The New Sociology of Work?


November 2003 to March 2004

PSI researchers:

Background, summary and aims

Editorial committee: Rebecca Taylor, Jane Parry, Lynne Pettinger and Miriam Glucksmann

Other contributors: Pat and Hugh Armstrong, Terry Austrin, Wendy Bottero, Angela Coyle, Esther Dermott, Margarita de Leon, Diane Reay, Clare Ungerson, Jackie West

This project entails a collaborative venture between PSI, City and Essex Universities, which radically pushes forward ongoing examinations of contemporary work, through developing an empirically grounded understanding of the nature, dimensions and relations of work.  We have called this initiative ‘The New Sociology of Work?’ and it has brought together, for an ESRC-funded workshop in September 2003, a diverse group of academics whose research has in various ways been challenging existing definitions of work and the narrowly economistic research agenda.  The papers presented covered a broad range of substantive research areas, academic disciplines and method, and touched on themes such as:

  • the nature of work,
  • the social organisation of labour,
  • the blurred boundaries and interconnections between works forms and domains,
  • the embeddedness of work in other social relations,
  • the policy implications of widening work’s conceptual boundaries,
  • how work relations are lived and how they interweave with other social relations across time and space,
  • the implications of these critiques for understanding social class, social inequalities and identity

The aim of the day was to share ideas and to promote debate about how work might be thought about in new ways. We were concerned with reconfiguring the central questions in the academic study of work away from issues of labour process and management, towards a broader understanding of what constitutes work and how work 'fits' with other social relations and activities.

This work is ongoing, and it is envisaged that it will culminate in an edited collection.