Sociology Sociology of Work and Employment
by
Steve Vallas
  • LAST MODIFIED: 27 July 2011
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199756384-0057

Introduction

The sociology of work and employment is concerned with the social relations, normative codes, and organizational structures that inform the behavior, experience, and identities of people during the course of their working lives. “Work” has of course taken a wide array of institutional forms across different cultures and historical periods, ranging from forced or “unfree” labor (in prisons, slave systems, and other coercive contexts) to non-market work (subsistence farming or household labor) and wage labor or paid employment. The last of these has been viewed as the predominant form of production under modernity and has provided the central focus of the field. The field’s theoretical foundations reach back to the classical theories of Karl Marx, Max Weber, and Emile Durkheim; more recent inspiration is found in the perspectives of the Chicago School, feminist sociology, and social network analysis. Following World War II, industrial sociology flourished for a time, developing classic studies on systems of managerial authority, the informal group behaviors that govern workplace life, and the lines of conflict that arise as workers informally negotiate with their managers. Since then, the field has grown increasingly complex and internally differentiated. While much research has focused on the characteristics of workers’ jobs (such as changes in skill requirements or the closeness of supervision), other areas of concern have proliferated, including studies of new, post-bureaucratic forms of work organization; the influence of race and gender in shaping the allocation of workers into jobs and occupations; the distinctive features of service occupations; the operation of labor markets (whether within the firm or beyond its boundaries); and the relations between work organizations and their wider institutional environments. Sociologists of work and employment are most often found in academic departments of sociology, business schools, and governmental agencies concerned with equal employment opportunity.

Textbooks and Edited Collections

Relatively few textbooks have currency in this field, perhaps reflecting the uncertain boundaries and the turbulence shaping work, occupations, and the employment relation itself. Smaller texts have emerged that focus on selected aspects of workplace life, some of which offer provocative critiques of the nature and consequences of work under contemporary capitalism. Several readers are available that provide useful collections of classic and contemporary studies on work and organizations especially. The major textbook is Hodson and Sullivan 2002. A recent entry is Vallas, et al. 2009. Both are comprehensive overviews, devoted to various subfields, including sections on the historical meanings of work, the occupational structure, inequalities in the distribution of job rewards, marginal jobs, the high-technology workplace, and the changing nature of work in an era of global capitalism. Especially prominent expressions of such smaller texts are Sweet and Meiksins 2008, which focuses on the transformation of work and its consequences for workers’ interests, Sennett 1998, and Beck 2000. The latter two texts provide theoretically sophisticated analyses of work under contemporary capitalism. Both view the workplace as undergoing epochal shifts that have sweeping cultural and personal consequences. Several edited collections have also appeared that are useful guides to classic and contemporary studies in the field, including collections edited by Wharton 2005, Ackroyd, et al. 2005, and Harper and Lawson 2003.

  • Ackroyd, Stephen, Rosemary Batt, Paul Thompson, and Pamela Tolbert, eds. 2005. The Oxford handbook of work and organization. New York: Oxford Univ. Press.

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    An empirically driven collection of review articles that canvas what is currently known about work, technology, labor markets, occupations, and organizations. The chapters draw not only on sociological perspectives but also on scholarly traditions established in labor and employment relations and organizational studies.

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    • Beck, Ulrich. 2000. The brave new world of work. Oxford: Polity.

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      This is a theoretically rich critical analysis of the “end of the work society,” offering a diagnosis of the decline of full-time secure employment, which Beck believes is giving way to the “Brazilianization of work,” whereby labor force participants cycle in and out of formal and informal employment in ways that portend major changes in contemporary culture and society.

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      • Harper, Douglas, and Helen Lawson, eds. 2003. The cultural study of work. New York: Rowman & Littlefield.

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        This is a strong overview of classical and contemporary studies of workplace culture and occupational communities in varied sectors of the economy, relying largely on symbolic interactionist perspectives (see Contemporary Perspectives).

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        • Hodson, Randy, and Teresa A. Sullivan 2002. The social organization of work. 3d ed. New York: Wadsworth.

