Dixon, Zachary (2009)
Ph.D. thesis, University of Birmingham.
Neoliberalism is both a political ideology and set of practices which facilitate the governing of individuals from a distance. This study identifies the privatisation of risk and responsibility as one of its key elements. Taking as its case-study the field of work-life balance (WLB) and flexible working practices in the UK, it traces the manifestation of this imperative within and across the levels of the state, employer and employee. Part I begins by conceptually examining the response of the British state to the ‘new social risk’ of WLB, and the construction by employers of the typical ‘flexible’ worker in relation to traditional notions of ‘work-life culture’. Part II provides an empirical examination of the theoretical framework. Extending the concept of work-life culture, findings are presented from a qualitative, critical case-study follow-up to the UK Government’s Third Work-Life Balance Employee Survey (2007). Contrary to official flexible working discourses, employee experience of the flexible working process at a ‘best practice’ Big Four accountancy firm is shown to not be ‘win-win’. Rather, such experiences are complex and double-edged – that is, infused with neoliberal notions of privatised risk and responsibility. New opportunities need to be seen alongside negative consequences, particularly stalled career advancement.
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