Recoding Power: Tactics for Organizing Tech Workers

November 3, 2022 | 2:00PM - 4:00PM
Joint Initiative in German and European Affairs

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Digital transformation increasingly drives economic growth in the rich capitalist democracies, but orienting production around digital technologies is associated with rising inequality and spreading precarity. In Recoding Power, Rothstein outlined three tactics that workers can use to build power in the current episode of economic transition, where they otherwise lack access to traditional power resources like unions and institutions for social protection. Drawing on four in-depth case studies of workers responding to mass layoffs at tech firms in the United States and Germany, Rothstein showed how workers can develop creative tactics to “recode” management’s discursive techniques for control, transforming them from obstacles into resources for collective action. By centering workers’ lived experiences in the workplace, Recoding Power developed an account of actually existing digital transformation, illustrating how the path of capitalist development is shaped not by economic necessity, but by political creativity.

Sidney Rothstein is Assistant Professor of Political Science at Williams College. His research focuses on the political economy of wealthy democracies in comparative perspective, especially in Europe and the United States. In particular, Rothstein examines the politics of digital transformation, seeking to explain how the transition to the knowledge economy reshapes relationships of power and patterns of inequality in different countries. He holds a BA from Reed College, a PhD from the University of Pennsylvania, and has held appointments at Haverford College, the Weizenbaum Institute for the Networked Society, and the Max Planck Institute for the Study of Societies.

Sponsored by  Joint Initiative in German and European Studies.
Joint Initiative in German and European Affairs


Sidney Rothstein

Assistant Professor of Political Science at Williams College

Alexander Reisenbichler

Assistant Professor, Department of Political Science, University of Toronto