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          Perhaps the most prominent textbook in the field, written by two highly respected scholars. Chapters provide a standard treatment of the occupational structure, along with analysis of marginal jobs, the high-technology workplace, and the changing nature of work in an era of global capitalism

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          • Sennett, Richard. 1998. The corrosion of character: The personal consequences of work in the new capitalism. New York: Norton.

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            An influential critique of how new forms of work organization are undermining the capacity of workers to construct meaningful narratives about the course of their working lives.

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            • Sweet, Stephen, and Peter Meiksins. 2008. Changing contours of work: Jobs and opportunities in the new economy. Thousand Oaks, CA: Pine Forge.

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              A critical discussion of trends gripping levels of skill, worker autonomy, and job security in the current era.

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              • Vallas, Steven, William Finlay, and Amy Wharton. 2009. The sociology of work: Structures and inequalities. New York: Oxford Univ. Press.

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                A comprehensive treatment of the field. In addition to analysis of the occupational structure and its attendant inequalities, this text discusses gender-related developments such as the rise of the male-breadwinner norm, the historical meanings of work, Luddism, and the consequences of globalization. More theoretically informed than most overviews of the field.

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                • Wharton, Amy, ed. 2005. Working in America: Continuity, conflict, and change. Boston: McGraw-Hill.

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                  Excerpts from the major empirical and theoretical studies that have defined the field, from the classics (Marx, Weber, Taylor) to contemporary analysis of gender, temporary work, racial and ethnic inequalities, work and family, and other timely topics.

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                  Theoretical Foundations

                  Sociologists view work as an institutional arena that not only produces goods and services but also undergirds the structure of the social order writ large. Two general traditions can be distinguished in the field: a “conflictual” emphasis, inaugurated in different ways by Karl Marx and Max Weber (see Classical Theories), and a more “consensual” approach that is typically associated with the evolutionary approach developed by Emile Durkheim, and more recently, with network analysis and institutional theory (see Contemporary Perspectives). Increasingly, as the study of work has grown more differentiated, scholars have adopted varying conceptual tools and units of analysis, leading to a balkanization of the field.

                  Classical Theories

                  Analysis of work was of monumental concern to the classical theorists, who viewed the social organization of production as key to the emergence of modernity itself. Classical theory remains important for contemporary research, though in complex and novel ways. Two strands of thinking stem from Marx’s own work: the theory of alienated labor (found in the early writings, Marx 1964) and the theory of the labor process (as formulated in Capital, Marx 1977). The first of these strands has held declining value for mainstream researchers, who have viewed the alienation concept as too heavily freighted with philosophical baggage to provide much scientific value. The second strand of thinking has proven more influential (see The Labor Process) and has led researchers to explore the systems of labor control that employers adopt in their effort to ensure the ongoing exploitation of labor (Burawoy 1979). The influence of Weber 1978 has also taken two forms. On the one hand, Weber’s theory of bureaucracy has been enormously influential, with thousands of studies exploring the emergence and spread of bureaucratic authority, the mechanisms that underpin its diffusion (DiMaggio and Powell 1983), and the informal processes that affect its operations (Gouldner 1954). On the other hand, and relatively less developed, is Weber’s theory of social closure, which concerns the mechanisms through which privileged groups exclude potential rivals from competition for marketable resources (Parkin 1979). The influence of Durkheimian theory is less obvious today, perhaps because of the declining legitimacy of structural-functional theory generally. Yet Durkheim 1933’s organicist metaphors have proven resilient, especially in research on organizational environments and social networks.

                  • Braverman, Harry. 1974. Labor and monopoly capital: The degradation of work in the 20th century. New York: Monthly Review Press.

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                    Faithfully adheres to Marxist analysis, arguing that the “deskilling” of work is an imperative of the capitalist mode of production.

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                    • Burawoy, Michael. 1979. Manufacturing consent: Changes in the labor process under monopoly capitalism. Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press.

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                      Based on ethnographic research in a Chicago machine-tool shop, this book stresses the implicitly political nature of workplace culture, which induces workers to consent to their own subordination.

