The general theme in my research is empowerment: frames that stimulate people to take control. I like to study this in a widely divergent set of contexts:
1 – Employability: empowerment in careers
2 – Social movements / taking control of the urban environment, including urban squatting
3 – Self-management in work organizations
4 – Information technology as a tool
Employability: empowerment in careers
The research on employability takes a two-pronged approach, top-down and bottom-up. In the top-down analysis, the chain that starts with the lofty formulations of ideals is traced downwards as far as possible to the practices that develop on the ground. So far, top down analysis is represented by one paper (Pruijt and Dérogée 2010). It shows the following. The employability concept, introduced by American management gurus in their depiction of the Silicon Valley career model, fascinated Dutch consultants and policy makers. It appealed to employers desiring to increase flexibility and it was compatible with the unions’ vision to boost workers’ control over their careers.
Because of this, employability enhancing policies became a common element in collective labor agreements. HR departments in large organizations worked out implementations. Policy makers institutionalized the belief that stimulating workers and employers is the key to get security in the face of creative destruction in the economy. This belief – employability security or employacurity – migrated to the EU policy level and still holds sway.
A decade after the inception of employability policy, its effectiveness became an issue (Pruijt and Yerkes 2014). Experts were especially concerned about a lack of employee commitment to training and self-development. Explanations offered ranged from laziness to structural constraints.
Proposed solutions were shaped by empowerment’s internal contradictions between autonomy and control, between ambition and risk of programmed failure made worse by an emphasis on responsibility, and between focus and stigmatization.
A start in the bottom-up approach was made by looking at a set of companies in the IT field in which leaders take a personal interest in the problem of sustaining employability (Pruijt 2013). Some of the companies pioneered sophisticated, high organizational involvement forms of employability enhancement, while others highlighted the interplay of employability and employee protection as a mechanism that can help create security. The psychological contracts (i.e. the expectations that employer and employee have of each other) contained a wide range of elements that were relevant for maintaining employability, while there was little evidence of any impact from formal employability-enhancing strategies conceived by policy makers. Some of the companies pioneered sophisticated, high organizational involvement forms of employability enhancement. Barriers against the dismissal of permanent employees play a stimulating role in this.
Pruijt, H. and Dérogée, P. (2010) Employability and job security, friends or foes? The paradoxical reception of employacurity in the Netherlands. Socio-economic Review 8(3) 437-460.
open access journal
Pruijt, H. (2013) Employability, Empowerment and Employers, Between Debunking and Appreciating Action. Nine Cases from the ICT Sector.
International Journal of Human Resource Management 24(8), 1613-1628.
open access journal
Pruijt, H. and Yerkes, M. (2014) Empowerment as Contested Terrain. Employability of the Dutch workforce. European Societies 16(1) 48-67.
open access journal
Social movements, taking control of the urban environment
Autonomous and institutionalized social movements and the interaction between them.
Cases: urban squatting in the US and the Netherlands, the fight against sexual violence in Spain and the Netherlands.
Pruijt, H. and C. Roggeband (2014) Autonomous and/or Institutionalized Social Movements? Conceptual Clarification and Illustrative Cases. International Journal of Comparative Sociology 55(2), 144 – 165.
open access journal
What people do to take control over their urban environment.
Pruijt, H. (2007) “Urban Movements” in: Ritzer, G. (ed) Blackwell Encyclopedia of Sociology. Malden: Blackwell, 5115-5119. open access
Urban squatting analyzed
Analysis of the dynamics of urban squatting based on a typology consisting of deprivation based squatting, squatting as an alternative housing strategy, entrepreneurial squatting, conservational squatting and political squatting.
Pruijt, H. (2013) The Logic of Urban Squatting International Journal of Urban and Regional Research 37(1), 19-45.
open access journal
Culture wars, revanchism, moral panics and the creative city. A reconstruction of a decline of tolerant public policy: the case of Dutch anti-squatting legislation.
Squatting became illegal in the Netherlands on October 1, 2010. Theoretical debates about culture wars, revanchism, moral panics and the creative city can all contribute to an understanding of the dynamics that are involved.
