Materials for Teaching, Research and Policy Making



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KEY WORDS: Unions; Corporations; Organizational Structure; Organizational Change; Hiring Practices; Interorganizational Networks.

Osterman, P. (2000). Securing prosperity: The American labor market: How it has changed and what to do about it. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.


This book suggests that the recent US prosperity is built on the ruins of the once reassuring postwar labor market. Today, workers can no longer expect stable, full-time jobs and steadily rising incomes. Instead they face stagnant wages, layoffs, rising inequality, and the increased likelihood of merely temporary work. Osterman attempts to explain why these changes have occurred and lays out an innovative plan for new economic institutions that promises a more secure future. He argues that new policies must engage on two fronts: addressing both higher rates of mobility in the labor market and a major shift in the balance of power against employees.
KEY WORDS: Labor Market; Trade-Unions; Industrial Relations; Economic Conditions; Economic Policy; United States; Organizational Change.

Osterman, P., Kochan, T. A., Locke, R. M., & Piore, M. J. (Eds.). (2002). Working in America: A blueprint for the new labor market. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.


This book represents nearly three years of deliberation by more than 250 people drawn from business, labor, community groups, academia, and government. It provides a historical context from today's labor-market policy and laws back to the New Deal and to a second wave of social regulation that began in the 1960s. Underlying the current economic system are assumptions about who is working, what workers do, and how much job security workers enjoy. Economic and social changes have made those assumptions invalid and have resulted in mismatches between labor institutions and efficient and equitable deployment of the workforce, as well as between commitments to the labor market and family responsibilities.
KEY WORDS: Labor Market; Manpower Policy; United States; Change.

Owens, R. (2002). Decent work for the contingent workforce in the new economy. Australian Journal of Labour Law, 15(3), 209-234.


The author examines whether the Australian safety net is an adequate protection of decent work and life. The author focuses primarily on a new regulatory strategy for the protection of basic workplace rights and entitlements, that of providing some casual workers with the opportunity to convert to ongoing employment.
KEY WORDS: Contingent Workers; Australia; Employment Change.

Pasi, P. (2003). Knowledge work in distributed environments: Issues and illusions. New Technology, Work and Employment, 18(3), 116-180.


Even though Finland has a sophisticated technological infrastructure and is one of the most advanced and competitive economics in the world, only four per cent of Finnish wage earners see themselves as doing telework. Moreover, only four per cent had tried telework. This paper presents empirical evidence of telework.
KEY WORDS: Finland; Telework; Knowledge Workers.

Peters, K. (2001). Individual autonomy in new forms of work organization. Concepts and Transformation, 6(2), 141-158.


In this article we see new management methods attempting to reproduce the performance dynamics of self-employed entrepreneurs among their "regular" employees. In order for this to be successful, the system of command and control must be replaced by a system of indirect control, which makes the autonomous free will of the individual employee instrumental to the company's purpose. Works councils and trade unions are then confronted with an entirely new situation. These organizations now have to render ineffectual the conventional means of conflict with which they are inclined to react to its negative consequences. The article concludes that to cope with this challenge an agreement must be reached on an understanding of autonomy and the changes it encounters, along with the changes in forms of management itself.
KEY WORDS: Management Styles; Management; Organizational Culture; Work Organization; Worker Control; Autonomy; Organizational Change.

Piore, M., & Safford, S. (2006). Changing regimes of workplace governance, shifting axes of social mobilization, and the challenge to industrial relations theory. Industrial Relations, 45(3), 299-325.


Challenging prevailing views about the collapse of the New Deal industrial relations system and the role of the market, this article argues that the old system has been replaced not by the market but by an employment rights regime. In this new regime the rules of the workplace are imposed by law, judicial opinions, and administrative rulings, supported by intra-firm mechanisms that are responsive to the law but also are susceptible to employee pressures, both individual and collective. The emergence of this regime is the product of a shift in the axes of social and political mobilization from mobilization around economic identities rooted in class, industry, occupation, and enterprise to identities external to the workplace including sex, race, ethnicity, age, disability, and sexual orientation. This shift reflects the decline in the model of social and economic organization upon which the collective bargaining regime was built and a transformation in understandings of the nature of industrial society and its direction of evolution in history. The authors argue that their interpretation poses a challenge to the conceptual tools used in industrial relations to understand the issues of work and to frame the public policy debate.
KEY WORDS: Industrial Relations; Identity; Subjectivity; Class; Occupation; Sex; Disability; New Deal; Welfare State; Labour Law.

Portes, A. (2003). The enduring importance of social class: A nominalist interpretation. Estudios Sociologicos, 21(61), 11-54.


