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This paper presents the argument that we are witnessing a fundamental transformation in society’s disposition of labor capacity, seen in changes in the labor strategy of large employers. This may be leading to a new type of labor power that could be called ‘self-entrepreneurial’. In the paper’s first part the concept of the ‘entreployee’ ( Arbeitskraftunternehmer ) is presented briefly, after which, the second part examines several important theoretical objections to the concept, raised in the course of current German debate.
From employee to 'entreployee'.
Towards a 'self-entrepreneurial' work force?
Hans J. Pongratz/ G. Günter Voß
Concepts and Transformation, Volume 8, Number 3, 2003 , pp. 239-254 (16)
Abstract: This paper presents the argument that we are currently witnessing a fundamental
transformation in society's disposition of labor capacity, as witnessed in changes in the labor
strategy of large employers. This may be leading to new type of labor power that because of
its particular features could be called 'self-entrepreneurial'. In the paper's first part the
concept of the 'entreployee' (Arbeitskraftunternehmer) is presented briefly, after which, in the
second part, several important theoretical objections to the concept raised in the course of
current German debate are examined.
Key words: employee autonomy, new forms of work, labor relations, New Capitalism, work
force, labor power, labor process
Translated and revized edition of „Erwerbstätige als Arbeitskraftunternehmer" in SOWI – Sozialwissenschaft-
liche Informationen, 2001: 42-52. We thank Monika Baumunk and Stefanie Springer of Stuttgart Academy of
Technology Assessment for a basic translation and Franz Zurbrugg for his intensive final corrections.
An intensive debate on new kinds of entrepreneurial working conditions for
employees has been emerging in Germany during the last ten years. A great
amount of public interest was stimulated by an argument, put forth in the neo-
liberal program of the German “Commission for Future Problems of Bavaria
and Saxony” (Kommission … 1996/97, 1998), and later, in the
recommendations for German labor reform presented by the so-called “Hartz
Commission” (Kommission … 2002) with its highly controversial slogan "Ich-
AG" ('Me Inc.'). Independently of these recommendations and with different
scientific and political intentions, the present authors elaborated the idea of an
increasing 'entrepreneurial' handling of one’s own work capacities into the thesis
that we are now facing a fundamental transformation of the character of labor:
the typical 'employee' prevalent until now in most sectors is being replaced by a
new active type of labor power (Marx)**, the Arbeitskraftunternehmer (called
here 'entreployee') (see Voß/Pongratz, 1998; Pongratz/Voß, 2000; Voß, 2001;
Pongratz/Voß, 2003). This formulation caused broad debate in industrial
sociology in Germany and eventually far beyond. In the first part of the
following paper, this thesis is explained and the 'ideal type' of the
Arbeitskraftunternehmer characterized. In the second part the scope and
consequences of related developments are assessed by considering some of the
significant objections made in the subsequent sociological discussion.
The socio-diagnostic basis of the thesis of an emerging 'self-
entrepreneurial' type of labor power is the supposition that we are not
experiencing the "end of working society", as some sociologists postulated in
the 1980s, but instead, a transition to a hyper-working society and highly flexible
New Capitalism (cf. Sennet, 1998), characterized by more gainful employment
in all spheres, but an employment assuming new forms, some of whose
foreseeable effects seem highly problematic (see Appelbaum, 2002). One of
** 'Labor power' is the usual term in English for the abstract Marxian category 'Arbeitskraft', i.e. the 'power' of
labor in a general sense (similar to work capacity), but meaning neither the individual working person, nor
collectively, 'personnel' or 'work force' in society or an enterprise (Ger. 'Arbeitskräfte'), nor even the actual
execution of the work (Marx's 'expenditure' or 'application' of 'labor power').
these effects may be an intensified (but altered) capitalist interest in the use of
labor power (the subjectification of labor), resulting in a new logic of corporate
labor control, and therefore in a fundamental change in the nature of
From employee to 'self-entrepreneurial’ labor power
Structural changes in the organization of the labor process
In recent years processes of corporate reorganization of a hitherto unknown kind
have been taking place in almost all sectors of modern economies. They are
comparable to the fundamental economic and social changes of 19th and early
20th-century industrialization. Mainly because of the aggravation of competitive
conditions corporate management is increasingly forced to reduce costs
massively and, more importantly, increase their companies' possibilities for
flexible and innovative reaction to turbulent business environments. The strategy
of subjecting employees to a highly rigid and detailed surveillance of work
activities (often based on Taylorist principles) that has prevailed in most firms
up to now, is now increasingly considered a severe obstacle. Today the attempt
is taking place – not everywhere, but at least in several areas – to free up the
usual boundaries of the traditional employee in the workplace in nearly all
dimensions – time, space, content, qualifications, cooperation etc. – and enhance
their own responsibility through strategies of increased flexibility and 'self-
organization' in the workplace (for the German discussion of this see for ex.
Kratzer, 2003; Minssen, 2000; Voß, 1998).
