This paper offers an account of empowerment as an ideological construct. Rejecting management accounts of empowerment as limiting and logically inconsistent, the paper offers a dynamic analysis of empowerment as an essentially ambiguous concept. Based principally upon an analysis of two case studies undertaken in US automobile plants, the paper attempts to explore the specifics of two empowering initiatives. Through this analysis the paper attempts to explore the ways in winch managers have attempted to make use of this ambiguity in order to construct a particular discourse on empowerment within these establishments. Yet the paper also attempts to analyse the limits and fragility of this process and deploys the concepts of "set overlap" and "interest space" to analyse these tensions.