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Moral Gray Zones

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In this sparkling book, Michel Anteby challenges managerial images of polished efficient organizations that relegate employees' personal relations and private goals to a controlled periphery. As he focuses a skilled ethnographer's attention on the production of unauthorized personal objects within a French aeronautical factory, Anteby gradually reveals a profound truth about paid labor for others: workers make labor contracts bearable for themselves by creating space for their own creativity and relations to fellow workers. -- Viviana Zelizer, author of "The Purchase of Intimacy" Moral Gray Zones is superb. Rich, judicious, and well written, this trenchant portrayal of how control really gets done, moves the sociology of meaning forward. -- Harrison White, author of "Identity and Control" Moral Gray Zones brings classical mid-twentieth-century social theory into the twenty-first century. This lively look at a dying trade--craft workers in the modern factory--has relevance to almost any work world today. In fine detail, Anteby makes it clear that beneath surface performance contracts and economic exchanges at work lies a rich if hidden interaction in which laborers seek dignity and respect for what they do from coworkers and managers. That they succeed more often than not makes for a terrific tale of considerable interest--dramatically and theoretically. A marvelous book. -- John Van Maanen, Massachusetts Institute of Technology The book channels the spirit of industrial sociology of the 1950s, when students of work and organization encountered the shop floor up close and came away understanding how everyday behaviors formed the woof and warp of industrialization's social fabric. Anteby's use of the production of homers for understanding relations between workers and managers is ingenious. -- Stephen R. Barley, Stanford University An accessible good read, Moral Gray Zones makes a distinct contribution toward the understanding of informal structures, situated moralities, occupational cultures, and systems of control. -- Peter V. Marsden, Harvard University Moral Gray Zones is first-rate qualitative organizational analysis. Effectively organized and cogently argued, I was impressed by Anteby's marshalling of diverse streams of evidence. The extension of his ideas through the vast literature on multiple occupations is particularly stimulating. -- Calvin Morrill, University of California, Irvine

Table of Contents

List of Figures and Table vii Preface ix Introduction: The Persistence of Organizational Gray Zones 1 PART ONE: THE MOTIVATIONS AND THE SETTING 15 Chapter 1: Revisiting Social Systems in Organizations 17 Chapter 2: The Side Production of Homers in Factories 29 Chapter 3: The Pierreville Plant: Setting and Status Divides 43 PART TWO: THE FINDINGS 61 Chapter 4: Retirement Homers: An Entry into the Community 63 Chapter 5: Homers Gone Wrong: Delimiting the Gray Zone 78 Chapter 6: Shades of Homer Meanings: Occupational Variations 91 Chapter 7: The Rise and Fall of Craftsmanship 106 Chapter 8: Trading in Identity Incentives 122 PART THREE: THE IMPLICATIONS 137 Chapter 9: Organizational Gray Zones as Identity Distillers 139 Chapter 10: Identities, Control, and Moralities 153 Appendix A: Data and Methods 173 Appendix B: Position in the Field 183 Notes 191 References 213 Index 227

About the Author

Michel Anteby is assistant professor of organizational behavior at Harvard Business School.


"Moral Gray Zones is an important book for scholars of organizations to be aware of and read, especially to continue building empirical knowledge of the subterranean administration and underlife of workplaces... Moral Gray Zones is argued well, accessible and does what very good research should do--advance knowledge in a field for others to evaluate, contest, affirm and advance."--David Shulman, Contemporary Sociology "Scholars of organizational deviance will ... find it to be particularly illuminating. Moral Gray Zones would be apposite for a senior, undergraduate level course as it makes both substantive and theoretical contributions to our understanding of gray zones in organizations."--Dale Spencer, Canadian Journal of Sociology "The deep and lucid writing style and clear structure of the book make it enjoyable reading... The book is recommended reading for sociologists and business scholars alike who are interested in organization studies, and more specifically in workplace studies. It will be of particular interest to scholars and graduate and undergraduate students in the fields of the sociology of work, organizational sociology, sociology of occupations and professions and also economic sociology. The book makes an important contribution to our understanding of the social system of production, the interface between vertical and horizontal forms of work, and of the centrality of creativity and self expression even in large bureaucracies."--Asaf Darr, ASQ Review "I recommend this book to anyone interested in workplace behavior and worker control and for use in undergraduate and graduate courses on work--not only for what it reveals about organizational gray zones but also for what it offers students: opportunities to apply Anteby's logic to what they have observed in their own workplaces and to use what they know about industrial segments, occupational divides, gender segregation, and other topics to answer some of these questions for themselves."--Martha Crowley, Work and Occupations "Moral Gray Zones is a sophisticated and thought-provoking work... [T]he book should be of great interest to those studying status-ordering in organizations, the informal organization of work, or the intermingling of identity and control."--Tim Bartley, American Journal of Sociology

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