Working the Phones
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’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
- LSE Public lecture with Bev Skeggs and Alpa Shah, available to watch or listen
- Shortlisted for The Thinking Allowed Award for Ethnography 2017 and commended on BBC Radio 4 Thinking Allowed
- Co-winnner of the 2016 Labor History Best Book prize
- Review 31 by Benjamin Noys
- Financial Times
- Times Higher Education
- Jordan Times
- Manchester Review of Books
- Red Pepper, April/May 2017 print
- Praktyka Teoretyczna by Justyna Zielińska and Jacek Zych
- Work, Employment and Society by Julie Monroe
- Etnografia e Ricerca Qualitativa, 2017, by Gianmarco Navarini.
- Canadian Journal of Sociology/Cahiers canadiens de sociologie, 2018, by Martha Crowley
- Contemporary Sociology: A Journal of Reviews, 2018, by Jeffrey J. Sallaz
- Rassegna italiana di Scociologia, 2018, Giovanna Fullin.
- Sociologie du Travail by Jérôme Cihuelo.
- Marx and Philosophy, by Robert Ovetz
- Capital and Class, by Alejandro Castillo and Nicolás Ratto.
- Anthropology of Work Review, by Georgia Rina.
- BBC Radio 4 PM Interviewed about call centres on the 2nd May
- BBC Radio 2 Interviewed by Jeremy Vine on the 5th May
- BBC Radio 2 Interviewed by Jeremy Vine on the 31st August
- Jacobin with Jaswinder Blackwell-Pal
- Discover Society with Mark Carrigan
- Vice with Kit Caless
- ROAR Magazine with Immanuel Ness
- The Sociological Imagination with Mark Carrigan
- Elite Franchise
- Elite Business
- Audio Interference as part of the Interference Archive in New York
- New Books Network interviewed by Dave O'Brien
- Economic Sociology and Political Economy 'Calling for Resistance: the Electronic Panopticon of Call Centers and the Neoliberal Future of Work'
- The Guardian - 'As a call centre worker I saw how employees are stripped of their rights'
- openDemocracy - 'End of the line: surveillance, precarity and resistance in the call centre', available narrated on curio.io here
- Mute - 'Automate this! Delivering resistance in the gig economy'
- LSE Department of Management Blog - Working the Phones.
- People Management - 'Opinion: What the gig economy can learn from call centre management'