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Call for Papers for an ephemera Special Issue on:

Consumption of work and the work of consumption
Deadline for submissions: 30 September 2014
Issue editors: Ekaterina Chertkovskaya, Rashné Limki, Bernadette Loacker

Work and consumption have always been intertwined, their interaction shaped by social and historical circumstances. The ‘consumer society’ (Baudrillard, 1998/1970) that we arguably live in is often associated with a fading interest in work. On this view, wage labour is seen simply as a way of funding consumption during leisure time (Berger, 1964; Gorz, 1985). However, the boundaries between consumption and work have become increasingly blurred. Consumption is no longer confined to leisure, having become central to the employment relationship (Korczynski, 2007; Dale, 2012), but also transcending it. At the same time, some consumption has become productive in the circuits of capital (Arvidsson, 2005). While both the themes of work and consumption have been discussed separately (including in ephemera, e.g. Beverungen et al., 2011; Dunne et al., 2013; Egan-Wyer et al., 2014), this special issue aims to bring them together by exploring consumptive aspects of work and productive aspects of consumption within and beyond organizations.

Since the 1990s customer service and corporate branding have become central elements of organizational production processes (du Gay, 1996; Kornberger, 2010). In this context, concepts such as immaterial work and affective labour have gained in importance (Lazzarato, 1996; Virno, 2005; Dowling et al., 2007). Indeed, customer focus and branding tend to spread to all practices within organizations, from training and development to organizational decor and artefacts (Russell, 2011), while employees are encouraged to ‘live the brand’ (Pettinger, 2004; Land and Taylor, 2010). This tells us that consumption now takes place at work. For example, images of work have themselves become objects to be consumed (Dale, 2012; Chertkovskaya, 2013). These consumptive aspects of work are promoted via employer branding practices, which emphasise the symbolic characteristics of work (Backhaus and Tikoo, 2004). For example, skyscrapers often appear on the covers and pages of recruitment brochures in the banking sector, which can be seen as a sign-value of status. Such ‘opportunities’ for consumption are not only created within large organizations with distinctive hierarchies. ‘Fun cultures’ (Butler et al., 2011), self-management (Lopdrup-Hjorth et al., 2011) and the rhetoric of authenticity (Murtola and Fleming, 2011) may also facilitate the consumption of work-related sign-values as well as engagement in hedonist consumption (Campbell, 1987).

While consumption has certainly entered into the heart of the employment relationship (Korczynski, 2007; Dale, 2012), it also goes beyond it as work increasingly happens outside traditional organizational boundaries. For example, the rhetoric of personal branding (Lair et al., 2005) is becoming increasingly prominent and the ability to ‘sell oneself’ is in many cases now a condition for employment (Chertkovskaya et al., 2013). Moreover, when addressing modern modes of consumptive work, we should also reflect on how consumption can inform the meanings of work and work relations. For instance, we cannot lose sight of critiques of the degradation of work as the effect of consuming (other’s) vital capacities (cf. Barrett, 1999; Moten, 2003; Federici, 2004). Indeed, this ‘depletion’ (Rai, 2010) seems to be the condition of possibility not only for contemporary modes of production but also for conspicuous forms of consumption. Given the condition of precarity that increasingly structures global labour markets (Standing, 2010), we are thus asked to also think through the complex of worker/consumer relations and subjectivities; most notably the increasing debasement of selves into commodity forms.

However, consumption is not necessarily destructive but may also have productive elements to it. We can now talk of working consumers, who act according to their own interests and principles, and thereby serve themselves and other customers (Rieder and Voß, 2010). While drawing on co-creation and participation rhetoric, organizations often also build their brands on the ideas, creativity and work of their consumers or ‘brand communities’ (Arvidsson, 2005). Online social media, like ‘Facebook’, is a good example here: while the organization provides a (usually free) online platform for individuals and groups, their communication within it creates market value for the organization, for example via targeted advertising based on online user behaviour. The consuming employees, as long as they consume in line with the image and values of the organizational brand, may also contribute to the maintenance and strengthening of the organization and its brand, with their personal lives being mobilized for it (Land and Taylor, 2010).

In this special issue, we are looking for conceptual and empirical contributions that critically discuss consumptive aspects of work and productive aspects of consumption. We welcome studies that explore these issues within and beyond organizational boundaries, and in various forms and contexts of work. Possible topics include, but are not limited to, the following:

• Forms and meanings of consumptive work/productive consumption
• History of the relationship between consumption and work
• Consumption through work processes within and beyond the employment relationship
• Roles and use of (personal) branding in consumptive work/productive consumption
• Employer branding and the image of work in organizational self-presentations
• Depicting work through consumption
• Marketing and marketization of work
• Commodification of work and working subjects
• Consumption and production of affective/embodied labour
• Value creation/destruction trough consumptive work/productive consumption
• Ethical and political questions associated with consumptive work/productive consumption
• Implications of blurring boundaries between consumption and work for worker-consumer relations and worker/consumer subjectivities
• Work-life (im)balance of consuming employees/producing consumers
• Resisting consumptive work/productive consumption

Deadline for submissions: 30 September 2014

All contributions should be submitted to one of the issue editors:
Ekaterina Chertkovskaya (, Rashné Limki ( or Bernadette Loacker ( Please note that three categories of contributions are invited for the special issue: articles, notes, and reviews. Information about these types of contributions can be found at:

The submissions will undergo a double blind review process. All submissions should follow
ephemera’s submission guidelines, which are available at: For further information, please contact one of the special issue editors.


