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Despotism on DemandHow Power Operates in the Flexible Workplace$
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Alex J. Wood

Print publication date: 2020

Print ISBN-13: 9781501748875

Published to Cornell Scholarship Online: January 2021

DOI: 10.7591/cornell/9781501748875.001.0001

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Flexible Despotism

Flexible Despotism

An Introduction

(p.1) Flexible Despotism
Despotism on Demand

Alex J. Wood

Cornell University Press

This introductory chapter provides an overview of flexible despotism. New economic processes are taking hold in the spaces opened up by the steady decline of collective workplace regulation. No longer is working time understood as a standard, stable eight hours, five days a week. Instead, working time is flexible, on demand, and 24/7. Consequently, many workers are increasingly employed flexibly, while others may not even have an employment contract at all, and instead be classified as self-employed—and yet have their labor controlled by a platform. Even workers with standard, full-time, permanent contracts can experience high levels of insecurity as a result of flexible scheduling within this new temporal order. As a result, the benefits and drawbacks of flexible scheduling have been widely debated. These discussions, however, have tended to focus on issues of job quality, work–life balance, and well-being. This book goes further, by drawing attention to important but under-researched issues of managerial power and workplace control. This is necessary, as it is only when one understands paid work as a power relationship that one is able to see how precarious scheduling constitutes flexible despotism—a new regime of control within the workplace.

Keywords:   flexible despotism, self-employed workers, permanent workers, flexible scheduling, managerial power, workplace control, workplace regulation, paid work, power relationship

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