Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Faculty of Arts


Globally, in the last few decades, there have been massive cultural and structural changes in the workplace. These changes that have occurred to the labour process have been complex and varied. However, some general trends can be identified with regard to a neo liberal Australian workplace. This thesis is an exploration of the types of sociality that have arisen due to the present relationship between capital and labour. Through in depth semi-structured interviews with forty-seven people working in middle and working class occupations situated in a range of public and private sector workplaces, this study focuses on workers own interpretations of how cultural and structural practices have impacted on their social relationships in both the public and private spheres. This also involves a discussion of how workers experience and define intimacy and friendship in the first place. My methodological approach was qualitative and situated in a critical social science perspective. I have therefore both theoretically and substantively placed the participants subjective experiences into the macro political and economic context in which they had occurred. I have done this with an awareness that while there have been macro influences on the relationship between capital and labour, this relationship is refined and shaped also by more micro work processes. The subject matter of this thesis was multi-layered and thus involved the generation of an eclectic theoretical framework using a number of sociological theoretical traditions. I have explored both the Sociology of friendship and Organisational Sociology. I have provided a critique of neo liberalism and considered concepts such as fordism and post- fordism. Theoretically I have examined how individualised and collectivised processes operating within the workplace have influenced types of sociality in the public and private spheres. An important part of this thesis involves a teasing out of the relationship between collectivism and individualism. I examine individual and collective processes in the workplaces with regard to human resources, industrial relations and forms of work organisation. Other concepts that I have also used for considering how workplace changes have impacted on types of sociality are hegemony, ideology and class. While a few middle class employees may have benefited from these changes, the reality for most is that these changes have meant the rise of precarious work, resulting in job insecurity, the intensification of work, the undermining of collective forms of solidarity and the increased blurring of the boundaries between home and the workplace. Some have argued that workplace changes resulting in teamwork and the increased reliance on more instrumental relationships, such as networking, have undermined more collective forms of worker generated solidarity and more genuine relationships in peoples working and private lives. Findings from this study suggest that genuine, more collective social relationships did exist but were severely undermined by the neo liberal structural and cultural changes that had occurred in most of the workplaces.



Unless otherwise indicated, the views expressed in this thesis are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the University of Wollongong.