These 'new forms of labor', with greater necessity for the 'self-
organization' of employees in this sense, are manifold (see Overview 1), but it is
difficult to assess their exact quantitative scale. In Germany the amount of work
done in teams or groups was estimated at up to 12% for 1998 with a definite
upward tendency (see Nordhause-Janz and Pekruhl, 2000); project-based work
has meanwhile become a fairly normal form of labor control in many corporate
sectors. We believe this change is significant in quantity and quality because the
structural relation between company and labor is essentially different: the former
detailed, hierarchical structure of work supervision is being increasingly
replaced by market-like relations (see Moldaschl, 1998). This means that
employees are permitted – and in fact must organize their work more
independently than ever before. This more or less far-reaching 'autonomization'
of work does not always entail any real new freedom for the people involved.
More often than not the independence is of limited scope, is always in
accordance with company goals and often accompanied by considerable
pressure. Nevertheless the 'new forms' of work represent a substantial increase
in opportunity for many, and therefore should be an important topic for future
work-related research, as well as for unions and labor policy makers (cf. Peters,
Overview 1 - Forms of work characterized by enhanced 'self-organization'
in conventional employment:
- group and team work
- management by objectives
- Cost Center, Profit Center
- highly flexible working hours (time accounts, trust time)
- new forms of computer-based telework, mobile work , etc.
in relations between businesses:
- outsourcing to pseudo-independent occupations
- cooperation with freelancers, self-employed, subcontractors, etc.
- virtual companies, etc.
As a theoretical aside, industrial sociologists realized early on – drawing on
Marx's important though long undervalued idea – that by employing personnel
companies acquire actually only the right to their capacity for work for a definite
period of time (see Braverman, 1974 and the “labor process debate”;
Knigths/Willmott 1990). Although this right is assured in labor contracts, it does
not guarantee that the expected performance will actually follow. Thus
companies are faced with the fundamental problem of 'transforming' the
purchased 'latent' working potential into real or 'manifest' performance by means
of specific measures, e.g. directives and monitoring, in short: by 'labor control'
(Braverman). For a long time rigid forms of technological and organizational
labor control in this sense have been considered the ideal 'transformation'
strategy for most firms. While exceptions exist, especially for some types of
expert and managerial jobs where strategies of 'responsible autonomy' are
applied instead of 'direct control' (see Friedman, 1977), rigid surveillance after
Taylorist principles has been the more or less leading orientation in theory as
well as in practice for nearly all other categories of labor (especially mass labor
in production and administration). Yet this strategy has always encountered
limits in many work situations: monitoring costs are considerable, and employee
innovation and flexibility discouraged.
At present, we are seeing in many business sectors an actual reversal of
what was considered up to now standard practice: a focused reduction of direct
labor control practices and the active promotion of employee responsibility.
This does not mean anything like an abdication of central governance in
corporations, but a systematic extension of indirect forms through the strategic
targeting of performance parameters and goals such as costs, turnover, quality,
customer satisfaction etc. This development means turning over increasingly to
employees themselves the complicated task of transforming their labor potential
into concrete performance, i.e. the previous management functions of work
control. In other words, management seeks to externalize, on a new structural
level, the notorious transformation problem. 'Outsourcing' is also an
externalizing strategy, well known for more than two decades, but this is
outsourcing of a special kind: it affects a key business function – employee
management – of the capitalist enterprise. Paradoxically, it hands the problem
over to those who cause it – and have to resolve it while coping with the
consequences simultaneously.
The entreployee a new 'entrepreneurial' type of labor power
If the tactic of shifting the transformation problem to those working in new
forms of employment were extended systematically (and there are many
indicators supporting this supposition), it would have not only consequences for
individual groups of employees, but (our central thesis) also for the general
disposition of labor capacity in society.
Heretofore a type of work force has predominated that was trained to put
standard capacities at a company’s disposal for a flat-rate of remuneration;
expected advancement according to standard professional patterns; been subject
to heteronomously fixed requirements; enjoyed very limited scope for
independent decisions and creativity; and had to do with fixed resources. Now,
we are witnessing the actual reversal of this orientation, towards an active, self-
actuating behavior for the 'general good' of the enterprise, job requirements that
sometimes must first be defined, and for which not rarely resources must be
found by those directly involved. In this reorientation process the hitherto
passive 'employee' is becoming a much more active worker, not only
continuously redefining their own capacities and potentials within the company
by organizing the work process in a self-determining, 'entrepreneurial' manner,
but also on the larger labor market. This new type of labor power, which we call
the 'entreployee' ('Arbeitskraftunternehmer'), being a product of quasi-
entrepreneurial efforts, requires the same entrepreneurial development and
commercialization (of personal and professional capacities) as does any product
of a business enterprise. Entreployees exhibit three important characteristics (see
Overview 2):
(1) Workers now control the process of the transformation of their own
potential into concrete performance, enriching the commodity labor power’ by
one decisive element: the control of work, that until now rested in the hands of
the company, is becoming a new and substantial qualitative part of the acquired
labor. Thus the commodity 'labor power' becomes a substantially higher-value
factor of production: a higher-level work capacity organized to a large extent by
the self-control of the employee. All characteristics of work are ultimately and
profoundly affected: the organization of the actual work performance,
flexibilization of working hours, relaxation of spatial ties, weakening of
traditionally assumed social ties, job-motivation. Therefore often the attitude of
companies towards these employees could be characterized by the new slogan:
“It doesn’t matter how you manage your job and what you do in detail, the main
thing is you achieve at least the goals set!”
