sociology of work


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sociology of work

a branch of sociology concerned with the attitudes, behaviour and relationships of those engaged in productive activity. As such, it has a number of levels of concern: the individual WORKER, the work GROUP, the ORGANIZATION and society. Traditionally the subject was known as industrial sociology and tended to focus on the attitudes and behaviour of production workers in industry. In recent years its subject matter has widened to take account of the shifts in occupational structure and the importance of work activities conducted outside formal employment (for example DOMESTIC LABOUR).

Industrial sociology emerged in the 1930s with the HAWTHORNE STUDIES. These studies were concerned with the social determinants of job behaviour, especially worker productivity. A notable feature of the Hawthorne studies was the (at the time) novel finding that JOB SATISFACTION was strongly influenced by the social experience of work and that satisfaction was itself an important determinant of worker output. These studies also highlighted the importance of GROUP influences on individual behaviour. Subsequent research in the new discipline was concerned with deepening the analysis of group dynamics and development, and with pinpointing more precisely the determinants of job satisfaction. For a while technological determinism – the notion that technology is the dominant influence on attitudes and behaviour – held sway (see ALIENATION). However, in the 1950s and 1960s, a growing body of thought suggested that there was no necessary relationship between technology and the social organization of work (see SOCIOTECHNICAL SYSTEM, JOB DESIGN AND REDESIGN) and hence a given type of technology could be used in various ways with varying effects on worker satisfaction. In addition sociologists came to appreciate the importance of individuals' expectations and requirements from work in determining their assessment of the quality of work experience (see ORIENTATIONS TO WORK).

In recent years the subject matter of the sociology of work has changed somewhat. Radical commentators have shifted the discipline to some extent to focus more explicitly on the structure of the relationship between employees and employers, and the inequities that flow from this. Arguing that the relationship is essentially one of exploitation, ‘labour process’ writers have argued that we need to examine the whole process by which employers achieve the ‘subordination’ of labour. In other words, how do employers control their workforces? It has been argued that there is a long-run tendency for employers to use the principle of SCIENTIFIC MANAGEMENT to reduce their reliance on workers' skills and independent thought. Control of labour is to be achieved by reducing workers to simple ‘cogs in the machine’. Critics have argued that many managements lack this degree of planning, and that workers resist such objectives anyway. Both radical sociologists and their critics share, however, a concern with CONFLICT at work and its sources.

In response to the growing participation of women in paid employment in recent years, sociologists have come to examine the characteristics of gender relationships at work, focusing especially on the inequalities of work and its rewards between the sexes, as well as the interrelationship between work and broader societal experiences. In addition, changes in the labour market – the decline of manufacturing employment, for instance – have generally caused sociologists to widen their focus from (male) production workers in paid employment to all kinds of work activity. See also ANOMIE, LABOUR FLEXIBILITY, FLEXIBLE SPECIALIZATION, HOMEWORKING, PART-TIME WORK.

References in periodicals archive ?
Located at the intersection of cultural studies, gender studies and the sociology of work, Melissa Gregg's book shows 'the extent to which new media technology encourages and exacerbates an older tendency among salaried professionals--to put their work at the heart of daily concerns, often at the expense of all other sources of intimacy and fulfillment' (p.
Later chapters present excerpts of research and writings by MacLean, grouped in sections on women and the sociology of work and occupations, women's labor unions and the feminist pragmatist welfare state, women's organizations and the sociology of social movements, and the sociology of immigration and race relations, disability, and teaching.
For this reason, among others, it would make an excellent text for students in sociology of work, sociology of education, labour studies and related courses.
My interest went into high gear as I thought through just some of the implications of this study for gender theory, sociology of work, sociology of families, and social policy.
He specializes in the sociology of work and culture.
We now face the transition from a Taylor-type of work structure or Fordism, as is called in sociology of work terms, to models more appropriate for an information-driven society.
However, what it also did at the time was to relegate the sociology of work and organization to essentially structural considerations, with individual workers degraded as reactive, often stereotypical operatives, agents of classes, aggregates, or status groups.
The marked exception was, of course, in Quebec, where the sociology of work made significant contributions to the study of public administration.
Brave New Workplace is not just a text about industrial relations but also the sociology of work in Australia.
When Audrey Wipper, PhD, editor of "The Sociology of Work in Canada," asked him what date he became chairman of the Department of Sociology at McGill, he couldn't remember.
I would recommend the book to students of public policy, sociology of work, economics, and social-service administration.
Redundancy and paternalist capitalism: A study in the sociology of work.