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Social control and social contract in networking

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Networks can be understood as organizational control strategies. As an example, we present two case studies of team-based networking strategies associated with the Total Quality Management movement in the United States. TQM's implied social contract requires some form of power sharing. In practice TQM team organization can also become another form of labor intensification. Similarly, TQM appeals to democratic values by emphasizing participation, communication, cooperation and team work. Such claims can also serve to legitimize major organizational changes, some of which follow familiar Taylorist patterns. Two cases illustrate how the technical components of communications systems help redefine control systems in TQM-based work rerganization experiments. In the manufacturing setting, communications took the form of web-and-hub networks, centralizing off-site engineering control of production workers. In the design and engineering workplace, peer-to-peer communications implemented by self-managed teams reduced intellectual ‘slack time’. In both cases the communications systems provided means to intensify labor.


Klein, H. K.; Kraft, Philip (1993): Social control and social contract in networking. Computer Supported Cooperative Work (CSCW): Vol. 2, No. 1-2. DOI: 10.1007/BF00749285. Springer. PISSN: 1573-7551. pp. 89-108