A New Sociology of Work? (Sociological Review Monographs)
Pettinger, Lynne, Parry, Jane, Taylor, Rebecca and Glucksmann, Miriam
Blackwell Publishers, Oxford
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Given the significant social transformations of recent decades, this timely and fascinating book reassesses both the nature and definition of what constitutes 'work' - thereby moving beyond 'common sense' assumptions relating to full-time paid employment. This edited collection consists of 13 chapters subdivided into five sections, with contributions from sociologists at all stages of their careers.
Part one is entitled 'Conceptualizing Work', and in the introductory chapter the editors contextualise recent developments in work and their interconnections with broader social relations. By analysing these trends, this offers fresh insights into researching and theorising the social world. In chapter two, Miriam Glucksmann elaborates on her conceptual framework of the 'total social organisation of labour' by examining the multiple interconnections and temporalities of different forms of work activities. This chapter is articulately written, and her influential and insightful analysis is pivotal in framing a new sociology of work.
Part two focuses on re-examining paid employment. Pettinger's ethnographic research assesses how social networks both inside and outside the workplace influence the recruitment and retention of employees in the retail sector. In chapter four, Bottero challenges notions that social class is simply related to occupations and offers a broader approach to examine work-life trajectories and how they transform over time. Coyle investigates the use of flexible working in the NHS (National Health Service). In an excellent chapter, she illustrates how this is creating an intensification of work, with new inequalities over time that are classed and gendered.
Forms of work undertaken in the private domain are considered in part three, together with their linkages to paid employment. In contrast to the previous chapter, Dermott researches the experiences of fathers in balancing paid employment with childcare responsibilities. There are stark gender differences in terms of presenteeism at work conflicting with familial duties; however, this appears to be an exclusively middle class sample and such limitations must be accounted for. Class issues are at the fore of Reay's chapter, which examines the expectations placed upon families to be engaged in the schooling of their children at home. In an enthralling article, she explains that this is clearly gendered and these additional work pressures intensify existing class inequalities.
Part four addresses areas of work that are typically ignored. In chapter eight, Taylor examines the orientations and meanings of those undertaking voluntary work. This article is particularly interesting and, once again, a class dimension is evident, as she uncovers the use of cultural and symbolic capital by the middle class, often, for instrumental ends. In the following chapter, West and Austrin argue that prostitution is 'work' and consider how this can be regulated to protect the well-being of sex workers. In an absorbing chapter, Parry assesses the reconfiguration of community work in South Wales after the 1984/'85 miners' strike. By this, she is referring to work both in and for the community, and how this is being recreated involving a revival of collectivism, with the values of humanitarianism and self-help at its core.
The final section focuses on international studies. In chapter 11, Pat and Hugh Armstrong assess the Canadian health care sector and how privatisation is creating work intensification and new inequalities in both the workplace and the home. In comparative research across the European Union, Ungerson investigates the commodification of care as carers can be directly employed via 'routed wages', which creates new forms of employment and working relationships. In the closing chapter, Leon compares work-life balance policies in the UK and Spain, and highlights the emergence of new social inequalities that policy makers must address.
A New Sociology of Work? is an invigorating and important book that offers new insights into the centrality of 'work' and its impact on all aspects of our lives. I would, however, offer a note of caution regarding terms, such as, 'privatised' and 'non-market' that typically have other connotations. Nevertheless, this is an excellent collection that aims to position the sociology of work at the heart of the discipline, rather than merely confined to the margins.
Glasgow Caledonian University