Mother Died Today or Maybe Yesterday: Reflections of L'Etranger on Team-based Forms of Work Organisation

T. Wallace

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (journal)peer-review


One of the most enduring images of late twentieth‐century popular culture was the individualist and iconoclastic portrayal of the ‘grumpy old man’ Victor Meldrew in the BBC television series One Foot in the Grave. Richard Wilson's portrayal of the recently retired security worker is the antithesis of everything that contemporary organizations require from the idealized vision of employee as ‘team‐player’. As one who revels in the way that the epitaph ‘Victor’ is thrown at me at regular intervals both by my partner and children, at times when I think I am behaving normally, I thought it would be interesting for me to reflect, in public, on my relationship to contemporary workplace relations. It is my contention that Meldrew's characterization is not wholly based around the age dimension but is equally based upon his portrayal as an individual ill at ease with the mores of gregariousness. The essay therefore is a self‐reflective piece in which the author places himself in a particular milieu—that of L'etranger and uses this ‘placing’ in order to discuss the relationship between what he defines as ‘the outsider’ and the issue of age discrimination in contemporary blue‐collar environments. It is suggested that whilst the outsider or L'etranger is accepted under certain conditions within the managerial labour process this same level of organizational tolerance is not afforded to older workers within blue‐collar areas. It moves from a reflective, even autodidactic exploration of the relationship between the author and cultural articulations of L'etranger and uses this to inform an analysis of the acceptance of L'etranger within some aspects of the managerial labour within team based manufacturing units. In exploring these issues the essay then attempts to develop a third narrative in terms of now L'etranger, approaching the age of retirement fits in to the new academic labour process.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)337-347
JournalCulture and Organization
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2007


  • Reflectivity
  • Work Organisation
  • Labour Process
  • Age. Outsider
  • Manufacturing


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