(2) Entreployees must change their viewpoint not only towards their work
as such, but also come to regard their own capacities as a commodity. The
hitherto largely passive 'owner' of labor power, present only occasionally on the
labor market, is increasingly becoming a high-level, strategic actor, developing
and actively exploiting their only available 'capital' to secure a living the
capacity to work in a focused, continuous effort towards potentially gainful
economic usage on the larger labor market as well as within the company. The
attitude of business towards the entreployee in this respect might well be
expressed thus: “You'll stay only as long as you prove that you're neededby
making profits!"
(3) The above means a new higher level of self-‘commercialization’ of
labor power in two ways: On one hand, in autonomous forms of work
employees must actively and consistently generate capacities and performance,
thus creating a deliberate 'production economy' of their work capacities. On the
other hand, they must also 'market' their capacities on the company level to
ensure that their capacities are needed, acquired, and effectively used and paid
for. The formerly passive employee is becoming, in the strict economic sense,
the 'entrepreneur' of his or her own potential, in the 'individual' market-economy
(as well as, of course, industry-wide).
If employees are to practice active 'production' and 'commodification' of
their capabilities and potentials, it will entail profound changes in the lives of the
persons concerned. The entire context of life will be 'commercialized' out of the
need to systematically reorganize all individual resources. The drastic increase
in privately accessed organization and communication tools (not only for
managers) is evidence for this development (for similar arguments see Sennet,
1998; Hochschild, 1997). No wonder that the traditional advice to employees
'Keep your job and life strictly separate!' no longer applies, and becomes now :
"We need you totally, exclusively, anytime and anywhere, so you'll have to
manage your life perfectly! We want people who are completely under control!"
What the 'producers' and 'salesmen' of their own work capacity do to
rationalize their lives may be compared to the activities of those offering other
commodities: they transform the production and sale of products from a rather
unorganized form into a well-coordinated one, and in doing so, generate a kind
of 'business'. Of course, the entreployee's 'business' is not a company in the usual
sense; it is production and commercialization of a special product under specific
conditions: their individual work capacities and expertise, but within the context
of their daily life.
Overview 2 - Characteristics of the 'entreployee':
Intensified independent planning, control and monitoring of work by the person
Intensified active and practical 'production' and 'commercialization' of one’s own
capacities and potential on the labor market as well as within companies
Self-determined organization of one's daily life and long-term plans, and the
tendency to accept willingly the importance of the company (employer) as an
integral part of life
Proletariansemployeesentreployees: the historic types of labor power
The entreployee or 'self-entrepreneurial' employee is a potentially new social
model of labor power for the increasingly market-driven businesses of the late-
Taylorist era of work organization. Previous stages of industrial society were
based on other types. In a rough characterization we can distinguish three types
of labor power (see Overview 3):
(1) In the early stage of modern industrial capitalism a very restrictive
form of labor control dominated, as labor was a new commodity being only just
established systematically, in an emerging 'labor market'. Former peasants and
craftsmen – poorly qualified to be industrial workers – were recruited primarily
from nearly feudal living conditions for factory employment. The working
capacity of the proletarian worker was in a sense only 'raw'; above all, the
ability to perform disciplined work within large organized structures was
limited. Thus companies sought to enforce continuous work performance by
regimens of repressive control. The everyday life of those workers was highly
insecure, its main feature being severe exploitation of their working capacity
with only very reduced opportunities for physical recovery.
(2) With the establishment of welfare state institutions – social security,
vocational training and industrial relations – a new type of labor power
developed: the considerably higher, more comprehensive, standardized and
specialized work qualification commonly known as 'occupation' or 'vocation'
(Ger. Beruf), obtained by means of systematic education including more
fundamental and general virtues valued in work such as diligence, discipline and
accuracy. Within companies, repressive control was replaced by structural,
technical and organizational control. The new disciplined type of 'vocational'
employee increasingly won the trust of management, supported by psycho-social
management methods. The basis of this form of labor application, exemplified
in the so-called Fordist production (and societal 'regulation') regime, is a well-
functioning social security system with increasing wages, decreasing working
hours, and a gender-separation of work within the family: women mainly
support their employed husbands by caring for household and family. Thus, a
way of life developed characterized by the bourgeois small family enjoying
consumption-oriented leisure time in the modern sense (see Jurczyk, 1992,
(3) This vocational form of labor power, predominant in western
industrial societies until now, could be being gradually replaced by the new
model of entrepreneurial labor, and direct control of the labor process, by
individual self-control in combination with emerging forms of indirect labor
control. Individual discipline and integrative ability, elements already
recognizable in the employee model, are becoming now central qualifications.
