Anteby, M. (2003) 'The "Moralities" of Poaching. Manufacturing personal artefacts on the factory floor', Ethnography 4 (2): 217 -- 39.
[This is about poaching in the same sense that deCerteau uses it, and about a practice he says is called 'perruque' -- manufacturing your own goods while pretending to be doing your job. Anteby also uses the term 'homers', on the grounds that you get sent home if you caught doing it. There are scores of other local terms including 'government jobs'. [In British dockyards, pilfered goods from work, like tins of paint or screws, are known as 'rabbits', possibly because in the old days you were allowed to take home rabbits that roamed the yards]. The argument here is that these activities are connected to traditional work rather than simply being a form of resistance as deCerteau argues. What is interesting for our purposes is that manufacturing goods for your own use can also be seen as a kind of 'serious leisure'].
These activities are not strictly speaking theft since 'nothing of material value is stolen', although company accountants might disagree. Homers are not usually sold, and where they are, this attracts disapproval or the need for some elaborate disguise. Theoretically, 'dreams, fantasies and other intangible objects might be thought of as variants of homers' (219). Examples of goods made include '"key holders, bases for flower pots, ashtrays, pencil boxes... bath mats... pendants... dice... television aerials... knives, daggers, knuckle-dusters and so on" (Haraszti 1978)' (219). The practice seems widespread, although half- concealed. It looks as if perruque displays [leisure] values that are opposite to those of formal work, although in fact there is more connection [just as with serious leisure]. Studying poaching can give insight into normal working activities. [There is also material that could well be seen as 'neutralisation techniques' -- rationalisations deployed by deviants or risk-takers -- see Natalier].
The practice is difficult to study, and only two informants provide the basis of the case study (French aerospace industry). The company denied access. One respondent made parts for his boat, or a useful shovel, or parts for his barbecue while at work. It is clear that these activities require collaboration and the help of fellow workers. Highly skilled craftsmen are in particular demand. Sometimes workers will take over a colleague's job, or get help to falsify their work records, to give them time to poach. Poaching is a sign that you belong to an unofficial work community, and is the equivalent of gaining a perk. Sometimes links between individuals cross official hierarchies and work divisions, as when an office worker agrees to type minutes of a [parent-teacher in this case] meeting for a manual worker.
The activity also creates new social ties and obligations [as does gift-giving more generally]. Newcomers are initiated into the practices, including when unofficial use of machinery is tolerated by supervisors. It is interesting that those workers who are dismissed for poaching are nearly always marginal to the informal community, implying some work force acquiescence. [Anteby implies that this is also because supervisors are involved, and uses these points to suggest that poaching is not just about worker resistance, since 'bosses were often in the loop' (227), but this can also indicate a far more sinister management policy of allowing people to take away goods they have made until redundancies are necessary or until militants have to be expelled]. The shifting attitudes when someone is dismissed indicates the flexibility of the 'cognitive frames' involved (227).
This community extends to people outside, including people who benefit from acquiring the goods. Ambiguity exists here as well. From one example, managers actually asked workers to produce toy replicas of aircraft as corporate gifts, but this made poaching into part of a job, and 'Unveiling hidden practices disturbs' (227). Similarly, producing homers and then selling them is also seen as doubtful, and generally 'Monetary issues seem to negatively taint homer production processes' (228). It is also not appropriate to give homers to outsiders as a form of barter.
This ambiguity arises because poaching requires mutual dependence of workers. In other words, it becomes 'a highly moral activity' in Durkheim's sense (229). It involves 'fair treatment, intimate exchanges and non-monetary dealings' (229). This morality is never properly defined, but is enforced by the community of poachers. One example is that valued workers will often get a spectacular homer from their workmates as a retirement gift. A rational calculative framework 'is strongly denied' (230), although exchange does take place in the form of 'a drink' [exactly the same euphemism seems to be deployed in Britain where you 'buy someone a drink' in return for a favour -- my partner never understood that this was not always to be taken literally]: the bigger the favour, the more prestigious the 'drink', which can sometimes be a meal. Bourdieu (Pascalian Meditations) has also shown how the apparent contradiction between altruistic gifts and an informal exchange mechanism needs to be managed -- for example, by allowing time to elapse before the favour is returned.
There is also the notion of 'perceived fairness' (231). This may or may not conflict with official notions in the factory -- sometimes workers cross official hierarchies as above, but official hierarchies of skill differences and their relation with respect can also be seen to be reinforced. Official hierarchies can also intervene if and when management disapprove. Other workers may also disapprove, although this is hard to research.
Overall, poaching co-exists with official work, sometimes antagonistically, but mostly in the sense that one is a hidden activity. Moral implications do not usually challenge official hierarchies, including formal exchange mechanisms or official management. However, poaching is an integral aspect of work and should be studied as a necessary component of it, instead of reducing it to its official functions only. White collar forms, including perks, should also be studied. However, these distinctions between activities and their relative risk need studying -- 'several moralities co-exist' [and can come into conflict presumably, although Anteby insists that there are ambiguities within each moral system] (234). Complementary moralities are required for the system to function [in a way which does not challenge politically the social order of the factory].
[It also strikes me that other forms of exchange which apparently challenge the commodity form, including voluntary work , barter or the informal economy, or even deliberately non-monetary systems like those involved in the exchange of local tokens, can all be seen as co-existing as well as challenging the official system. see Williams]
NB There is a useful bibliography and a nice annotated list of key work in this field
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