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Engineering Culture: Control and Commitment in a High-Tech Corporation

by Gideon Kunda

Engineering Culture is an award-winning ethnography of the engineering division of a large American high-tech corporation. Now, this influential book--which has been translated into Japanese, Italian, and Hebrew--has been revised to bring it up to date. In Engineering Culture, Gideon Kunda offers a critical analysis of an American company's well-known and widely emulated "corporate culture. " Kunda uses detailed descriptions of everyday interactions and rituals in which the culture is brought to life, excerpts from in-depth interviews and a wide variety of corporate texts to vividly portray managerial attempts to design and impose the culture and the ways in which it is experienced by members of the organization. The company's management, Kunda reveals, uses a variety of methods to promulgate what it claims is a non-authoritarian, informal, and flexible work environment that enhances and rewards individual commitment, initiative, and creativity while promoting personal growth. The author demonstrates, however, that these pervasive efforts mask an elaborate and subtle form of normative control in which the members' minds and hearts become the target of corporate influence. Kunda carefully dissects the impact this form of control has on employees' work behavior and on their sense of self. In the conclusion written especially for this edition, Kunda reviews the company's fortunes in the years that followed publication of the first edition, reevaluates the arguments in the book, and explores the relevance of corporate culture and its management today.

Gurus, Hired Guns, and Warm Bodies

by Stephen R. Barley Gideon Kunda

Over the last several decades, employers have increasingly replaced permanent employees with temporary workers and independent contractors to cut labor costs and enhance flexibility. Although commentators have focused largely on low-wage temporary work, the use of skilled contractors has also grown exponentially, especially in high-technology areas. Yet almost nothing is known about contracting or about the people who do it. This book seeks to break the silence.Gurus, Hired Guns, and Warm Bodies tells the story of how the market for temporary professionals operates from the perspective of the contractors who do the work, the managers who employ them, the permanent employees who work beside them, and the staffing agencies who broker deals. Based on a year of field work in three staffing agencies, life histories with over seventy contractors and studies of workers in some of America's best known firms, the book dismantles the myths of temporary employment and offers instead a grounded description of how contracting works.Engagingly written, it goes beyond rhetoric to examine why contractors leave permanent employment, why managers hire them, and how staffing agencies operate. Barley and Kunda paint a richly layered portrait of contract professionals. Readers learn how contractors find jobs, how agents negotiate, and what it is like to shoulder the risks of managing one's own "employability."The authors illustrate how the reality of flexibility often differs substantially from its promise. Viewing the knowledge economy in terms of organizations and markets is not enough, Barley and Kunda conclude. Rather, occupational communities and networks of skilled experts are what grease the skids of the high-tech, "matrix economy" where firms become way stations in the flow of expertise.

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