Professional, specialist qualifications are still essential, but new forms of
competence, such as the active production and commercialization of one’s own
labor capacity, and the willingness to adjust and organize one’s own
requirements and private life to the requirements of a company, described by the
term 'entreployee', are becoming preconditions to a successful work career
(Plath, 2000). With that the standardized vocation or profession, until now a
relatively rigid form of qualification, will be transformed into what we call the
individual vocation (Ger. Individualberuf; see Voß, 2001): a personalized model
of specific competence and experience, integrated in a rationalized, though
individual, way of life.
Overview 3 - Historic types of labor power in capitalism
proletarian worker (early industrialization)
- raw working capacity
- rigid direct control of work
- severe exploitation, no social protection
vocational employee (fordism)
- standardized qualifications, basic work virtues
- structural control of work on the basis of scientific knowledge
- milder exploitation, greater protection by the state
entreployee (postfordism)
- individualized qualifications
- systematic self-control of work
- self-exploitation, precarious social security
Scope and consequences of developments thus outlined
Our thesis of the 'entreployee' has given rise to broad discussion in German
industrial sociology and far beyond (see e.g. Deutschmann, 2001; Kuda/Strauß,
2002; Schumann, 1999). Some critics maintain that, while there may be a few
forms of labor consistent with the new type of labor power postulated, these are
not prevailing trends and thus have to be considered marginal social phenomena.
This criticism is understandable from the perspective of the present, but it does
not do justice to our thesis as a characterizing prognosis, as we explain later.
There are a lot of indicators that employees with a high level of autonomy are
confronted with raising demands to act in an entrepreneurial manner
(Pongratz/Voß, 2003). They are to be found in economic sectors with great
importance for the future of modern capitalism (e.g. service economy, IT sector,
cultural professions). But above all it is important to realize that the 'entreployee'
in our description above is a scientific construct, a theoretical model which helps
clarify an ongoing empirical and with that historical development.
The entreployee as ideal type
The three historical types of labor power are purified 'ideal types' (in the strict
Weberian sense), i.e. they represent a high density of characteristics that prevail
in various and changing combinations in the empirical world. Thus the new type
of entrepreneurial labor power is intended as a first step towards an analytically
trenchant model, more or less near reality depending on the individual case, not
a description of reality. The ideal type of the entreployee combines the various
elements of the new forms of labor exploitation already apparent in different
contexts of the present transformation of the capitalist economic order, with the
theoretical reconstruction of that development's logic.
If the empirical observation of particular sectors of labor shows however
only a few elements of this type, this does not refute the analytic power of the
categorization, as long as elements occur in typical combinations. In an
empirical survey (Pongratz, 2001, Voß/Pongratz, 2003) we showed in how far
employees’ attitudes towards team and project work were consistent with the
entreployee type: the greatest correlation was found in the dimension of self-
control (see above), while identification with self-rationalization was weaker,
and with self-commercialization, the weakest.
The scope of empirical indicators
As an ideal type, the concept of the 'entreployee' can be useful as an analytical
instrument only if it can be related to a broad spectrum of real cases. Although
up to now there have been empirical indications of an actual expansion of the
self-entrepreneurial employee type in just a few sectors, these examples were
found in various sectors of labor, so that we can conclude that this is a general
development. Distinctive forms of the entreployee can be discovered in some
sectors of employment, primarily in the intensely project-oriented IT sector (see
Baukrowitz/ Boes, 2002, Eichmann/Kaupa/Steiner, 2002) as well as in media
and cultural professions combining dependent and freelance work, as in
journalism and television production (see Geesterkamp, 2000,
Gottschall/Schnell, 2000). Similar trends are visible in areas such as adult
training and education, consulting, academics and research.
The entreployee is obviously most suited to key future-oriented work
sectors. These jobs are often in prestigious, high-qualification areas especially
interesting to young university graduates. Even if in many fields of work the
typical vocational employee still prevails, a tendency towards change is
becoming apparent in the sectors of 'normal' labor in industry and services. The
fact of reverse tendencies in a few sectors, as 're-Taylorization', (Springer, 1999)
does not refute our prognosis, but simply shows that the process will not be
homogenous. The extent and speed of the development remain open parameters.
The entreployee as normative model
Our thesis formulates the prognosis that the entreployee could act in the long
term as a normative model, gaining importance as its implementation is closely
linked with organizational changes in companies. Thus, elements of the
entreployee type are being already generally proposed as the future model in
many management concepts (Deutschmann, 2001). The most incisive example
(but also especially problematic) are the present schemes in human resource
development in Germany, propagated under the slogan “Selbst GmbH”
("Myself Ltd. Co.") by personnel managers of respected German companies, or
the term “Ich AG” ("Me Inc.") proposed by a governmental commission for
reform of the labor market in Germany the so-called Hartz Commission (see
Kommission..., 2002).
