Chapter three examines work suicides at La Poste, situating these in the context of a restructuring strategy that sought to transform the company from a public service entity, underpinned by a notion of the general interest, to a commercial entity, driven by product sales. Whereas earlier reforms had modified external working methods and practices, the new phase of restructuring sought to transform workers themselves, targeting their ways of being, seeing and thinking. I draw on Michel Foucault’s conception of disciplinary surveillance to examine the management methods that were imposed across the company following its liberalisation. Whilst the company was freed of regulatory controls and administrative constraints, the individual employee was subject to intensified surveillance of everyday working activity. The chapter examines a corpus of suicide letters in which postal workers explain the causes and motivations of their self-killing. Many employees experienced restructuring as a cultural assault that undermined the values, meanings and ideals by which they had defined themselves and their place in the world. The case of La Poste shows that when company strategy transcends external working activity and targets the intimate, subjective and vulnerable resources of the person, this can have deleterious consequences for lived experiences of work.
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