Beyond happy families: A critical reevaluation of the control-resistance-identity triangle

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

246 Citations (SciVal)


In this article, the author explores the nature of contemporary organizational controls, the extent to which they can be said to colonize employee subjectivity, and the types of resistance which they generate. Labor process, psychoanalytic, critical theory, and Foucauldian perspectives are juxtaposed and a number of similarities and divergences are noted. It is argued that many of these perspectives prematurely lament the end of employee recalcitrance and exaggerate the magnitude and totality of organizational controls, generating over-managed and overcontrolled images of individuals, organizations, and societies. It is proposed that a rapprochement of psychoanalytic and labor theory approaches can lead to an appreciation of unmanaged and unmanageable terrains in organizations, in which human agency may be rediscovered, neither as a class-conscious proletariat nor as a transcendental subject, but as a struggling, feeling, thinking, suffering subject, one capable of obeying and disobeying, controlling and being controlled, losing control and escaping control, defining and redefining control for itself and for others.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)179-203
Number of pages25
JournalHuman Relations
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 1999


  • Control
  • Family
  • Identity
  • Labor process
  • Metaphors
  • Psychoanalysis
  • Resistance
  • Stories
  • Subjectivity
  • Unmanaged organization

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Social Sciences(all)
  • Strategy and Management
  • Management of Technology and Innovation


Dive into the research topics of 'Beyond happy families: A critical reevaluation of the control-resistance-identity triangle'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this