Knowledge Workers in Istanbul Practicing Self-Management

Thursday, 14 July 2016
Location: Hörsaal 18 (Juridicum)
Distributed Paper
Meltem YILMAZ SENER, Istanbul Bilgi University, Turkey
Knowledge work has been extensively studied by many management scholars since it was first used as a concept by the famous business guru Peter Drucker at the end of 1950s. Drucker and other researchers of the subject argued that new organizations depend on knowledge as their main factor of production. For these new organizations, they claimed, knowledge workers who can perform complex tasks due to their professional skills and knowledge are the most important “assets”. Drucker argued that knowledge workers themselves define what the task is or should be; they are responsible for their own contribution to their companies. For him, knowledge workers, today, must be their own chief executive officers; they need to learn to manage themselves. How can we interpret the arguments of Drucker and other management scholars on knowledge workers from a critical social theory perspective and what are the implications of self-management for knowledge workers? Michel Foucault suggests that the principle of neoliberal governmental control is the reorganization of social relations around a notion of enterprise. The application of the enterprise form to social relations also includes a reconstruction of subjectivity; individuals are encouraged to view their identities as a type of enterprise. Individuals are controlled through individual autonomy and responsible self-management. If we read management scholars’ suggestions to knowledge workers in this light, calls for self-management suggest a more intense control of knowledge workers. However, to what extent disciplining of knowledge workers takes place in the lived reality of these workers? Depending on in-depth interviews with twenty knowledge workers who are currently working in İstanbul, this paper will explain to what extent they practice self-management, and how they live through that kind of experience.