The Walking Wounded: Employees' Perspectives on Mergers and Acquisitions

Document Type


Publication Date

Summer 1997


Several popular and academic works have reiterated Marx's concern over the issue of social class polarization in capitalist societies. Marx characterized this polarization as the increasing concentration of wealth and poverty in the upper and lower classes, respectively, coupled with a disappearing middle class. Building on these ideas, other work suggests a process of fragmented polarization with an increasing economic, political, social, and psychological diversity within each social class. This paper illustrates this process of class fragmentation, and shows that even though the upper class is gaining overall, there are segments which are beginning to feel the effects of economic restructuring. We address corporate restructuring in the form of mergers and acquisitions and how upper-and-middle managers perceive these processes and outcomes. We conducted 33 interviews with individuals from different organizational levels, involved in four different mergers or acquisitions. We focus on the meaning these individuals attribute to these processes and changes. Although most respondents remained with the new company, all were faced with major changes in their work environment. Respondents often experienced a breach of social contract, a dramatically altered perception of managerial control and decision making, a shift from corporate loyalty to self-interest, and new forms of power and resistance. We conclude by discussing the implications of such class fragmentation, and suggest directions for future research and policy.




University of Texas Press

Publication Information

Sociological Inquiry