Management and Organizational Studies Publications

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Winter 2014






Industrial Relations

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Using Kelly’s mobilisation theory (1998) to assess their propensity to collective action, this article examines where videogame developers stand regarding the representation of their interests. These workers are good examples of knowledge work in project-based organisations. If Kelly’s model allows in general for projections of unionisation in a given sector, we find this is not the case here. Rather, our study leads us to observe how much the labour market has changed since the elaboration of Kelly’s model, and how much these workers’ needs differ from the options laid out by traditional unions’ action as presented by Kelly. This group fulfills two conditions leading to collective action: it has identified shared working problems across the industry and it primarily attributes the responsibility of these to the management. Still, three important conditions hinder any coalition movement under Kelly’s model. For one, the group is divided on whether to define its interest in collective or individual terms. It is also divided regarding the degree of injustice or illegitimacy of the situations that they face. Moreover, when these workers make a cost/benefit analysis regarding collective action, any traditional enterprise-based certification and unionisation project poses many challenges. Therefore, Kelly’s model would not predict mobilization. However, in place of unionization, videogame developers practice their own types of collective action that allow them to come to terms with the constraints of their environment. This brings us to conclude that Kelly’s mobilization theory needs to be re-examined such that collective action is not limited to traditional union action.


This article is also available in French and available online at:

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