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How Workers Mobilize in Financializing Firms: A Theory of Discursive Opportunism

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Rothstein,  Sidney A.
Politische Ökonomie von Wachstumsmodellen, MPI for the Study of Societies, Max Planck Society;
Williams College, Williamstown, Massachusetts, USA;

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Citation

Rothstein, S. A. (2021). How Workers Mobilize in Financializing Firms: A Theory of Discursive Opportunism. British Journal of Industrial Relations, (published online May 12). doi:10.1111/bjir.12608.


Cite as: http://hdl.handle.net/21.11116/0000-0008-9365-0
Abstract
Firms’ increasing focus on financial markets has undermined employment conditions, as well as workers’ ability to mobilize. Taking a discursive approach to employment relations under financialization, this article develops a theory of discursive opportunism (DO) to explain how organizers can adopt management's discursive techniques for control and transform them into resources for collective action. The article makes two contributions. First, it illustrates that management's turn to market discourse under financialization varies across individual workplaces, even within a single firm. Second, it offers a theory of DO to explain how organizers can mobilize workers in financializing firms when they develop tactics appropriate to a workplace's distinctive discursive context. A comparative case study of tech workers responding to mass layoffs provides empirical support for this theory, showing that organizers’ tactics are critical to shaping the path of financialization at the workplace level.