Resisting Work Degeneration in Collectivist-Democratic Organizations: Craft Ethics in a French Cooperative Sheet-Metal Factory

Stéphane Jaumier & Thibault Daudigeos (2021)

Research in the Sociology of Organizations, 72, pp. 55-79.

Abstract. Past research on collectivist-democratic organizations has attributed their distinctiveness to their socio-political goals and democratic decision-making and largely ignored their work processes. This ethnographic study examines how such organizations resist alienating forms of work even in the face of direct competition with for-profit companies. It focuses on Scopix, a French cooperative sheet-metal factory where the first author spent one year as a shop-floor worker. Cooperators there developed various practices to retain an emancipatory dimension to their work, regularly putting forward “craft ethics” as a counterweight to the sheet-metal industry’s drive to rationalize work processes. Drawing on the sociology of worth, the authors analyze how these practices emerged from the arrangements that workers made between the industrial world on the one side and the domestic and inspired worlds on the other. This study contributes to the literature into two main ways. First, the authors refine the sociology-of-worth framework by conceptualizing the emancipatory dimension of work as the result of ad hoc arrangements between different worlds. Second, the authors highlight the need for the literature on collectivist-democratic organizations to increase its focus on work, introducing the concept of work degeneration as a step in that direction.

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