Part-time Work as Practising Resistance: The Power of Counter-arguments


  • This paper was written as a collaborative effort by both authors. An earlier version of this paper was presented in June 2010 at the 6th Conference on Gender, Work and Organization, Keele University, UK. The authors would like to thank the participants of the ‘practising resistance’ stream, the Editors and two anonymous reviewers of this Journal as well as colleagues at the Research Institute for Organizational Psychology at the University of St. Gallen for their critical discussions and highly valuable ideas for developing the analysis. The interviews that form the heart of this paper were conducted by the first author. The authors would like to thank all participants in this study for their time and patience in contributing to this research.


Contributing to a Foucauldian perspective on ‘discursive resistance’, this paper theorizes how part-time workers struggle to construct a valid position in the rhetorical interplay between norm-strengthening arguments and norm-contesting counter-arguments. It is thereby suggested that both the reproductive and the subversive forces of resistance may very well coexist within the everyday manoeuvres of world-making. The analysis of these rhetorical interplays in 21 interviews shows how arguments and counter-arguments produce full-time work as the dominant discourse versus part-time work as a legitimate alternative to it. Analysing in detail the effects of four rhetorical interplays, this study shows that, while two of them leave unchallenged the basic assumptions of the dominant full-time discourse and hence tend instead to reify the dominant discourse, two other interplays succeed in contesting the dominant discourse and establishing part-time work as a valid alternative. The authors argue that the two competing dynamics of challenging and reifying the dominant are not mutually exclusive, but do in fact coexist.