Working the Phones: Control and Resistance in Call Centres
By Jamie Woodcock
Over a million people in the UK work in call centres, and the phrase has become synonymous with low-paid and high stress work, dictatorial supervisors and an enforced dearth of union organisation. However, rarely does the public have access to the true picture of what goes on in these institutions.
For Working the Phones, Jamie Woodcock worked undercover in a call centre to gather insights into the everyday experiences of call centre workers. He shows how this work has become emblematic of the shift towards a post-industrial service economy, and all the issues that this produces, such as the destruction of a unionised work force, isolation and alienation, loss of agency and, ominously, the proliferation of surveillance and control which affects mental and physical wellbeing of the workers.
By applying a sophisticated, radical analysis to a thoroughly international 21st century phenomenon, Working The Phones presents a window onto the methods of resistance that are developing on our office floors, and considers whether there is any hope left for the modern worker today.
Jamie Woodcock completed his PhD at Goldsmiths, University of London. He is currently a fellow at LSE. His research interests include: digital labour, technology, management, critical theory, and the sociology of work.
‘Jamie Woodcock’s brilliant insider account of life in a British call-centre reveals the dirty realities of digital capitalism. It’s a grim world that business wonks and politicians would rather you’d not know about. But unlike other descriptions of the neoliberal workforce who are pliant and broke, Woodcock finds workers fighting back. Capitalism hasn’t won … not yet at least. And things are about to get nasty. Working the Phones tells us why in a book that is sure to become a classic.’
Peter Fleming, author of The Mythology of Work (Pluto, 2015)
‘In this urgent and incisive study, Woodcock draws on the rich tradition of workers' inquiry to explore the violence of management and the shape of resistance in an industry that has become paradigmatic of the degradation of work in the twenty-first century. Combining political acumen and scholarly depth, he identifies the imposing challenges to organising against exploitation in conditions of atomised precarity, while also giving us precious glimpses of what a counter-offensive against capital might look like. A masterful lesson in how sociology can serve both to interpret and change a world of labour under the pall of austerity.’
Alberto Toscano, Reader in Critical Theory, Department of Sociology, Goldsmiths, University of London
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