Harm at Work: Bullying and Special Liberty in the Retail Sector

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This article draws upon a number of concepts from contemporary criminological theory to address bullying and violence in the workplace. Utilising empirical data from the UK service economy, the article argues that workplace violence includes verbal and emotional abuse and bullying. Management bullying, workplace cliques and the retail practice of ‘stealing sales’, within the organisational and political-economic context of targets, profitability, and competition, reflect cultural manifestations of economic imperatives and subjective motivations that can lead to harmful and problematic practice. In considering this evidence from an ultra-realist perspective, the article suggests that some subjects, libidinally invested in the corporate workplace’s symbolic order, believe themselves to possess the ‘special liberty’ to rise above normative codes and rules, as well as ethical obligations, in order to maximise self-interest through harmful actions that have negative consequences for co-workers. The workplace ‘bailiff’ reflects the complex interplay between political economy, culture and subjective motivation to act in harmful ways within the workplace.
Original languageEnglish
Article number0
Pages (from-to)669–683
Number of pages15
JournalCritical Criminology
Issue number0
Early online date10 Apr 2019
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 10 Apr 2019


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