A key mechanism is the following.
Strategies of resistance that seem more or less manageable in the local context of a creative city can, when they backfire, cause a moral panic on the national level.
This provides ammunition for revanchist politicians.
Pruijt, H. (2013) Culture Wars, Revanchism, Moral Panics and the Creative City. A Reconstruction of a Decline of Tolerant Public Policy: The Case of Dutch Anti-squatting Legislation. Urban Studies 50(6), 1114-1129. open access journal
Is the institutionalization of urban movements inevitable? A comparison of the opportunities for sustained squatting in New York City and Amsterdam.
Institutionalization can be flexible.
Pruijt, H. (2003) Is the institutionalization of urban movements inevitable? A comparison of the opportunities for sustained squatting in New York City and Amsterdam International Journal of Urban and Regional Research 27(1) 133-157. open access journal
Squatters in the creative city debate
Pruijt, H. (2004) Squatters in the creative city: rejoinder to Justus Uitermark.
International Journal of Urban and Regional Research 28(3) 699-705.
open access journal
How an urban movement made a big difference
A classic example of a successful mobilization.
Pruijt, H. (2004) “The Impact of Citizens’ Protest on City Planning in Amsterdam.” in: Léon Deben, Willem Salet and Marie-Thérèse van Thoor (eds) Cultural Heritage and the Future of the Historic Inner City of Amsterdam .Amsterdam: Aksant, 228-244. open access
Self-management in work organizations
Why is Taylorism more resilient than many have
Taylorism can be flexibly adapted while keeping intact its core attractions, the promise of a “one best way” and a medicine against “systematic soldiering” .
Pruijt, H. (2000) Repainting, modifying, smashing Taylorism Journal of Organizational Change Management 13(5) 439-451.
open access journal
The ideal-centered discourse on work
Many successful authors paint an ideal model in which high performance and the abolishment of Taylorism go hand in hand, and suggest that this is the wave of the future. This is an appealing approach, but there are also some drawbacks: a blind spot for the employment relationship and a tendency to downplay the change efforts required to make the visions a reality.
Pruijt, H. (2000) Performance and quality of working life. Journal of Organizational Change Management 13(4) 389-400. open access journal
To distinguish anti-Tayloristic teamworking from neo-Tayloristic teamworking
Is embracing teamworking as practiced in Japanese companies such as Toyota the most viable way to get rid of Taylorism? Or is teamworking just a cheaper, more insidious form of management control? The key to this conundrum is differentiating between types of teamworking.
Pruijt, H. (2003) Teams between Neo-Taylorism and Anti-Taylorism. Economic and Industrial Democracy 24(1) 77-101. open access journal
Business Process Reengineering, a flexible concept
Business Process Reengineering (BPR) seemed anti-Taylorism on steroids. But it is full of tricky contradictions.
Pruijt, H. (1998). Multiple Personalities: the Case of Business Process Reengineering. Journal of Organizational Change Management 11(3): 260-268. open access journal
Fifty years of creating alternatives to Taylorism (scientific management)
Taylorism (keeping conception and execution apart) is a persistent, underlying principle of many organizations. Many
have pointed to drawbacks in terms of flexibility, capacity for innovation, quality, cost and employee wellbeing. There is a countermovement, particularly in North-West Europe where managers and employee representatives, aided by consultants and researchers, pursue viable alternatives. Job Design and Technology analyzes 150 cases of anti-Taylorist initiatives in Scandinavia, the UK and the Netherlands. A conclusion: it is possible, with monumental effort and ingenuity, to achieve real change in the workplace. However a notable proportion of organizations, even those now known as successful innovators, later regressed to a more Tayloristic manner of working.
This book explores various explanations, seeks to draw out the practical lessons.