In stark contrast to our viewpoint, such management or governmental
concepts do not focus enough on possible problems and risks of changes to labor
structures; and furthermore they offer highly ideological models but no well-
considered descriptions or analyses. Their concepts fit, at best, into the general
trend of ideologizing individual success and personal performance that can be
associated with the reorganizational measures of the 1990s. The possibility of
becoming a freelancer and working independently is propagated as a model of
success, open to all those willing and able, after the slogan: 'Be the architect of
your own fortune.' And, vice versa, all professional failures and setbacks,
although often inevitable for structural reasons, are to be interpreted as
individual failure and thus perhaps even a legitimation of social inequality. Our
thesis of the 'entreployee' on the other hand points to the broad range of
problematic effects and contradictions that the development is obviously going
to cause.
Ambivalence, paradoxes, risks and contradictions
A preliminary assessment of the possible effects of implementing the
entreployee model is highly ambivalent: Employees with the necessary
individual, social and economic resources may become successful
'entrepreneurs' of their own labor power, but under unfavourable initial
conditions the model's disadvantages reduced regulation and job security
could accumulate, likely producing not so small a group of less successful
'self-entrepreneurial’ day-laborers, selling piecemeal their labor capacity, a new
class of the 'working poor' (see Ehrenreich, 2001). The new forms of work may
contribute, in any case, to a general individualization of the employment
situation because of the unfavourable and isolated market position of the
individual working person vis-à-vis companies.
But often even those at first sight successful entreployees may
experience relatively new and unpleasant side-effects of their increasing self-
control and self-marketing: workoholism, estrangement and stress can result and
many, even the most ambitious, will not be able to cope in the long term. To the
opportunities and risks of the new type of labor power already closely linked
to well-known predisposing factors such as education, existing wealth, social
contacts, national or social origin and gender an important new dimension of
inequality might be added: the unequal distribution of capacities to cope with the
specific dilemmas of self-organized work (see Plath, 2000).
Another characteristic of the entreployee is the frequent change of job
situation in the course of a person’s working life. Whereas the traditional course
of an employee's career is based on continuous professional advancement in
position, power, income and job security, persons working in 'flexible' work
situations must reckon with occasionally at least setbacks as well as
advancements. The given situation on the 'entrepreneurial labor market'
continuously creates the necessity to prove oneself, for example in project teams
or in the acquisition of orders, situations where success or failure must be
frequently redefined. Individuals experience and manage this necessity
differently each according to their possibilities, yet all face considerable
personal existential risk, especially in later career periods.
The entreployee as entrepreneur?
The term 'entrepreneur' used in the concept 'entreployee', should make clear that
a new stage in the commercialization of individual labor power has been
reached, closely linked with specific risks, well-known to freelancers, of self-
exploitation and failure. The term 'entrepreneur' denotes more than just the
popular models of the successful big businessman or trendy 'start-up founder' of
capitalist industrial society; it comprises also 'freelancers' in agriculture,
independent professions, trades and small businesses, amounting (in Germany)
to 11% of all persons in gainful employment. These groups demonstrate that
entrepreneurship does not always mean as much 'power and success' as frequent
long hours, little profit, financial strain and fear for economic survival over long
The idea of 'self-entrepreneurial' labor power should not be interpreted
merely in the metaphorical sense, but as the expression of a partial equivalent to
other categories of entrepreneurship: the calculation of profitability, especially
important in the commodification of products and services, is becoming more
and more relevant to individuals commodifying their own capacities and
abilities. While important differences between categories of entrepreneurs
should not be overlooked in the analogy freelancers frequently base their
activities on financial resources, professional rights (e.g. physicians and
pharmacists), but only to a limited degree on the ability to acquire labor from
outside; capitalist entrepreneurs establish corporate hierarchies to organize the
exploitation of labor for profit – the traditional contradiction between the
interests of capital and labor is not eliminated with the shift to ‘self-
entrepreneurial’ labor power, but is transformed into a structural contradiction
between entrepreneurs of different kinds.
Manifold causes
To limit the risks and problems of ‘self-entrepreneurial’ labor power is difficult
because its development has manifold causes, even if the dynamic stems
primarily, as we have postulated, from certain reorganization strategies of
companies. On the part of working persons, the tendency towards a general
change of values (cf. Inglehart, 2003) as well as an individualization of lifestyle
and life-course (cf. Beck, 1992) – especially in the mid-70s must be mentioned
as decisively influential factors. In socio-political terms, this means a weakening
of so-called 'normal working conditions' with the advent of globalization and
neo-liberalism which gave stability to the 'vocational' employee's existence.
