Conflict and control in the contemporary workplace: structured antagonism revisited

Paul Edwards, Andy Hodder

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The concept of a structured antagonism lying at the heart of the employment rela-tionship is widely cited but also commonly misinterpreted. The paper firstly returns to the origin of the concept to locate its approach to workplace industrial relations. It forms part of labour process analysis, within which its distinct emphasis is two-fold: a focus on levels of analysis, such that the connections between the underlying an-tagonism and concrete behaviour can be interrogated; and a preference for com-parative analysis, which allows the relevant processes to be identified. In this paper, we apply these themes to contemporary workplaces such as those in the gig econ-omy. Recent research demonstrates substantial empirical and theoretical progress, but can be taken further using the above two ideas. A methodological checklist emerges to guide a future programme of research.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)220-240
Number of pages21
JournalIndustrial Relations Journal
Issue number3
Early online date27 Apr 2022
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 27 Apr 2022

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The authors would like to thank Bill Harley, Jean Jenkins, Guglielmo Meardi and Peter Nolan for their helpful comments on previous versions of this paper.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022 The Authors. Industrial Relations Journal published by Brian Towers (BRITOW) and John Wiley & Sons Ltd.


  • conflict
  • frontier of control
  • Labour process
  • resistance
  • structured antagonism
  • gig economy


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