How do we understand the phenomenon of employees who do not work? Whilst there has been an abundance of scholarly attention to the reasons for employees’ commitment to their work, the question of why employees do not work has drawn comparatively less attention. One of the reasons for this relative neglect is the continued prevalence of the normative assumption that wage-earners ought
to work. This presentation questions this assumption by discussing the case of the Jordanian Phosphate Mining Company (JPMC). The JPMC, the largest mining company in Jordan, was privatised in 2006 as part of the Jordanian government liberal economic reforms. Yet the JPMC employees’ experience does not match with the neoliberal expectations of rationalisation, efficiency gains, and casualisation. Many employees who remain on the company payroll simply do not work while others complain about a heavy workload. In the first part of the talk, I will explore the socio-technical processes that make the uneven allocation of the workload possible in JPMC. In contrast to the common cultural explanation (“the lazy Bedouin”) and the political economic explanation (the ills of the transition from rentier to market economy), I suggest that the ways in which the division of labour was re-organised after privatisation best accounts for the presence of “idle” positions in JPMC. In the second part of the talk, I draw on the experience of JPMC employees to suggest new ways of conceptualising employer-employee relations.
Claudie Fioroni is a PhD candidate at the Department of Anthropology and Sociology of Development at the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies in Geneva. Currently she is a Junior Visiting Fellow at the IWM.