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                      • DiMaggio, Paul, and Walter W. Powell. 1983. The iron cage revisited: Institutional isomorphism and collective rationality in organizational fields. American Sociological Review 48:147–160.

                        DOI: 10.2307/2095101Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                        One of the most widely cited studies written in the field, this paper stresses the environmental processes that constrain organizations to grow more congruent with one another over time.

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                        • Durkheim, Emile. 1933. The division of labor in society. Translated by George Simpson. New York: Free Press.

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                          This work views history in evolutionary terms, stressing the irreversible nature of social differentiation over time. Important both as a critique of economic theories that stressed the contract and as an analysis of the types of social control that emerge at different stages of social evolution. Originally published in 1893.

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                          • Gouldner, Alvin. 1954. Patterns of industrial bureaucracy. New York: Free Press.

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                            A critical elaboration and extension of Weberian analysis, this book explores the informal underside of bureaucratic control, focusing on the enforcement of rules at a gypsum mine undergoing managerial change.

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                            • Marx, Karl. 1964. Economic and philosophic manuscripts of 1844. Translated by Martin Milligan. New York: International.

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                              Never intended for publication, these writings stem from Marx’s initial studies of political economy. Passages of this material, which were not found until 1932, articulate a passionate critique of alienated labor in the era of private property. Originally written in 1844.

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                              • Marx, Karl. 1977. Capital: A critique of political economy. Vol. 1. The capitalist process of production. Introduced by Ernest Mandel; translated by Ben Fowkes. New York: Vintage.

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                                Part of a larger analysis, this work seeks to lay bare the “laws of motion” of the capitalist mode of production. It contains incisive analysis of the coming of the factory system, the struggle over the length of the working day, and an analysis of the subordination of labor under modern industry. Though heavily deterministic, the book remains vitally important for its analysis of generalized commodity production. Originally published in 1867.

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                                • Parkin, Frank. 1979. Marxism and class theory: A bourgeois critique. New York: Columbia Univ. Press.

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                                  Important as a critique of Marxist theory and as an elaboration and extension of Weber’s theory of social closure.

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                                  • Weber, Max. 1978. Economy and society: An outline of interpretive sociology. Berkeley: Univ. of California Press.

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                                    Weber’s effort to provide the conceptual foundations of sociology, this two-volume work offers a sprawling analysis of economic, religious, and legal history, stressing the types of legitimate domination that have emerged over time, the relation between religious beliefs and economic action, and the relations among the status, political, and economic orders in advanced industrial societies.

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                                    Contemporary Perspectives

                                    Recent decades have witnessed a proliferation of theoretical approaches toward work. On the one hand are efforts to integrate the field, often by introducing overarching approaches or new conceptual tools. Especially noteworthy in this connection is Tilly and Tilly 1998, which compares the structure of work and power under multiple institutional contexts (household labor, prisons, factories), emphasizing the historical processes that shape the exercise of power over work in its various forms. Hodson 2001 adopts an innovative approach toward existing workplace ethnographies, codifying their findings under the rubric of workplace dignity. Hochschild 1983 draws on Marxist theory, Goffmanian notions of impression management, and the nascent sociology of emotions, all of which find expression in her theory of “emotional labor” (see also The Sociology of Service Work) A useful collection that brings various theoretical perspectives to bear on work is Korczinski, et al. 2006. On the other hand, and perhaps more salient in the field, are studies of work that are grounded in one of three broadly established theoretical traditions in the field—Symbolic Interactionist Theories, Feminist Theories, and Social Network Theory—each of which is discussed further in the appropriate subsection.

                                    • Hochschild, Arlie Russel. 1983. The managed heart: The commercialization of human feeling. Berkeley: Univ. of California Press.

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                                      Uses humanist Marxist theory to identify a new form of alienation, centering on the estrangement that results when facial gestures and emotional expression become part and parcel of the commodity that is for sale in the marketplace.

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                                      • Hodson, Randy. 2001. Dignity at work. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge Univ. Press.

