Modes of obeying: functional stupidity, despair, seduction, cynicism and authoritarianism : Young adults in precarious workplaces

University essay from Uppsala universitet/Sociologiska institutionen

Abstract: This essay aims to study workplace obedience from the perspective of young adults in precarious work environments. The study was delimited to young adults that had experienced what they viewed as irrational management. These informants were interviewed to research the new and largely untested theory of functional stupidity. Functional stupidity means that employees at a workplace can become more functional by minimizing their critical capacities for reflections about the stupid practises that exist in that organization.  Functional stupidity is one mode of obedience that in this essay was researched in the context of cynicism, despair, seduction and authoritarianism (Paulsen, 2017). This was done in an explorative small-scale study with a convenience sample of six informants that had this experience. Their age was 21-27.  The informants were from western industrialized countries in the service sector in private companies with no work security. These informants were interviewed which were than interpreted in a thematic analysis. The major findings were that the informants deliberately move between different modes of obedience including functional stupidity in these workplaces. The context of precariousness made the management very threatening and age was one way used to reproduce stupid practises. The experience of stupid practises is a new aspect that makes the precariousness worse. Age was one factor that formed experience of the different modes of obedience. Age was one way to the set the agenda, individualising organizational problems and central to feeling of having to prove themselves. The major contribution of this study is on one hand test the theory of functional stupidity in a new context and on the other hand to introduce the perspective of stupid practises in the scholarly debate on young adults in precarious work.  

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