Yet, all in all, these developments were not homogenous, for counter-tendencies
such as intensified direct control may not only be found in several production
sectors (Springer, 1999) but also in newly-established service sectors (such as in
'call-centers'), leading to working conditions of an early capitalist style. As a
result in the medium-term there is a broad spectrum of work and employment
forms among employees and entreployees, with extremes that may endure for
the time being, thus encouraging a new variety of different working conditions
and employment models. General statements about entreployees here and
employees there can thus only serve as a rough orientation. Individual cases will
need exact consideration of the given intermediary forms and constellations of
variables which require differentiated treatment.
Challenges for Social Theory
The tendencies we have described show that the innovative capacity of capitalist
economic logic is not exhausted with the Fordist production regime. On the
contrary, instead of an erosion of corporate hierarchies and work relationships in
society, a new stage in the development of the relation between capital and labor
is emerging that can no longer be adequately interpreted using previously
dominant analytical methods and assessment criteria. Therefore a social critique
of capitalism cannot do without developing innovative concepts of its own (cf.
Baumann, 1999; Sennet, 1998).
To do this, one prerequisite above all is the consistent further development
of theoretical approaches to the analysis of social developments. Here the work
of Marx is still a significant point of reference, although it cannot offer a
comprehensive analytical system, not to speak of any monopoly on
interpretation. But from our perspective there is no doubt that the new emerging
type of labor indicates a significant increase in the 'productive powers',
combined with a fundamental change in practical production regimen, and thus
in the Marxian 'societal means of production'. Marx developed the most
important social theory of the 19th century, revealing the decisive aspects of the
developmental phases of capitalist society. In the 21st century we are faced with
further developments that will be understood only by creating largely new
theoretical instruments based, to a greater or lesser extent, on classical
theoretical elements and thought.
The thesis of the entreployee is not and never will be a replacement
for such a social theory, but it can help formulate relevant ideas and questions.
One of these is an intensified consideration of the subjectivity of the workers in
order to understand the present development of working society. New scientific
approaches to the 'subjectification' of work (see Moldaschl/Voß, 2002; for
similar ideas see Boltanski/ Chiapello, 1999; Hardt/ Negri 2001) are significant,
as is the reappraisal of practical experiences of workers, as in the campaign
"Work Without End?" (Ger. ‘Arbeiten ohne Ende’) propagated by the German
metalworkers' trade union IG-Metall (see Glißmann/ Peters, 2001).
The discussion of the subjectification of work centers on the resulting new
ambivalence and contradictions experienced increasingly by those involved in
market-based labor structures. In that process they are neither helpless victims
nor revolutionary actors, but co-participants in a fundamental and for them
unusual development. Socio-theoretical efforts may contribute to a better
understanding of this and related problems, creating a basis not only for new and
instructive forms of knowledge, but also dialogue and adequate socio-political
strategies for coping with them.
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Hans J. Pongratz, Dr. phil., born 1957, studied sociology, psychology and social history at
Munich University and works now as a social scientist in the Dept. of Sociology, Munich
Technical University (Germany).
Technische Universität München
Fakultät für Wirtschaftswissenschaften, Lehrstuhl für Soziologie
Lothstr. 17, D-80335 München (Germany)
G. Günter Voß, Prof. Dr. rer.pol. habil., born 1950, studied sociology, psychology and
political sciences at Munich University and is now Professor for Industrial Sociology and
Sociology of Technology in the Dept. of Sociology, Chemnitz Technical University
Technische Universität Chemnitz
Institut für Soziologie, Professur Industrie- und Techniksoziologie
Reichenhainerstr. 41, D-09107 Chemnitz (Germany)
... In contemporary Western capitalism, the figure of the 'entrepreneurial self' (Bröckling, 2007(Bröckling, /2015Rose, 1989;Skeggs, 2004) has become an enchanting subjectivity due to its alluring promises of flexibility, creativity and self-actualisation. At the same time, entrepreneurialism demands a Mephistophelian price, expecting self-responsibility, self-rationalisation and self-commercialisation from its subjects (Pongratz & Voß, 2003;Sennett, 2007). This Faustian pact, struck, in particular, by white-collar workers in the middle class, has been considered 'the new spirit of capitalism' that has allowed neoliberalism to thrive (Boltanski & Chiapello, 1999Mau, 2015). ...
... The notion of the entrepreneurial self (Bröckling, 2007(Bröckling, /2015Rose, 1989;Skeggs, 2004) sums up manifold elements of the new ideal subjectivity (see also Foucault, 1978Foucault, /2008. This new self refers to an employee who behaves like an entrepreneur in many ways (Pongratz & Voß, 2003). This is a self that prefers networks over hierarchies and longs for autonomy while remaining always available (Sennett, 2007). ...
