The dark side of individualization at work: Idiosyncratic exploitation and the creation of elite workers

Farooq Mughal, Siqi Wang, Aneesa Zafar

Research output: Chapter or section in a book/report/conference proceedingChapter or section


The purpose of this chapter is to critically analyse the taken-for-granted assumptions underpinning the notion of idiosyncratic deals (or i-deals). This chapter argues that i-deals promote individualized arrangements at work which are likely to create precarity, division and alienation among workers. We look more closely at the operationality of i-deals, underlying mechanisms, and their role in subjecting individuals to labour processes that (re)produce individuality, power, and dominance. In so doing, we employ the works of the French philosopher, Michel Foucault, to explore the implications of promoting individuality at work. By positioning individualized work arrangements as by-products of neoliberalism and a consequence of individualization of society, our chapter should be read as a critique of i-deals as a control mechanism which is productive of discourses that portray the individual as agile and less recalcitrant. This chapter is divided into five parts. After the introductory section, we discuss how neoliberalism serves to individualize work and exert control over the labour processes through the process of individuation. This is followed by our quest to situate subjectivity in the plethora of work and organisational psychology research. Once subjectivity is reinstated, we identify the possibility of idiosyncratic exploitation and the consequences of individualized work arrangement through the creation of elite workers. Towards the end, we present implications of our discussion and identify future areas of research.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationIdiosyncratic Deals at Work
Subtitle of host publicationExploring Individual, Organisational and Societal Perspectives
PublisherPalgrave Macmillan
Publication statusAcceptance date - 2021


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