Whither the service class? Re-investigating the middle layers of employment in the 21st Century

Whither the service class? Re-investigating the middle layers of employment in the 21st Century
Document type
Working Paper
Randle, Keith
University of Hertfordshire
Date of publication
1 January 2003
The University of Hertfordshire Business School Working Papers
Management & leadership: including strategy, public sector management, operations and production, People management: all aspects of managing people
Business and management
Material type

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The purpose of this working paper is to contribute towards the continuing debate on the nature of class structure in the West, recognising that occupation has constituted the central device in the construction of theoretical approaches in this area. The paper is critical of the notion that there can be a simple congruence between occupation and class, but is nevertheless committed to the view that the workplace remains a key site wherein class antagonisms are played out. Using primary data the paper explores workplace relations between research scientists and their employing organisation, a major pharmaceutical firm. It considers theoretical approaches to locating these middle layers and in particular the suggestion that they form a new service class. The paper concludes that there are weaknesses in the notion of a service class both theoretically and in practice and argues that Marxist theories of class, and labour process theories concerned with management control, have significant explanatory power when applied to the interview data presented here. Rather than witnessing the growth of a service class and the death of the working class, the paper argues, we are seeing it transformed and re-generated.

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