How Knowledge Shapes Collective Action


Journal of Industrial Relations (Cover) Pernicka, Susanne ; Lücking, Stefan:
How Knowledge Shapes Collective Action : Professionalism, Market Closure and Bureaucracy in the Fields of University and Non-university Research.
In: Journal of Industrial Relations 54 (2012), No. 5, pp. 579–595.
DOI: 10.1177/0022185612454958

Knowledge workers are often considered to prefer an individual rather than a collective articulation of their interests. This phenomenon is primarily explained by their individualistic orientation and power derived from possessing scarce knowledge. However, highly skilled work is a very heterogeneous field. In order to understand the diverse experiences of highly skilled employees and their attitudes towards collective action, this article proposes a model based on the juxtaposition of professional and knowledge work that entails three distinct logics of control over knowledge: professionalism, market closure and bureaucracy. The forms of collective action (i.e. intra-group solidarity, inter-group solidarity, no solidarity) are predicted to vary contingent on the prevailing position within a field. The model is illustrated by the example of university and non-university research in Austria. Professional self-control of scientific knowledge has been partly replaced by bureaucratic control of top management. This, in turn, mitigates power derived from professional knowledge. Unlike trade unions, collective action based on inter-group solidarity has been found to become more attractive. In non-university research organizations, the prevailing market logic entails employees using expertise or innovation to close a market and, hence, to refrain from acting collectively.

Kategorien Industrielle Beziehungen, Wissensarbeit