Labour process theory, retail work and the production of space

Bilsland, Karen (2018) Labour process theory, retail work and the production of space. PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.

Due to Embargo and/or Third Party Copyright restrictions, this thesis is not available in this service.
Printed Thesis Information:


This thesis contributes to debates within Labour Process Theory (LPT) around managerial control and autonomy in the workplace through an analysis of the production of organisational space within Swedish multinational furniture retailer IKEA. It investigates organisational practices from a spatial perspective to elaborate on employment relations and participation in the retail workplace, developing a more nuanced sense of employee agency. The findings reveal that the social and material arrangements at IKEA-UK and IKEA-Sweden represent the enactment of particular kinds of organisational space which provide innovative opportunities for organisational control and work process improvement. While employees were found to exercise their own agency and spatial practice, their actions remained largely constrained by IKEA’s dominant organisational structures and processes. Although workers were far from the passive recipients of management decisions apparent in much LPT analysis, their participation and contributions served the strategic visions and spatial plans of their employer. As such, this thesis augments existing LPT debates by developing new insights and empirical research on the effects of managerial control on worker-consumer relations and subjectivity spatially. In order to achieve the objectives of this research, a comparative, multi-site case study approach was adopted for its potential to open up new areas of insight and understanding into the lived experiences of work emerging across two different organisational settings. In addition, several qualitative data collection methods were employed, including in-depth (semi-structured) interviews with management and employees, non-participant observations and document analysis. The study also utilised two novel visual research methods, namely ‘walking’ interviews and photo-elicitation interviews, to obtain a richer and more elaborate picture of worker autonomy and participation than would ordinarily be available from traditional methodological techniques.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Keywords: Labour process theory, organisational space, organisational control, autonomy, retail.
Subjects: H Social Sciences > H Social Sciences (General)
H Social Sciences > HD Industries. Land use. Labor > HD28 Management. Industrial Management
H Social Sciences > HM Sociology
Colleges/Schools: College of Social Sciences > Adam Smith Business School > Management
Supervisor's Name: Cumbers, Professor Andrew and Siebert, Professor Sabina
Date of Award: 2018
Embargo Date: 28 May 2023
Depositing User: Dr Karen Bilsland
Unique ID: glathesis:2018-72977
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 28 May 2019 13:58
Last Modified: 28 Nov 2023 07:53

Actions (login required)

View Item View Item


Downloads per month over past year