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Re-embedding agency at the workplace scale: Workers and labour control in Glasgow call centres

Lookup NU author(s): Professor Danny MacKinnonORCiD



This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License (CC BY-NC 4.0).


Following recent calls for the development of a more embedded sense of labour agency, this paper focuses on the scale of the workplace which is largely absent from recent labour geography debates. Drawing on studies in the labour process tradition, the paper presents empirical research on call centre work in Glasgow, utilising this to revisit the concept of local Labour Control Regimes (LCR). We argue that rather than being simply imposed by capital and the state ‘from above’, workplace control should be seen as the product of a dialectical process of interaction and negotiation between management and labour. Labour’s indeterminacy can influence capital in case specific ways as firms adapt to labour agency and selectively tolerate and collude with certain practices and behaviours. Workers’ learned behaviour and identities are shown to affect not only recruitment patterns in unexpected ways, but also modes of accepted conduct in call centres. Accordingly, the case is made for the influence of subtle – yet pervasive – worker agency expressed at the micro-scale of the labour process itself. This, it is argued, exerts a degree of ‘bottom-up’ pressure on key fractions of capital within the local LCR.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Hastings T, MacKinnon D

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Environment and Planning A

Year: 2017

Volume: 49

Issue: 1

Pages: 104-120

Print publication date: 01/01/2017

Online publication date: 22/08/2016

Acceptance date: 02/04/2016

Date deposited: 21/09/2016

ISSN (print): 0308-518X

ISSN (electronic): 1472-3409

Publisher: Sage


DOI: 10.1177/0308518X16663206


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Funder referenceFunder name
PTA-031-2006-0046Economic and Social Research Council