Games, Control, and Skill

Rachel Sherman

in Class Acts

Published by University of California Press

Published in print January 2007 | ISBN: 9780520247819
Published online March 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780520939608 | DOI:
Games, Control, and Skill

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This chapter takes up another possible explanation of consent and normalization: workers' games. It compares both the games of hotel workers with those of factory workers and the games of hotel workers in different jobs with one another. It follows Burawoy's definition of games as entailing “a set of rules, a set of possible outcomes, and a set of outcome preferences,” which is to say that outcomes have to be variable and matter to workers; workers also feel that they can influence outcomes. Games take place in a collective context, and they are linked to workers' status relative to that of other workers. The chapter shows that games allow workers to think of themselves as autonomous, skilled, strategic, and powerful or in sum not subordinate. In this chapter, the focus is on the two types of games among workers producing intangible products. First, workers in visible and semi visible jobs attempt to master the “raw material” of guest requests and the demands of luxury service in games of skill and control. Second, tipped workers play money games, akin to “making out” among factory workers, in which they strategize and negotiate effort around gratuities.

Keywords: consent; normalization; workers' games; games; skill; control

Chapter.  16517 words. 

Subjects: Social Stratification, Inequality, and Mobility

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