                                        DOI: 10.1017/CBO9780511499333Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                        Using an innovative methodological approach, this book quantifies the findings of all English-language ethnographies of work. Its theoretical significance lies in its effort to demonstrate the centrality of a neglected drama at work, the quest for human dignity. Neglect of this concern underlies the formation of oppositional consciousness among various occupational groups.

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                                        • Korczinski, Marek, Randy Hodson, and Paul K. Edwards, eds. 2006. Social theory at work. New York: Oxford Univ. Press.

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                                          A useful collection that draws on multiple specialties in the study of work (economic sociology, organizational studies, institutional economics) as well as general social theories such as postmodernism and Foucauldian poststructuralism, as they bear on workplace phenomena.

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                                          • Tilly, Charles, and Christopher Tilly. 1998. Work under capitalism. Boulder, CO: Westview.

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                                            This book draws on Marxist and Weberian themes while tracing the historical formation of work and the various forms of coercion and commitment that arise in given institutional settings.

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                                            Symbolic Interactionist Theories

                                            An important figure in the Chicago School of Sociology was Everett C. Hughes, who drew on earlier studies of mundane occupations to codify the sociology of occupations as a distinctive field within the discipline. Lewis Coser’s edited collection of Hughes’s papers (Hughes 1994) provides a strong overview of this approach, especially as applied to the study of racial boundaries at work, the relation between work and identity, and the ongoing defense of prestige in which members of all occupations engage. Hughes saw the distinction between professional and non-professional forms of work as an arbitrary social construct. In his view, all occupations, both the “proud” and the “humble,” sought to control access to information that was discrediting. By studying “humble” occupations, which lacked the power of the more prestigious forms of work, sociologists could therefore gain insight into broader human dramas, demonstrating the common features that characterize all forms of work. Hughes’s approach was influential in the development of Erving Goffman’s many studies of human encounters in the context of work organizations (Goffman 1959). Hughes’s perspective has also been influential in the study of occupational communities (Fine 1996, Orr 1996) and has led the way to contemporary studies of the professions as well (Abbott 1988).

                                            • Abbott, Andrew. 1988. The system of professions. Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press.

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                                              This study breaks with the previous tendency to study professional occupations singly, in isolation from their place within the wider division of intellectual labor. Abbott adopts an ecological approach that views the professions as engaged in ceaseless struggles to gain exclusive control over professional jurisdictions.

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                                              • Fine, Gary Alan. 1996. Kitchens: The culture of restaurant work. Berkeley: Univ. of California Press.

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                                                Fine conducted participant observation in four restaurants in a large Midwestern city. The book’s goal—demonstrating the linkage between macro-structural context and the micro-structural order of social interaction—is less successful than Fine’s rich ethnographic analysis of the “commonwealth of cuisine.”

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                                                • Goffman, Erving. 1959. The presentation of self in everyday life. New York: Anchor.

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                                                  Though he is not ordinarily considered a sociologist of work, many of Goffman’s key insights in fact emerged in the study of the informal underside of work organizations. This book identifies the distinct logics that arise in different regions of the workplace, showing the norms that govern interaction in both “front stage” and “back stage” regions of social life.

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                                                  • Hughes, Everett C. 1994. On work, race, and the sociological imagination. Edited by Lewis A. Coser. Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press.

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                                                    A collection of Hughes’s writings on work, the sociology of occupations, interracial boundaries, and other themes. Especially influential for its analysis of “humble” and “proud” occupations.

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                                                    • Orr, Julian. 1996. Talking about machines: An ethnography of a modern job. Ithaca, NY: ILR.

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                                                      Uses the tools of cultural anthropology to uncover a rich occupational community among photocopy repair technicians.

