Compliance as Resistance to Normative Control: Evidence from the Corporatisation of Science in New Zealand


  • Lesley Hunt Lincoln University



When the New Zealand Government restructured the system of the public funding of research (1990-1992) it created Crown Research Institutes (CRIs) as companies operating in a global, market-led economy. One CRI, YCo1 , responded to this environment by corporatisation and instituted a normative system of control of workers which, through strategic plans, vision and mission statements, and performance assessment processes, encouraged workers to adhere to company goals. This paper, reporting on an ethnographic study of this CRI, shows how most scientific workers (technical staff and scientists alike) experienced insecurity through estrangement because the contributions they wished to make were less valued both in society and in their work organisation. They were excluded from participation in both organisational and Government policy-making, and felt they did not 'belong' anymore. Scientists in particular were also experiencing alienation (in the Marxist sense), as they were losing autonomy over the production of their work and its end use. Scientific workers developed tactics in order to resist these experiences and ostensibly comply with organisational goals while maintaining and protecting their self-identities, and making their work meaningful. Meanwhile the work of the CRI continued.


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Author Biography

Lesley Hunt, Lincoln University

Environment, Society and Design Division