Expression and expropriation: the dialectics of autonomy and control in creative labour

Ursula Huws

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Creative labour occupies a highly contradictory position in modern, global, ‘knowledge-based’ economies. On the one hand, companies have to balance their insatiable need for a stream of innovative ideas with the equally strong imperative to gain control over intellectual property and manage a creative
workforce. On the other, creative workers have to find a balance between the urge for self-expression and recognition and the need to earn a living. This article explores the interplay between these doubly contradictory impulses, drawing on the results of European research carried out within the scope of the
WORKS project as well as other research by the author. It argues that the co-existence of multiple forms of control makes it difficult for workers to find appropriate forms of resistance. Combined with increasing tensions between the urges to compete and to collaborate, these contradictions pose formidable
obstacles to the development of coherent resistance strategies by creative workers.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)504-521
Number of pages17
JournalEphemera: Theory and Politics in Organization
Issue number3/4
Publication statusPublished - 2010


  • creative labour cautonomy control


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