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                                                      Feminist Theories

                                                      Feminist research has been especially influential in identifying the ways in which the division of labor is gendered, or shaped by ongoing patterns of male privilege (see Research on Gender Inequality at Work). Much of this work has engaged in ongoing debate with Marxism, as Hartmann 1975–1976 and Cockburn 1983. These theorists advanced a “dual systems” theory in which work and access to it is shaped by two overlapping and often contradictory logics: class inequality on the one hand, and the sex-gender system on the other. More recent feminist work has shifted away from global, macro-structural generalizations, instead focusing on the social and cultural factors that account for the perpetuation of occupational segregation by sex, and on the industry- and firm-specific processes that account for the gendering of work (Kanter 1977, Milkman 1987, Blair-Loy 2001). Charles and Grusky 2004 seeks to make theoretical and methodological advances in the study of occupational segregation by sex, explaining why gender segregation persists despite the spread of egalitarian ideals and social policies. Despite varying incarnations, feminist theories of work share the general notion that the gendering of work is a culturally arbitrary construct (Salzinger 2003) that entails deceptively sharp inequalities. Equally important, gender constructs are seen as ubiquitous, complex, and highly resilient even in the face of movements demanding change. A key question concerns the efficacy of social movements and the legal gains they have made over time.

                                                      • Blair-Loy, Mary. 2001. It’s not just what you know, it’s who you know: Technical knowledge, rainmaking, and gender among finance executives. Research in the Sociology of Work 10:51–83.

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                                                        A qualitative study of the challenges faced by women financial executives and the survival strategies these women must invoke. Especially revealing when set alongside Kanter’s earlier findings (Kanter 1977).

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                                                        • Charles, Maria, and David B. Grusky. 2004. Occupational ghettos: The worldwide segregation of women and men. Stanford, CA: Stanford Univ. Press.

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                                                          This book develops a conceptually nuanced approach toward two dimensions of segregation—vertical and horizontal—in an effort to show why occupational segregation persists in both blue- and white-collar occupations.

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                                                          • Cockburn, Cynthia. 1983. Brothers: Male dominance and technological change. London: Pluto.

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                                                            This book uses historical and qualitative methods to grasp the ways in which gender and class have combined to shape the composition of printing as an occupation at various stages of capitalism’s development. Uses “dual systems” theory to integrate themes from both feminist and Marxist analysis.

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                                                            • Hartmann, Heidi. 1975–1976. Capitalism, patriarchy and job segregation by sex. Signs 1:137–169.

                                                              DOI: 10.1086/493283Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                              An important expression of Marxist-feminist theory, this article traces the evolution of patriarchy in English history, emphasizing the interplay between class and gender inequality.

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                                                              • Kanter, Rosabeth Moss. 1977. Men and women of the corporation. New York: Basic Books.

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                                                                A monumentally important study of the relation between gender and corporate organization, using a multinational corporation’s headquarters as its major research site. Power, mobility, and opportunity are assessed as aspects of organizational structure, showing how organizations precipitate mythical conceptions of advantage and disadvantage.

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                                                                • Milkman, Ruth. 1987. Gender at work: The dynamics of job segregation by sex during World War II. Urbana: Univ. of Illinois Press.

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                                                                  A masterful historical analysis of the various forms that sex segregation assumed during the decades surrounding World War II. The book led beyond overly deterministic conceptions of gender and patriarchy, showing how economic, industrial, and political forces led sex segregation down different paths.

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                                                                  • Salzinger, Leslie. 2003. Genders in production: Making workers in Mexico’s global factories. Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press.

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                                                                    A study of the multiple conceptions of gender that emerged among maquilas in proximate regions of Mexico. The book demonstrates the arbitrary nature of gender constructs, which can assume a variety of forms even in a single region of a developing nation.

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                                                                    Social Network Theory

                                                                    Originally framed as “sociometry,” the study of the structural features of human organization has developed by leaps and bounds in recent years. Foundational works, Coleman 2000 and Granovetter 1973, piqued particular interest as scholars have suggested that the vertical structures that accompanied industrial capitalism are beginning to give way to more horizontal forms of economic activity, in which firms grow embedded in relational networks that provide the economic engines of post-industrial society. Social network research has prompted new approaches at multiple levels of analysis. Powell 1990 advances analysis of social networks as an increasingly prevalent form of economic organization, alongside markets and hierarchies, and sees the network form as the salient pattern of work structures in a postindustrial era (see Powell 2001). Related is the seminal Piore and Sabel 1984, which sees the contemporary era as one in which mass production and its attendant hierarchies are increasingly obsolete, giving way to horizontally organized networks that foster more collaborative forms of economic activity. An equally influential but very different conception of social networks can be found in Castells 1996.

