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Restructuring Managerial Labour in the USA, the UK and Japan: Challenging the Salience of 'Varieties of Capitalism'

By Leo McCann, John Hassard and Jonathan Morris


This article provides a cross-national, qualitative investigation into the experiences of middle managers in large organizations in the USA, the UK and Japan, following organizational restructuring. Despite well-documented national differences in administrative heritage, institutional regimes or 'varieties of capitalism', our data point towards considerable similitude across the three countries in terms of a general expression of the need for change, and the concrete impacts of organizational reforms on managerial work. Specifically we analyse the changing nature of work roles, career paths, working hours and spans of control of mid-level managers in five large firms in each of the three countries. The data demonstrate that middle managers in all three countries face fundamental changes to key areas of their work experience. In Japan, although changes do not amount to a genuine shift towards 'Anglo-Saxon' institutions or business practices, the robust use of organizational reforms with very similar aims and underpinning assumptions to those used in the USA and the UK entails similar impacts in terms of work processes of middle managers across the three nations. This shared experience involved the augmentation of middle management skill levels, responsibilities and span of control, but alongside the downgrading of career expectations, and increased workload and work intensity. We argue that these changes are in keeping with some, but not all, of the features explained and predicted in Bravermanian labour process theory. Copyright (c) Blackwell Publishing Ltd/London School of Economics 2010.

DOI identifier: 10.1111/j.1467-8543.2010.00794.x
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