This article advocates the use of the concept of social class and constructs a more flexible interpretation based on the usefulness of various definitions for the analysis of different aspects of social realities. It is a typological illustration of North American class structures based exclusively on the criteria of wealth possession. This typology is applied to the analysis of two specific topics: industrial restructuring processes and labor migration.
KEY WORDS: Social Class; Sociological Theory; Theoretical Problems; Nominalism; Social Structure; Social Stratification; North America; Employment Changes; Labor Migration.

Reed, M. I. (2001). Organization, trust and control: A realist analysis. Organization Studies. Special Issue: Trust and control in organizational relations, 22(2), 201-228.


This article presents a critical realist analysis of trust/control relations within and between complex organizations. It suggests that trust/control relations are most usefully seen as structures of interrelated "positioned-practices" which generate, shape and constrain the development of contrasting forms of expert power in a number of organizational contexts. The article begins with a general overview of a number of currently influential theoretical perspectives on trust/control relations in social and organizational analysis, and then proceeds to advance a critical realist analysis of trust/control relations as generative mechanisms that govern, but do not determine, the production, reproduction and transformation of expert power. The significance of this realist analysis is demonstrated by the limited number of historical and institutional case studies on expert technologies and practices.
KEY WORDS: Organizations; Realism (Philosophy); Social Control; Trust (Social Behavior); Analysis; Change.

Reynolds, J. (2006). Teams, teams, everywhere? Job and establishment-level predictors of team use in the United States. Social Science Research, 35(1), 252-278.


Research on the adoption of employee involvement (EI) has tended to focus on the firm level although EI is usually not used on an establishment-wide basis. In this paper the author offers alternative perspective by using multi-level models to examine how one form of EI (teams) is used at the job level. Using data from the NOS-II, the study finds that patterns of team use are more consistent with the predictions of evolutionary economics and devaluation theory than with the power-process perspective or the humanistic ideals that dominate EI rhetoric. Particularly, teams with basic decision-making powers are most common in jobs that demand high levels of human capital or have few non-white employees. The author admits more research will be needed to fully examine the connection between EI and inequality, but suggests that, despite their potential for good, teams may be increasing inequality or threatening the job rewards that human capital often brings.
KEY WORDS: Employee Involvement; Autonomy; Discretion; Teamwork; Inequality; Human Capital.

Rifkin, J. (2001). The age of access: The new culture of hypercapitalism, where all of life is a paid-for experience. New York: Tarcher/Putnam.


Using examples from business and government experiments with just-in-time access to goods and services and resource sharing, this book defines a new society of renters who are too busy breaking the shackles of material possessions to mourn the passing of public property. Are we encouraging alienation or participation? Can we trust corporations with stewardship of our social lives? True to form, the author asks more questions than he answers. If property is theft, leased access is extortion, and this book warns us of the complex changes coming in our relationships with our homes, our communities, and our world.
KEY WORDS: Electronic Commerce; Social Aspects; Electronic Data Interchange; Business; Computer Networks; Internet; Economic Aspects; Social Change; Change.

Rikowski, R. (2004). On the impossibility of determining the length of the working-day for intellectual labour. Information for Social Change, 19, 52-60.


This article will explore, specifically, the length of the working day for the labourer, and will demonstrate the impossibility of determining the length of the working-day for intellectual labour. The author suggests that the concept of the working-day becomes meaningless in the knowledge revolution. Thus, an appreciation and an understanding of Marx's concept of the working-day is needed, having arrived at this understanding, the authors then need to appreciate the fact that the concept actually starts to lose its meaning and significance in the advanced stage of capitalism that we are now in.
KEY WORDS: Knowledge Workers; Work Quality; Work Day; Intellectual Labour; Organizational Change.
Seymour, N. (2002). Copreneurs. CELCEE Digest. Kansas City, MO: Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, Center for Entrepreneurial Leadership.
"Copreneurship" occurs when couples begin their own business and partner in self-employment ventures. It is the fastest-growing segment of family-based businesses, with husband-and wife teams constituting the most visible and most researched category of copreneurs. Copreneurs tend to be older, more likely to live in suburban or rural areas, and more highly educated than compared with conventional dual-earning couples. Like other self-employed individuals, copreneurs have more flexibility in setting their own schedules, which provides distinct advantages in many aspects of personal life. However, copreneurs tend to work more hours than other couples, and like other entrepreneurs, they have less security than workers in typical corporate or salaried jobs --especially since both partners are self-employed. The most difficult issue for copreneurs is contending with pursuing the parallel life goals of running a successful business and maintaining a successful relationship. Although men most often assume the leading role in copreneurial ventures, increasing numbers of females are assuming the leading role as well. The number of copreneurs is expected to rise as more people strive for greater flexibility in managing work and family, increased jobs satisfaction, and more personal time.
KEY WORDS: Employment Patterns; Dual Career Family; Employed Parents; Employment Problems; Entrepreneurship; Family Financial Resources; Family Life; Foreign Countries; National Surveys; Trend Analysis; Work Environment; Canada; Family Owned Businesses; United States; Employment Change.