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With the rise of digital capitalism, a novel occupational segment has emerged: so-called ‘tech workers’. Members of this grouping render and encode the digital technologies that permeate contemporary social life. While there are many studies about highly precarious digital labourers, research on these digital professionals remains scarce. Based on 40 original interviews, the article explores the subjectivity of tech workers. Specifically, it asks whether understandings of middle-class employees as entrepreneurial selves with a holistic market orientation hold true for this grouping, or whether new cultures of subjectivation are emerging. The key finding from these interviews is that tech workers show contours of a post-neoliberal subjectivity. While the figure of the entrepreneurial self remains an alluring force, this study detected four transformative cultures of subjectivation: (1) a return of the critique of economic inequality; (2) a concern for diversity; (3) an ethic of mindfulness; and (4) a lifestyle that signals ordinariness. These distinct forms of subjectivity point to the formation of a new middle-class fraction. However, drawing on the sociology of critique, this article also considers how this transformation of subjectivity can be appropriated as yet another new spirit of capitalism.
... The second dimension is intensified careerrelated planning and decision-making demands, i.e. the growing pressure to attend to one's personal career development. Modern leaders face pressures to continuously prove their worth and role within their workplace and in the job market in general, and they must simultaneously plan and pursue future careers in a self-directed manner, both inside and outside their current organisation Pongratz & Voß, 2003). ...
... The third dimension, intensified career-related planning and decision-making demands, means that employees are increasingly required to maintain their employability with their current employer, but simultaneously to be increasingly aware of and receptive to other (external) career opportunities (e.g. Pongratz & Voss, 2003). Thus, both joband career-related planning and decision-making demands highlight that employees need to display increasing initiative and be proactive not only in their current work but also throughout their career span. ...
... Another contradiction could arise between what may be considered 108 Although PONGRATZ & VOSS (2003) do not explicitly deal with market-centered control, their discussion on the dangers associated with the idea of an "entreployee" is relevant for the issue at stake. Other researchers have argued that regardless of the degree of opposition or embracement of autonomy-centered management, «most employees feel obliged to comply with, or even embrace, opportunities or demands for responsible autonomy» ( a proftable goal and the interests and normative claims of either the labor organization or its employees. ...
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The terms “contemplation” and "standpoint,” as used by Lukács, have almost disappeared from the vocabulary of scholars studying the contemporary world of work. This paper aims to rehabilitate these terms by arguing that, despite its shortcomings, a Lukácsian approach offers a valuable perspective for examining labor experiences. I first outline the foundations of Lukács's reification theory by focusing on objective reification. Then, I reconstruct the concepts of contemplation and having a standpoint of experience by surveying Lukác's analysis of how different actors in capitalism experience reality. I conclude by exploring the implications of reification theory for analyzing market-centered regimes of control. The article can be read as an invitation for researchers investigating the world of labor to reengage with reification theory.
Concerns about work intensification within universities have been an issue over the past decade and the Covid‐19 pandemic may have accelerated any trend toward excessive job demands associated with work‐related stress. This paper reports a longitudinal study conducted in two English universities based on observations at 11 time points from March 2020 to February 2021, covering academic and nonacademic workers. The results show that four measures of job demands increased during the period and that blended learning has contributed to these increases. Various measures of well‐being are negatively associated with work intensity, while work–nonwork conflict is positively related to it and mediates the demands–well‐being relationship. The study also shows that the use of a variety of methods of accommodating the increased demands—increasing total hours, working at weekends, extending the work day and forsaking breaks, normal holidays and exercise—are associated with increased work intensity. The policy implications of the study are that interventions aimed at employee well‐being should be focused on the causes of stress and, particularly, job demands, rather than coping with stress and that future decisions about homeworking should take account of these causes and not simply the satisfaction or performance levels of homeworkers.
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Dieses Kapitel diskutiert die Notwendigkeit einer stärkeren Praxisorientierung für die Schaffung konkreter Lehr- und Lernräume in Unternehmen und zeigt die Vorteile einer Lernfabrik vor dem Hintergrund der stattfindenden Digitalisierung als Mittel zur Kompetenzentwicklung auf. Die technologiebedingt erweiterten Weiterbildungsziele erfordern die Nutzung geeigneter Konzepte und Lösungen. Dahingehend erfolgt die zielorientierte Konkretisierung der Kreation geeigneter Lehr- und Lernsituationen. Die Darstellung der Nutzbarmachung einer Modellfabrik als Lernfabrik der betrieblichen Weiterbildungspraxis zeigt nicht nur eine Lösung für die intendierte Bereitstellung flexibler Lehr- und Lernsituationen, sondern liefert ebenso Handlungsempfehlungen und Best-Practices für die erfolgreiche Kompetenzentwicklung. Insbesondere Praktiker profitieren von der Darstellung der Lernfabrik: aus dieser können sowohl betriebliche Weiterbildner als auch Geschäftsverantwortliche Implikationen für die didaktische Transformation betrieblicher Arbeitsorte in betriebliche Lern-Orte ableiten. Die detaillierte Darstellung einer Tagesschulung zum Thema Auswirkungen von Industrie 4.0 auf die Arbeit der Mitarbeiter sowie Illustration eines Lernszenarios geben reale Einblicke, wie betriebliche Weiterbildung abseits von Lehr-Lern-Kurzschluss-orientierter Didaktik gelingt
Purpose The paper brings Foucauldian analysis of neoliberal governmentality in the discussion on the new forms of labour control within digital labour platforms. The aim of the paper is to reveal the effect of control mechanisms employed by platforms on “entrepreneurial self” within the context of work relations. Design/methodology/approach Drawing on in-depth interviews, conducted with workers under different service categories, the author undertook an extended case study of, a digital labour platform operating in Turkey. Findings The study finds that competitive mechanisms employed by the platform have a considerable effect on worker self-commercialisation and self-rationalisation. This is dependent on different control mechanisms employed by the platform, based on different platform working models. Originality/value The research brings the worker subjectivities to the discussion of control within the scope of digital labour platforms. By undertaking a rare empirical study on this issue, it contributes to the theory of entrepreneurial self within the scope of work relations.
