Article i 'Tidsskrift for arbejdsliv' no. 4 2000, page 45-60.
Adjustment or autonomy?
Power and Learning in Industrial Work
Peter Olsén og Christian Clausen
From two projects on humanization of work, the article presents points on power and subjectivity. Each in their own way, the projects deal with transformation of monotonous work in industry. The first one has a mostly negative angle showing obstacles and barriers to change. Although wishes for change are expressed in interviews and group discussions with workers, the potentials are held back and obscured by resistance and defence mechanisms. The second project, on the other hand, giving the workers more autonomy, mainly has a positive angle showing human resources and experiences of progress. Although the progressive side is the predominant one, it does not conceal the difficulties and conflicts. Therefore, both projects point towards dialectics between potentials for change and barriers against change on the shop floor. They show contradictions and conflicts, when processes of change interfere with the established cultures and structures of power. The article argues that orientations and experiences of work are compound and even contradictory. What is exposed by the workers in projects or investigations of change, depends on the methods, the ways of cooperation and the perspective of change. Comparing the two cases, only the democratic one showed potentials for radical innovations.