Off-campus UMass Amherst users: To download campus access dissertations, please use the following link to log into our proxy server with your UMass Amherst user name and password.

Non-UMass Amherst users: Please talk to your librarian about requesting this dissertation through interlibrary loan.

Dissertations that have an embargo placed on them will not be available to anyone until the embargo expires.

Author ORCID Identifier

https://orcid.org/0000-0002-3442-3912

AccessType

Campus-Only Access for Five (5) Years

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Degree Program

Sociology

Year Degree Awarded

2020

Month Degree Awarded

September

First Advisor

Donald Tomaskovic Devey

Second Advisor

Ofer Sharone

Third Advisor

William Lazonick

Fourth Advisor

Laurel Smith-Doerr

Subject Categories

Economic History | Income Distribution | Industrial Organization | Intellectual History | Political Economy | Theory, Knowledge and Science | Work, Economy and Organizations

Abstract

This dissertation examines the implications of corporate vertical disintegration on workplace inequality. As large firms, from the 1980s onward, increasingly relied on outsourcing their activities to reduce operations that are directly under their control and that they are liable for, they have dramatically transformed labor markets and working conditions. The corporate form that emerged out of this transformation is a network of companies, with workplaces linked in a chain of contracts. Subcontracting, franchising, outsourcing and supply chains are examples of strategies that resulted in this organizational form, allowing the outsourcing corporation to collect rent – making claims on incomes that have not yet been produced – and exercise pressure on workplaces that receive those activities. Those workplaces could in turn implement aggressive and austere practices to eke out a profit, resulting in worsening working conditions. My research tests this connection by inquiring into the historical conditions of the rise of this organizational form geared toward rent-based growth, the strategy of subordinate organizations in the rent system, and the working conditions of employees at those workplaces.

My analysis breaks down the causal relationship between the rise of rent systems and working conditions into a causal chain comprising three sets of actors – the outsourcing company, the workplace and employees. I use the case of a franchising network by the largest company in hospitality, in addition to companies of various sizes in other franchising network for comparison, totaling thirteen companies. My findings underscore the role of financialization in the pursuit of rent-based growth by corporations, who adjusted their valuation of profit to match the rentier’s (shareholders). The risk and cost transferred to workplaces through the rent system deteriorate working conditions for employees and block mobility routes. However, this effect is mediated by the organizational capabilities of the receiving organization. Thus, I argue that cost and pressure in the rent system function like the pressure of loans, with borrowers’ unequally distributed abilities determining the outcomes of borrowing in the causal chain – whether austere or retentive workplace practices will be followed..

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.

Share

COinS