                                                                    • Castells, Manuel. 1996. The rise of the network society. Vol. 1. Malden, MA: Blackwell.

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                                                                      A wide-ranging effort to provide an integrated analysis of global economic activity, focusing on the webs of commerce and communication that are characteristic of global capitalism today.

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                                                                      • Coleman, James. 2000. The foundations of social theory. Cambridge, MA: Harvard Univ. Press.

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                                                                        A monumental effort to advance a coherent model of human societies, using a structurally attuned form of rational actor theory. Especially influential for its definition of “social capital.”

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                                                                        • Granovetter, Mark S. 1973. The strength of weak ties. American Journal of Sociology 78.6: 1360–1380.

                                                                          DOI: 10.1086/225469Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                          One of the most influential articles ever written in the social sciences, this article outlines an elegant conception of “strong” and “weak” ties, developing empirical predictions that are highly counterintuitive and that have found widespread support. Information about jobs, job openings, and skill all depend on the social links in which one is embedded.

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                                                                          • Piore, Michael, and Charles Sabel. 1984. The second industrial divide: Possibilities for prosperity. New York: Basic Books.

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                                                                            Argues that a new divide, or historical break, has emerged in the contemporary era, with the structure of mass production no longer capable of supporting economic growth. A new technological paradigm (“flexible specialization”) has emerged, linking firms in novel forms of industrial organization.

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                                                                            • Powell, W. W. 1990. Neither market nor hierarchy: Network forms of organization. Research in Organizational Behavior 12:295–336.

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                                                                              An important article that sought to expand theories of the economic basis on which transactions rely. Powell argues that markets and hierarchies no longer provide the critical choice for the organization of economic transactions; rather, network ties provide a more flexible and efficient arrangement that becomes increasingly prevalent in contemporary economic life.

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                                                                              • Powell, Walter W. 2001. The capitalist firm in the twenty-first century: Emerging patterns in Western enterprise. In The twenty-first century firm. Edited by Paul DiMaggio, 33–69. Princeton, NJ: Princeton Univ. Press.

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                                                                                Powell develops a theoretical perspective on the emerging logic of economic organization in an era when Fordist hierarchies no longer seem viable. Addresses the question of social inequality, but sees this as extraneous to the emerging network form.

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                                                                                Skills, Control, and the Debate Over the Labor Process

                                                                                The labor process school of thought, an offshoot of Marxist analysis, gained favor during the mid-1970s and thereafter, precipitating a debate over skill requirements, control, and work content that has not subsided even today. Labor process analysis drew inspiration from major works such as Braverman 1974 and Montgomery 1979, and later Burawoy 1985. Labor process analysis views work under the capitalist mode of production as an inherently coercive arena in which employers seek to limit the capacity of workers to resist their own exploitation. Braverman himself emphasized “deskilling” as an imperative, reasoning that employers must gain control over production knowledge and expertise if they are to limit workers’ capacity to resist. Braverman therefore saw Taylorism or scientific management as the “bedrock of all work design” under capitalism. The deskilling thesis gave rise to widespread debate over temporal shifts in skill requirements, the result of which has broadly cast doubt on the existence of any broad deskilling trend (Spenner 1983). Subsequent studies in the labor process by Edwards 1979 and Burawoy 1985 focused less on skill than on the systems of control that unfold at different stages of capitalist development. More recent still have been studies that emphasize the role played by normative controls over labor, emphasizing the emergence of managerial ideologies and team-based organizational controls that invite workers to embrace managerial definitions of their work situations. Graham 1995 and Barker 1993 epitomize this perspective, which has been subject to empirical critique in Smith 2001 and Vallas 2006. One abiding point of criticism of labor process theory has been its tendency to adopt highly deterministic perspectives that underestimate the capacity of workers to shape or resist managerial practices.