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This work focuses on the actor perspective and elaborates the relations to the self and the applied technology in self-tracking (ST), expanding critical studies. Based on ethnographic material with ST informants and four years of autoethnography by the author, two complementary but also individually occurring modes of self-relations were synthesized. Interwoven in a duality a co-existence and ambiguity of self-care and self-control, which appear as two sides of the same coin, emerge. The self-control relation is characterized by increased awareness and complexity-reducing information about oneself, motivation (often occurring as self-challenge), and considering algorithmic recommendations, which summa summarum facilitate orientation and decision making in daily life. However, the self-control relation can go astray on the downside into losing control over the control (and becoming compulsive and addictive) and over the data. The self-care relation entails placing oneself in the center of attention in a digital medium by increased self-thematization, archiving body diaries, and self-affirmation. Self-concepts are no longer primarily constructed, confirmed, or rejected by the social environment but also by applying digital technologies upon oneself. However, self-care can be undermined on the downside, such as self-doubt, self-deception (maybe narcissism), and self-distraction. Three different relations to ST technology in technologically mediated self-care and self-control were elaborated: technology as a means, a counterpart (partner, nanny, coach), and a promise of salvation. Here another dialectic becomes visible. In using ST devices, the relationship of the users to technology seems to intensify, with the technology being able to perform a partner-like or even superior role. Finally, the often-assumed self-optimization in ST emerges as harmonizing and balancing life-maintenance tasks.
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This Policy Paper was drawn up as part of the Erasmus+ project “GIVE – Guidance for Individual Vocations in Europe”. The Policy Paper aims to help decision-makers in the field of educational guidance to align their strategic decisions to current challenges in the world of work and careers.
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Wie gestaltet sich die Arbeitsrealität in der New-Economy-Branche? Wie steht es mit der Überlebensfähigkeit der Start-ups? Für wen bedeutet die hohe Innovationsdynamik eine Karrierechance, wem droht dagegen die Armutsfalle? Diese und weitere Fragen thematisieren Fachleute aus unterschiedlichen Perspektiven jenseits der Hype-Metaphorik.
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Aktuelle betriebliche Strategien der Arbeitsorganisation, die verstärkt auf eine Selbstorganisation von Arbeit setzen, verändern das Verhältnis von Arbeitskraft und Unternehmen grundlegend. Auf Seiten des Betriebs ermöglichen sie den Abbau direkter Kontrollen und die Nutzung neuer Leistungspotentiale; von den Arbeitskräften erfordern sie eine systematisch erweiterte Selbst-steuerung und Selbstkontrolle. Es wird die These vertreten, daß ein struktureller Wandel in der gesell-schaftlichen Verfassung von Arbeitskraft vor sich geht. Die bisher vorherrschende Form des „verberuflichten Arbeitnehmers“ wird in vielen Arbeitsbereichen abgelöst durch einen neuen strukturellen Typus, den „Arbeitskraftunternehmer“. Kennzeichen dieses Typus sind eine erweiterte Selbstkontrolle der Arbeitenden, der Zwang zur verstärkten Ökonomisierung der eigenen Arbeitsfähigkeiten und -leistungen und eine Verbetrieblichung der alltäglichen Lebensführung. Im Vergleich mit anderen Grundformen von Arbeitskraft werden Chancen und Risiken des neuen Typus des Arbeitskraftunternehmers herausgearbeitet. Durch seine Verbreitung werden neue arbeits- und gesellschaftspolitische Strategien erforderlich.
Lange Zeit war die Arbeitszeit kein Thema, weder für die Tarifparteien und Politiker noch für die Sozialwissenschaftler. Dies hat sich in den letzten Jahren grundlegend geändert. Die großen Themen der politischen und wissenschaftlichen Diskussion um Arbeit — wir nennen nur Qualifikationsentwicklung und -bedarf, qualifikatorische Mobilität der Arbeitskräfte, Bildungs- und Ausbildungspolitik, Humanisierung der Arbeit — sind in den Hintergrund getreten. Die Diskussionen und auch die arbeitspolitischen Steuerungsversuche richten sich heute in hohem Maße — und in Zukunft vermutlich noch verstärkt — auf den Faktor Arbeitszeit.