Layers of Dissent: The Meaning of Time Appropriation


  • Roland Paulsen Uppsala University


resistance, labor, work, critical theory


Within Critical Management Theory as well as Critical Theory the possibility of individuals resisting taken for granted power asymmetries remains a highly debated subject. Intensified corporate culture programs seem to imply that within the sphere of labor, worker dissent is loosing ground. Based on a large interview material of critical cases, this notion is challenged. The interviewees mainly represent white-collar employees who spend more than half of their working hours on private activities. Studying the objectives and political ambitions behind their extensive recalcitrance reveals a range of intentional structures that result in the same activity: time appropriation. First, time appropriation may be the effect of framed dissent; a dissent intertwined with politically framed indignation. Second, the recalcitrance may spring from direct dissent in which personal indignation is the driving force whereas political formulations are not as prominent. Third, the activity of not doing your work while at work can be the effect of withdrawal in which case there is no motive other than avoiding work. Fourth, time appropriation may also be a (sometimes involuntary) consequence of adjustment: This occurs when the employee does not receive enough work assignments to fill the working day. I conclude by suggesting that the processes and leaps between these layers of dissent should be further studied.

Author Biography

Roland Paulsen, Uppsala University

Roland Paulsen has been a PhD student in sociology at Uppsala University since 2007 and he is writing his dissertation on the practice of workplace time appropriation in relation to the ongoing debate on organizational misbehavior. His fields of interest include: Critical theory, labor process theory, sociology of resistance, sociology of mental illness.




How to Cite

Paulsen, R. (2011). Layers of Dissent: The Meaning of Time Appropriation. Outlines. Critical Practice Studies, 13(1), 53–81. Retrieved from