Despotism on Demand: How Power Operates in the Flexible Workplace

Research output: Book/ReportAuthored book


Despotism on Demand draws attention to the impact of flexible scheduling on managerial power and workplace control. When we understand paid work as a power relationship, argues Alex J. Wood, we see how the spread of precarious scheduling constitutes flexible despotism; a novel regime of control within the workplace.

Wood believes that flexible despotism represents a new domain of inequality, in which the postindustrial working class increasingly suffer a scheduling nightmare. By investigating two of the largest retailers in the world he uncovers how control in the contemporary “flexible firm” is achieved through the insidious combination of “flexible discipline” and “schedule gifts.” Flexible discipline provides managers with an arbitrary means by which to punish workers, but flexible scheduling also requires workers to actively win favor with managers in order to receive “schedule gifts”: more or better hours. Wood concludes that the centrality of precarious scheduling to control means that for those at the bottom of the postindustrial labor market the future of work will increasingly be one of flexible despotism.
Original languageEnglish
PublisherCornell University Press
Publication statusPublished - 15 May 2020


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