Smith, V. (1997). New forms of work organization. Annual Review of Sociology, 23, 315-339.


This is a review of social science literature on the organizational innovations and staffing practices associated with new flexible forms of work. The review reveals a model of uneven flexibility, characterized by the differential distribution of opportunities across groups of US workers. These opportunities have emerged under conditions in which effort is intensified, control is decentered, and employment is destabilized. This new flexible model is contradictory in that it is both a progressive, enabling, high-performance approach, and a coercive, restrictive, low-performance approach. Although involvement and empowerment are key to the new models, their achievement requires workers to participate in organizational mechanisms of multifaceted and decentered systems of control that reproduce hierarchical features of traditional control systems.
KEY WORDS: Work Organization; Part-Time Employment; Employment Changes; Dislocated Workers; Labor Process; Social Inequality; United States of America; Sociological Research.

Smith, V. (2001). Crossing the great divide: Worker risk and opportunity in the new economy. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press.


The 1990s were years of turmoil and change in American work experiences and employment relationships. Trends including the growth of contingent labor, the reduction of stable employment contracts, the restructuring of jobs and companies, and the emergence of opportunity-enhancing employee participation programs impacted occupations, career paths, and labor market opportunities. The author analyzes this shift, asking how workers navigated their way across the divide between bad jobs and good jobs, between jobs organized hierarchically and jobs requiring greater worker involvement, and between temporary and stable work. The author uses original case study data from four diverse organizational settings around the country. She compares the situations of nonunionized, white-collar workers at a photocopy service firm; unionized blue-collar workers in a wood-products processing factory; temporary assemblers and clerical workers in a high-tech firm; and unemployed managers, technical workers, and professionals participating in a job search club.
KEY WORDS: Sociology of Work; Economics & Finance; Changes in Paid Work.

Smith, V. (2006). The end of work: The decline of the global labor force and the dawn of the post-market era, updated for the 1st century. Work and Occupations, 33(3), 303-306.


Jeremy Rifkin's 1995 book, The End of Work, has recently been reissued, “updated for the 21st century.” Rifkin's prediction of how changing technologies will displace workers and lead to massive global unemployment by the mid-21st century has been repeatedly cited by many academics, policy makers, and members of the public. This essay revisits Rifkin's argument, asking, “How well does it stand a decade later?” The author contends that although The End of Work will continue to generate lively debate, it doesn't provide a defensible sociological guide for understanding work trends and, in fact, probably never should have been viewed as one.
KEY WORDS: Business literature; Teamwork (Workplace); Downsizing (Management); Change.

Steinberg, R., & Figart, D. M. (1999). Emotional labor since the managed heart. Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, 561(1), 8-26.


Arlie Russell Hochschild coined the phrases emotional labour and emotion work, in her well known book, The Managed Heart (1983). She described emotional labour as requiring personal contact such as face-to-face or voice-to-voice contact, on behalf of an organization. She researched flight attendants and to a lesser extent, bill collectors, in the U.S. airline industry.

In this opening article of a volume dedicated to research in emotional labour, Steinberg and Figart reflect on Hochschild's original research and discuss the interdisciplinary expansion of research in this area since. An overview of research using qualitative and quantitative methodologies and analysis in fields from household work, paid child care, nursing, policing, retail and therapy is provided. Since 1983 the research in emotional labour has generally occurred in sociology, psychology (related especially to burnout in various occupations) and organizational development. Within sociology, research has spanned paid and unpaid work and emphasized the gendered nature of emotional labour. In organizational development, scholars have discussed managerial processes of recruitment, retention and productivity of employees as associated with managing employees' emotions. Paid work involving emotional labour has been systemically feminized and associated with lower compensation. This essay provides an introduction to the volume and an overview of the research landscape in both paid and unpaid emotional labour.


KEY WORDS: Emotional Labour; Gender; Division of Labour.
Suchman, L. A. (2002). Practice-based design of information systems: Notes from the hyperdeveloped world. The Information Society, 18(2), 139-144.
Reflections on information systems design based in daily practices. From experience in what is name the hyperdeveloped world of industrial research and development in the United States, the author outlines a series of concerns, organized under the themes of information flows, local improvisations, and work practices. The author then offers alternative understandings of change and innovation that underwrite a practice based design approach. These include a view of innovation as indigenous to technologies-in-use, emphasizing investments needed to create sustainable change, & an orientation to artful integration for information systems design.
KEY WORDS: Information Technology; Research and Development; Systems; United States of America; Technological Innovations; Sustainable Development; Change.

