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Resisting resistance : moving the debate on

Thompson, Paul and Ackroyd, Stephen (2009) Resisting resistance : moving the debate on. In: 27th International Labour Process Conference, 2009-04-06 - 2009-04-08. (Unpublished)

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Following from an earlier widely-referenced piece (Thompson and Ackroyd 1995), the book, Organization Misbehaviour (Ackroyd and Thompson 1999), had a significant impact on resistance debates. On the one had they were directed towards the labour process tradition by, for example, extending the control and resistance model by presenting misbehaviour as ‘another realm of workplace behaviour that should not be understood merely as a form or step towards…resistance’ (Ackroyd and Thompson 1999: 163). Though criticised by some orthodox Marxists, this has stimulated a range of applied research from scholars in or sympathetic to that tradition. At the same time, the critique and perspective acted as a corrective to then fashionable Foucauldian arguments that posited the elimination or marginalisation of worker resistance. Whilst these trends helped restore a focus on labour as active agency at work., since the initial impact there has been a number of notable developments, including the opening of a parallel literature within orthodox organisational behaviour. The most significant, however, has been that the last decade, resistance has moved from being a non-object in post-structuralist writings, to a legitimate and expanded area of investigation (Special Issue of Management Communication Quarterly 2005). Emphasis has been placed on irony and cynicism as covert, ‘underground forms of resistance’ (Fleming and Spicer 2002); re-interpretation of Foucault in terms of a micro-politics of emancipation as individuals adaptation and subvert dominant discourses as they confront and reflect on their own identity projects (Thomas and Davies 2005). This has resulted in the reverse problem – everything is now resistance given that it need not be conscious or expressed in action – something that has been recognised in some post-structuralist circles (Spicer and Bohm 2007). What we want to do in this paper is consider and critique this latter trend, but for a positive purpose of reclaiming and re-conceptualising resistance and related (mis) behaviours. Our original analysis failed to adequately conceptualise misbehaviour and resistance as part of an integrated analysis. A new edition of Organization Misbehaviour will address these and other concerns, and this paper will draw on the work being undertaken for the new book.