Recoding Power: Tactics for Mobilizing Tech Workers

Sidney A. Rothstein

21. Juni 2022

MPIfG Book


Oxford: Oxford University Press
288 pages
ISBN 9780197612873

» Publishers page
Rothstein, Sidney A.
Recoding Power: Tactics for Mobilizing Tech Workers. New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 2022.


This book outlines tactics that workers can use to build power in the current episode of economic transition. As rich capitalist democracies increasingly embrace digital transformation as a strategy to drive economic growth, policymakers have dismantled labor’s traditional power-resources — especially institutions for social protection and the unions that support and enforce them — leaving workers on their own to defend against rising economic inequality and spreading precarity. Moreover, with the ascendance of financialization, managers have adopted the discourse of market fundamentalism, which is particularly effective at persuading workers that building power is impossible. Recoding Power draws on four in-depth case studies of mass layoffs at tech firms in the United States and Germany to show how workers can develop creative tactics to “recode” management’s discursive techniques for control, transforming them from obstacles into resources for collective action. When workers put workplace discourse at the center of their tactics for mobilizing, they can develop the strategic capacity and economic leverage necessary to defend against the threat of job loss. Foregrounding workers’ lived experiences in the workplace, Recoding Power develops an account of actually existing digital transformation that illustrates how the path of capitalist development is shaped not by economic necessity, but by political creativity.


Chapter 1. Actually Existing Digital Transformation
Chapter 2. Worker Power in Twenty-First-Century Capitalism

Part I   Mass Layoffs in the United States: Worker Power and the Discourse of Market Fundamentalism

Chapter 3. Economic Transition in the Workplace: Resistance at IBM Burlington
Chapter 4. Market Power is Not Enough: Acquiescence at IBM San Jose

PART II   Mass Layoffs in Germany: Digital Transformation in a Robust Institutional Environment

Chapter 5. Institutions by the Wayside: Acquiescence at Infineon
Chapter 6. Counterhegemonic Tactics: Resistance at Siemens
Chapter 7. The Power of Recoding


Sidney A. Rothstein

Sidney A. Rothstein is Assistant Professor of Political Science at Williams College. He has published in the British Journal of Industrial Relations, German Politics, Perspectives on Politics, Review of International Political Economy, Socio-Economic Review, and Studies in American Political Development, and co-edited (with Tobias Schulze-Cleven) Imbalance: Germany's Political Economy After the Social Democratic Century (Routledge, 2021).

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