Mitchell, L (2017) Dignity, meaningful work and the crowd. In: The 10th International Critical Management Studies (CMS) Conference, 3-5 Jul 2017, Liverpool. (Unpublished)

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This paper sets out to explore how in the search for faster and more versatile access to finance for startups and one-off projects, the use of crowdfunding platforms may be transforming the experience of a small number of work and workplaces. This high-technology mechanism of entrepreneurial engagement between companies and markets presents both opportunities for increased work autonomy, enhanced meaningful work relations and threats to the same. While primarily a conceptual paper, this discussion develops the grounding for an empirical study of rewards-based crowdfunding projects which examines the work experiences of project initiators. In the context of an emerging literature which concentrates on the success factors of platform fundraising, the role of social networks embedded in the platform architecture has begun to foreground how social context can now very rapidly and explicitly influence entrepreneurial ventures (Josefy et al 2016;Brunton et al 2014; Kraus et al 2016). This new focus on the social aspects of credit is a challenge to overly-rationalised portrayals of business and entrepreneurship and parallels findings on the significance of social standing and storytelling in peer-to-peer lending (Herzenstein et al 2011;Lin, Prabhala & Viswanathan 2012). Current literature concentrates primarily on project outcomes, however, and little attention has been devoted to the impact upon the day to day activities of workers, who may be entrepreneurs, temporary contractors or project managers within a larger organisation. Crowdfunding, as a variant of crowdsourcing, has the potential to engage a wide number of individuals in a given project. Surowiecki’s (2004) Wisdom of Crowds was an incredibly popular text and highlighted both the potential of collective contributions to problem solving and the paradoxical dangers to that objective of bringing crowds into too-close association. By contrast, much crowdfunding, and especially rewards-based crowdfunding, aims to develop ‘crowd capital’ and ‘leverage affect’ by engaging and developing a particular homogenised community (Leysham et al 2016) or to develop relations of reciprocity between entrepreneurs. Such social dynamics across a wide range of project starters will likely have a significant effect upon three key elements of workplace dignity; autonomy, meaningful work and workplace social relations. The connection of dignity to autonomy is a fundamental principle of the majority of contemporary work on dignity; and in the context of work relates explicitly to Kantian distinctions between price and value, means or end (Hodson 2001; Bolton 2007; Hicks 2011; Pirson & Dierksmeier 2014). However, the robustness of Kantian perspectives on autonomy as a basis for dignity have been critiqued, as have Kantian Business Ethics as a basis for meaningful work (Ciulla 2012; Mitchell 2014) on the basis of the relationality of persons and the asymmetry of workplace relations. While the principle of crowd-based technological platforms offers the promise of greater symmetry between actors, this paper explores the extent to which such a utopian vision is merely mythological.

Item Type: Conference or Workshop Item (Paper)
Divisions: Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences > Keele Management School
Depositing User: Symplectic
Date Deposited: 09 May 2017 13:12
Last Modified: 18 Jul 2017 10:27

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