Arvidsson, A. (2005) ‘Brands: A critical perspective’, Journal of Consumer Culture, 5(2): 235-258.

Backhaus, K. and S. Tikoo (2004) ‘Conceptualizing and researching employer branding’, Career Development International, 9(5): 501-517.

Barrett, L. (1999) Blackness and value: Seeing double, Cambridge, New York: Cambridge UP.

Baudrillard, J. (1998/1970) The consumer society. Myths and structures. London: Sage.

Berger, P. (1964) ‘Some general observations on the problem of work’ in P. Berger (ed.) The Human Shape of Work. New York: Macmillan.

Beverungen, A., B. Otte, S. Spoelstra and K. Kenny (eds.) (2013) ‘Free work’, ephemera: theory & politics in organization, 13(1).

Butler, N., L. Olaison, M. Sliwa, B. M. Sørensen and S. Spoelstra (eds.) (2011) ‘Work, play and boredom’, ephemera: theory & politics in organization, 11(4).

Campbell, C. (1987) The romantic ethic and the spirit of modern consumerism. Oxford: Basil Blackwell.

Chertkovskaya, E. (2013) ‘Consuming work and managing employability: Students’ work orientations and the process of contemporary job search’. Unpublished PhD thesis, Loughborough University.

Chertkovskaya, E., P. Watt, S. Tramer and S. Spoelstra (eds.) (2013) ‘Giving notice to employability’, ephemera: theory & politics in organization, 13(4).

Dale, K. (2012) ‘The employee as “dish of the day”: The ethics of the consuming/consumed self in human resource management’, Journal of Business Ethics, 111(1): 13-24.

Dowling, E., B. Trott and R. Nunes (eds.) (2007) ‘Immaterial and affective labour: Explored’, ephemera: theory & politics in organization, 7(1).

Du Gay, P. (1998) Consumption and identity at work. London: Sage.

Federici, S. (2004) Caliban and the witch. Autonomedia.

Dunne, S., N. Campbell and A. Bradshaw (eds.) (2013) ʻThe politics of consumptionʼ, ephemera: theory & politics in organization, 13(2).

Egan-Wyer, C., S. L. Muhr, A. Pfeiffer and P. Svensson (2014) ‘The ethics of the brand’, ephemera: theory & politics in organization, 14(1).

Gorz, A. (1985) Paths to paradise: On the liberation from work. London: Pluto.

Korczynski, M. (2007) ‘HRM and the menu society’ in S. Bolton and M. Houlihan (eds.) Searching for the human in human resource management. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.

Kornberger, M. (2010) Brand society: How brands transform management and lifestyle. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Lair, D. J., K. Sullivan and G. Cheney (2005) ‘Marketization and the recasting of the professional self: The rhetoric and ethics of personal branding’, Management Communication Quarterly, 18(3): 307-343.

Land, C. and S. Taylor (2010) ‘Surf’s up: Life, work, balance and brand in a New Age capitalist organization’, Sociology, 44(3): 395-413.

Lazzarato, M. (1996) ‘Immaterial labor’ in P. Virno and M. Hardt (eds.) Radical thought in Italy: A potential politics. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.

Lopdrup-Hjorth, T., M. Gudmand-Høyer, P. Bramming and M. Pedersen (eds.) (2011) ‘Governing work through self-management’, ephemera: theory & politics in organization, 11(2).

Moten, F. (2003) In the break: The aesthetics of the black radical tradition. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.

Murtola, A.-M. and P. Fleming (eds.) (2011) ‘The business of truth: Authenticity, capitalism and the crisis of everyday life’, ephemera: theory & politics in organization, 11(1).

Patsiaouras, G. and J. Fitchett (2010) ‘The wolf of Wall Street: Re-imagining Veblen for the 21st century’, European Advances in Consumer Research, 9(6): 214-218.

Pettinger, L. (2004) ‘Brand culture and branded workers: Service work and aesthetic labour in fashion retail’, Consumption, Markets and Culture, 7(2): 165-184.

Rai, S. (2010) ‘Depletion and social reproduction’, Working Paper 274/11, Centre for the Study of Globalisation and Regionalisation, Department of Politics and International Studies, University of Warwick.

Rieder, K. and G. Voß (2010) ‘The working customer – an emerging new type of consumer’, Psychology of Everyday Activity, 3 (2): 2-10.

Russell, S. (2011) ‘Internalizing the brand? Identity regulation and resistance at Aqua-Tilt’ in M. Brannan, C. Priola and E. Parsons (eds.) Branded Lives: The production and consumption of identity at work. Cheltenham: Edward Elgar.

Virno, P. (2005) Grammar of the multitude. New York: Semiotext.



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