Taylor, R. (2004). Extending conceptual boundaries: Work, voluntary work and employment. Work, Employment and Society, 18(1), 29-49.


Work has been conceptualized as confined to paid employment and when juxtaposed against unpaid labour, the dichotomy has been oversimplified in social theory. Such traditional notions devalue the experience of people who juggle several jobs, including voluntary work and balancing family life with non-standard employment. Typically, voluntary work has been excluded from sociological research on work. This article examines the lives of five volunteers from two voluntary sector organizations and suggests that the conceptual boundaries of work be extended in a framework of the 'total social organization of labour' informed by Glucksmann. Such a framework acknowledges the relational and interconnected forms of work in different spheres, differentiates paid and unpaid work by virtue of the setting and valorizes work more broadly than activity for economic benefit. Taylor suggests that by conceptualizing labour more broadly, the complexity of work life and social identity can be more effectively explored and understood.
KEY WORDS: Employment Fields; Informal Economic Activity; Unpaid Work; Voluntary.

Thompson, P. (2003). Disconnected capitalism: Or why employers can't keep their side of the bargain. Work, Employment and Society, 17(2), 359-378.


One of the central problems for critical materialist analysis is how to reengage with a larger canvas while avoiding both the non-empirical metatheorizing characteristic of much recent post-modern social theory and the teleological and totalizing grand narratives that disfigured previous perspectives. The pursuit of a complete picture of capitalist political economy and its relations with the spheres of work and employment, may, in other words, have inherent limitations and, to the extent that it can be achieved, come, not from a total analysis, but the combination of smaller pictures, and from analyses that start at different levels. This article has been a contribution to thinking about ways of assembling the tools for creating such a picture.
KEY WORDS: Critical Materialism; Post-modern Theory; Social Theory; Narratives; Capitalist Political Economy; Work and Employment.

Twiname, L. J., Humphries, M., & Kearins, K. (2006). Flexibility on whose terms? Journal of Organizational Change Management, 19(3), 335-355.


This study, examining a single firm, finds that flexible employment arrangements utilised did not provide protection to core workers as theory suggests. Both core and peripheral workers were exposed to pressure to extend hours of work and to reduce their expectations regarding pay and benefits. Rising production levels did not lead to increases in numbers of core workers, rather perceptions around job security were low. Core workers felt pressure to work extended hours out of their commitment to the firm, each other, and to maintain employment.
KEY WORDS: Flexibility, Flexible Labour, Labour Utilization, New Zealand, Occupational Health and Safety.

Vallas, S. (2006). Empowerment redux: Structure, agency, and the remaking of managerial authority. American Journal of Sociology, 111(6), 1677-1717.


Vallas argues that the study of management restructuring has neglected the issue of human agency, specifically the nature of workers' responses to new forms of work organization. The ethnographic study examines five manufacturing plants, focusing on the nature and effects of workers' responses to the changes they confront in their work situations. Although the data suggest ways in which outcomes rested on structural attributes, ethnographic evidence also suggest workers' agency impacted on workplace transformation in subtle yet decisive ways. The author develops a fourfold typology of workers' responses, providing examples of how each type affected the path down which workplace change evolved. These findings suggest that workplace transformation should be approached as a relational phenomenon.
KEY WORDS: Labour process; LPT; Agency; Social Relations of Production; Restructuring; Managerial Strategies; Ethnography.

Vallas, S. P. (1999). Rethinking post-Fordism: The meaning of workplace flexibility. Sociological Theory, 17(1), 68-101.


Social scientists increasingly claim that work structures based on the mass production or Fordist paradigm have grown obsolete and they have given way to a more flexible, post-Fordist work structure. There is much disagreement over these claims, however. This article reorients this debate by subjecting the post-Fordist approach to theoretical & empirical critique. In doing so, it identifies several theoretical weaknesses, like for example, its uncertain handling of power & efficiency; its failure to acknowledge multiple responses to the crisis of Fordism, several of which seem at odds with the post-Fordist paradigm; and its tendency to neglect the resurgence of economic dualism & disparity in organizations & industries. A review of the empirical literature suggests that, despite scattered support for the post-Fordist approach, important anomalies exist that post-Fordism seems unable to explain. Despite its ample contributions, post-Fordist theory provides a distorted guide to the nature of workplace change in the US. Two alternative perspectives are sketched - neoinstitutionalist & flexible accumulation models. Both seem likely to inspire more fruitful lines of research on the disparate patterns currently unfolding in US work organizations.
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