Flexible work and disciplined selves : telework, gender and discourses of subjectivity : a thesis presented in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Sociology at Massey University
Home-based work employing information and communications technologies (telework) is held up in contemporary academic literatures, policy formulations and the popular media as the cure to a panoply of contemporary problems, particularly the difficulties of combining caring responsibilities and careers. This thesis takes up the question of how teleworkers talk about and practise home-based business. It pivots on the exploration of the simultaneity of parenting, partnering and paid work for home-based business people. The 'teleworking tales' of eleven home-based entrepreneurs form the heart of the thesis, as they discuss their negotiation of 'home' and 'work' where the usual temporal and spatial boundaries between these arenas are removed. While previous studies assume that telework is 'family-friendly', most do not investigate the perspectives of other family members on the effect of home-based business on their households and relationships. This thesis speaks into this silence in the literature by contextualising telework within family relations, including as participants the partners, children and child care workers of the eleven home-based businesswomen and men, interviewing thirty people in all. Three strands of analysis regarding discourses of the organisation, domesticity and entrepreneurship were pursued in relation to these 'teleworking tales'. It was found that these 'tales' were told differently by teleworking women and men, the women focusing on the untenable nature of continued organisational employment as women and mothers, while the men established home-based businesses because of declining employment security and redundancy. In the midst of these constituting relations, the discursive injunction to be a 'fit worker' and a 'good parent' had different implications for the women and men; where as the women negotiated home-based entrepreneurship through domesticity, the men navigated their way around domesticity in order to maintain a singular focus on their businesses. The effect of the cross-cutting axes of domesticity and entrepreneurship significantly curtailed the opportunity for teleworking to represent a new crafting of the relationship between 'home' and 'work' as teleworkers negotiated the simultaneous demands their families and businesses made upon them. It was also the case that home-based businesses were a source of pleasure and of productive forms of power which encouraged home-based entrepreneurs to watch over and discipline themselves. The research unfolds as both a warning and a promise with regard to the 'choice' to telework, in terms of what is 'chosen' and how that is 'controlled'. It is particularly a contribution to current debates regarding the complex patterning of gendered and familial practices which continually fragment the freedoms promised by the discourse of entrepreneurship.