Adler's theory of the capitalist labour process: a pale(o) imitation

P. Thompson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Citations (Scopus)


Adler's paper raises a host of pertinent theoretical and empirical challenges for anyone interested in contemporary trends in work and organization. A version of 'paleo' Marxism is invoked to correct the supposed anomalies of labour process theory and the limits of critical management studies. The theory relies on a notion of the progressive socialization of the productive forces in order to assert a positive conception of Taylorism and lean production, as well as a long-run upskilling trajectory. It is argued in this commentary that it is flawed theory and skewed empirics. Adler's perspectives result in a de-politicized workplace by removing any source of conflict over work relations between capital and labour. His evidence of skill upgrading relies overwhelmingly on a series of unreliable proxies that do not deal with actual work relations. In contrast, the commentary defends the record of labour process theory on issues of skill formation and the workplace as a contested terrain.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1359-1368
Number of pages9
JournalOrganization Studies
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2007


  • labour process theory
  • skill formation
  • politics of production
  • Marxism
  • capitalism


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