Pruijt, H. (1997) Job Design and Technology. Taylorism vs. Anti-Taylorism, London and New York: Routledge, isbn 0-415-15869-9
Pruijt, H. (1996) The Fight Against Taylorism in Europe. Strategies, Achievements in Job Design and Technology, Setbacks, Obstacles, Chances for Upgrading Work,
PhD thesis, Rotterdam: Erasmus University. open access
links on (anti-)Taylorism
Social Capital and the Equalizing Potential of the Internet
The Internet can be analyzed as a form of social capital of the information society. It offers a potential for counteracting isolation caused by divide-and-conquer organizational politics.
Pruijt, H. (2002) Social Capital and the Equalizing Potential of the Internet. Social Science Computer Review (20)2, 109-115. open access journal
Information technology as a tool
InterviewStreamliner is a free, open source, minimalist alternative to complex computer-assisted qualitative data analysis packages. It builds on the flexibility of relational database management technology.
Pruijt, H. (2012) InterviewStreamliner, a Minimalist, Free, Open Source, Relational Approach to Computer-assisted Qualitative Data Analysis Software. Social Science Computer Review (30)2, 248-253 open access journal
(contains VBA macros, enable downloading blocked content)
(only relevant for making modifications to the program)
Social Interaction with Computers: An Interpretation of Weizenbaum’s ELIZA and Her Heritage
Social interaction with computers is a key part of the frontier of automation. Weizenbaum’s ELIZA continues to be relevant as the focus of the debate shifts from artificial intelligence to the future of narrative and emotional design. A version of ELIZA was implemented in Excel/Visual Basic for Applications that combines adherence to the original specification with easy experimentation.
Pruijt, H. (2006) Social Interaction with Computers: An Interpretation of Weizenbaum’s ELIZA and Her Heritage.
Social Science Computer Review 24(4) 516-523. open access journal
Download Eliza (enable VBA macros)
Programming the Evolution of Cooperation
The repeated Prisoner’s Dilemma game exhibits a negative relationship between technical complexity and theoretical relevance. This makes it an ideal example for a program that simulates social reality.
In het Nederlands
Over mijn onderzoek
Het algemene thema in mijn onderzoek is empowerment, te vertalen als “het stimuleren dat mensen hun eigen lot in eigen hand nemen”. Ik vind het interessant om dit te bestuderen op heel uiteenlopende terreinen:
– Zelfmanagement in werkorganisaties, macht van werknemers
– Sociale bewegingen / Greep krijgen op de stedelijke omgeving, waaronder kraken
– ICT als gereedschap
Empowerment, lot in eigen hand nemen
Empowerment, het tegenovergestelde van beheersing, is een centraal element in de ideologie van sociale bewegingen, en ook daarbuiten is het een populair concept geworden.
Het concept wordt vaak enthousiast gepresenteerd als een win-win formule, maar ook wel verworpen als een versluierende term waarachter het tegenovergestelde schuil gaat. Door de interne tegenstellingen binnen het concept kan empowerment gezien worden als een balanceeract.
Pruijt, H. (2011) Het lot zelf in handen nemen. Empowerment in beweging. Kritiek, Jaarboek voor socialistische discussie en analyse 4, 61-74.
Arbeid en macht: vooruit naar het verleden?
Aan het eind van de twintigste eeuw leek de machtsbalans te verschuiven, ten koste van de werknemers.
Pruijt, H. (2000). Arbeid en macht: vooruit naar het verleden? Een scenario en zijn consequenties. In: P. B. Lehning (red). De beleidsagenda 2000. Strijdpunten op het breukvlak van twee eeuwen. Bussum: Coutinho, 235-248. open access
Internationale Herstructurering, Baanonzekerheid en Werknemersinvloed.
Buitenlandse multinationals nemen Nederlandse bedrijven over. In de jaren ’90 van de vorige eeuw krijgt het probleem van behoud van werkgelegenheid en werknemersinvloed een nieuwe dimensie.
Pruijt, H. (2000). Internationale herstructurering, baanonzekerheid en werknemersparticipatie: een case uit de chemische industrie. Tijdschrift voor Arbeidsvraagstukken. 16(2) 176-190. open access
Pruijt, H. (2009) Kraken in Europa. Kritiek, Jaarboek voor socialistische discussie en analyse 2, Amsterdam: Aksant, pp. 78-107. open access