BETWEEN CONTENTEDNESS AND DISCONTENT: REASSESSING RESISTANCE AT WORK
Summary: In contemporary research of low-skilled immigrant workers, scholars have highlighted concepts like precarity, exploitation, and racism as key locus of problematisation. Furthermore, the way they influence and relate with workers’ subjectivity, affect and perspectives of otherness, is also a topic that draws researchers’ attention. Additionally, how subjectivity relates with resistance and what forms of resistance are available from an organisational studies point of view is admittedly a very important factor to examine. My focus lies in the intersection of these three lines of thought and in particular how resistance at work can be theorised and articulated. Lacanian psychoanalysis offers a methodological tool which can assist in shedding light on the interrelation of workers’ resistance and subjectivity in a unique and in-depth fashion. In this direction, my argumentation follows Lacan’s steps in Seminar XVII, illustrating the transition from Hegel’s master to the modern capitalist master. What modifications have occurred in Marx’s sense of production and surplus-value’s relation to the spoliation of workers’ enjoyment, that enable these new forms of social bonds that Lacan represents with his mathemes of the four discourses? The answer, according to Lacan, lies in knowledge itself and its dialectic relationship with truth; the truth is blocking something that results from work, production has rendered truth impotent. The truth of knowledge is detained by the capitalist master and his unassailable command that puts everyone to work, constituting the modern market where ‘everything works’. This leads the class problematic of worker’s exploitation into a cultural phenomenon, where intolerance of otherness has received excessive investment in socio-political discourses, drawing its energy form the repressed class dimension. In this era of increasing segregation, Lacanian psychoanalysis helps us unveil the frustrating impotence of resistance and elaborate the current impasses in ways that perhaps offer the potential to overcome them.