Company towns and the governmentality of desired identities

Elham Moonesirust* (Corresponding Author), Andrew D. Brown

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Citations (Scopus)
36 Downloads (Pure)


How do people living in a company town come to desire to work for the firm that controls it? Based on an in-depth case study of Volkswagen in Wolfsburg, Germany, we make two principal contributions. First, drawing on Foucault’s concept of governmentality we investigate the mechanisms of power within which desired identities are shaped. Desired identities, we argue, are one means by which organizations exercise control over local populations. Second, we examine the multiple interlocking discourses by which Volkswagen sought to regulate the life of Wolfsburgers and to form their desired identities. In doing so, we contribute to identity research by demonstrating how biopower and discipline work in combination in neoliberal societies to make the governmentality of employee identity possible. Our research underlines the importance of studying company towns for understanding the relations of power that shape the lives and the identities of employees.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)502-526
Number of pages25
JournalHuman Relations
Issue number4
Early online date13 Nov 2019
Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2021

Bibliographical note


We thank Yiannis Gabriel for his helpful comments on an earlier draft of this paper, the Editor-in-Chief, Nick Turner, and the four anonymous reviewers for their constructive feedback and thoughtful comments.


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  • desired identities
  • governmentality
  • Volksvagen
  • discourse
  • biopower
  • disciplinary power
  • company town
  • neoliberalism


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