, bodies, feelings and dress, employees use themselves, often benefiting management’s interest more than their own or their company’s. The inner world of the employee is thus managed in this way.

As Holloway, Byrne and Titlestad (2001) state, disciplinary power relies on the control of bodies and behavior. It further allows people to be closely controlled through normative or internal control and its’ tactics discourage undesirable behaviour. The Panopticon is used as an illustration because it does not matter who is observing, or whether there is observation, as the person cannot see the observer. Because the person has no way of knowing whether they are being watched, they are responsible for controlling their own behavior, and so power is able to function unconsciously. In this way, the Panopticon models disciplinary power, or the new and subtle forms of power emerging in these newer organizations. The individual worker therefore becomes a willing participant in his or her own domination.

In short, what globalization has done by way of neoliberalism is, as Chomsky (1999) states, put “profit over people”. By briefly discussing the neoliberal regime, it will be evident how the effects of globalization on work and organizations have been brought about by this regime. Neoliberalism is the current economic paradigm that, by protecting the interests of the very wealthy and less than a thousand corporations, allows them to control public and social life so that their personal profits may be maximized. It emphasizes free markets, prices being set by markets, the liberalization of trade, privatization, and consumer choice.

The government is believed to be parasitic, and unable to do any good, and is thus undermined. Lowering taxes on the wealthy, the exploitation of the weak and poor, environmental violations, dismantling of public education and social welfare have all not ‘needed’ to be defended, because, as is stated, “any activity that might interfere with corporate domination of society is automatically suspect because it would interfere with the workings of the free market” (Chomsky, 1999, p8). The results of the neoliberal regime are wide-ranging, including: a huge increase in social and economic inequality, significant growth in extreme deprivation for poor nations and its people, an unstable global economy and of course, an increase in the bank balances of the wealthy. The defense that is provided is the trickle-down theory, discussed above.

Chomsky (1999) cites Krugman, who makes five central points about such policies. First, the knowledge on economic development is limited and should not be used to make generalizations or to form policies. Second, the conclusions made in favour of policies often has an unstable basis. Third, ideas about policies are continuously shifting among its propagators. Fourth, it is often agreed that policies are based on ‘bad ideas’ and did not, as believed, serve their intended goals. And finally, Krugman (as cited in Chomsky, 1999) states: “Bad ideas flourish because they are in the interest of powerful groups. Without doubt that happens” (p25).

Chomsky (1999) elaborates on this point: “The ‘principal architects’ of the neoliberal ‘Washington consensus’ are the masters of the private economy, mainly huge corporations that control much of the international economy and have the means to dominate policy formation as well as the structuring of thought and opinion” (p20). It is therefore clear how the regime that is operating under globalization has led to the current nature and conditions of work, to the devaluation of workers, to the exploitation of weak countries, to the different forms of control in organizations, and to the new kinds of organizations that have emerged.

In this manner, the new market and principles that operate under globalization (and Post-Fordism and Post-Industrialism) has not only seen the disappearance of full time work, to be replaced by outsourcing, temporary workers, and a new kind of workforce which is highly unstable and detrimental to workers; it has also seen the emergence of a new kind of organization, one in which domination, control and power is so subtle and so well manipulated, that employees are completely unaware of it. As Klein (2000) states, it is labor market trends under globalization that are “creating increasingly tenuous relationships to employment for many workers” (pxxii).


Carr, M. & Chen, M. A. (2001). "Globalization and the informal economy: How global trade and investment impact on the working poor." International Labour Organization. Retrieved from: http://www.ilo.org/wcmsp5/groups/public/---ed_emp/documents/publication/wcms_122053.pdf

Chomsky, N. (1999). Profit Over People. USA: Seven Stories Press.

Clegg, S. (1998). Foucault, Power and Organizations. In McKinlay, A. & Starkey, K. (eds.). (2000). Foucault, Management and Organization Theory: From Panopticon to Technologies of Self. London: Sage Publications.

Deetz, S. (1998). Discursive Formations, Strategized Subordination and Self-surveillance. In McKinlay, A. & Starkey, K. (eds.). (2000). Foucault, Management and Organization Theory: From Panopticon to Technologies of Self. London: Sage Publications.

Klein, N. (2000). No Logo. London: Harper Perennial.

Klein, N. (2007). The Shock Doctrine. England: Penguin Books.

Ritzer, G. (2000). The McDonaldization of Society. California: Pine Forge Press.

Rose, N. (1990). Governing the Soul: The Shaping of the Private Self. New York: Routledge.

Thomas, F. (2000). One Market Under God. London: Seeker & Warburg.

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