                                                                                • Barker, James R. 1993. Tightening the iron cage: Concertive control in self-managing teams. Administrative Science Quarterly 38:408–437.

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                                                                                  Studies an electrical assembly plant, showing how team systems tighten managerial control over labor despite their empowering appearance.

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                                                                                  • Braverman, Harry. 1974. Labor and monopoly capital: The degradation of work in the 20th century. New York: Monthly Review Press.

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                                                                                    Broadly influential Marxist study of how capitalism has introduced a sharp separation between the labor of conception and execution, in effect degrading and deskilling work in conformity with the needs of capitalist society. Now widely criticized for its highly deterministic stamp.

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                                                                                    • Burawoy, Michael. 1985. The politics of production. London: Verso.

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                                                                                      A comparative historical analysis of how political and economic conditions have shaped factory regimes. Especially suggestive for its rich typology of political apparatuses at work, and for the breadth of its analysis, devoted to industrializing Britain, the postwar United States, Russia under Soviet rule, and postcolonial Africa.

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                                                                                      • Edwards, Richard. 1979. Contested terrain: The transformation of the workplace in the twentieth century. New York: Basic Books.

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                                                                                        Develops an influential typology of the control systems evident in the development of American capitalism since the Civil War. Largely relies on labor market segmentation theory to understand the varying types of control that emerge under different market conditions.

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                                                                                        • Graham, Laurie. 1995. On the line at Subaru-Isuzu. Ithaca, NY: ILR-Cornell Univ. Press.

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                                                                                          The author uses covert participant observation to understand the internal workings of the Japanese system of work organization as transplanted to an Indiana auto plant. Important for its effort to grasp the novel nature of lean production, viewed as institutionalizing managerial hegemony through the use of team discourse. Ultimately, managerial hegemony seems to fail, since conflict becomes rife soon after start-up of this plant.

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                                                                                          • Montgomery, David. 1979. Worker’s control in America. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge Univ. Press.

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                                                                                            A labor historian, Montgomery seeks to refute long-standing notions of American exceptionalism, showing the ferocity of labor struggle in response to the scientific management movement in years surrounding World War I.

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                                                                                            • Smith, Vicki. 2001. Crossing the great divide: Worker risk and opportunity in the new economy. Ithaca, NY: ILR-Cornell Univ. Press.

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                                                                                              A series of case studies of office and factory workers, showing the active, energetic efforts of workers in varied contexts as they seek to respond to uncertain terms and conditions of employment.

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                                                                                              • Spenner, Kenneth. 1983. Deciphering Prometheus: Temporal change in the skill level of work. American Sociological Review 48:824–837.

                                                                                                DOI: 10.2307/2095328Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                One of the most rigorous and systematic efforts to trace changing skill requirements over time, largely in response to the labor process debate.

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                                                                                                • Vallas, Steven P. 2006. Empowerment redux: Structure, agency, and the re-making of managerial authority. American Journal of Sociology 111.6: 1677–1717.

                                                                                                  DOI: 10.1086/499909Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                  This paper uses ethnographic methods to show how manufacturing workers respond to the organizational tensions that accompany workplace change. Offers a typology of worker responses, linking these to the outcomes that emerge in the wake of the new work structures.

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                                                                                                  Technology, Workplace Change, and Flexible Work

                                                                                                  The late 1980s and early 1990s gave rise to perspectives on work that countered the Marxist orientation of the labor process school. Key concerns here focused on the spread of new forms of work organization, often spawned by new configurations of technology and new patterns of consumer demand that led beyond the era of mass production. Zuboff 1988 studies multiple industries undergoing technological change, for example, and speaks of the rise of the “post-hierarchical work organization.” New technology increasingly generated new and richer sources of information than did previous technologies, requiring workers to exercise new “intellective skills.” Firms that continued to rely on older, hierarchical work structures could not make effective use of workers’ skills, however, and were not likely to survive. Zuboff’s reasoning was shared by many others, perhaps most influentially by Womack, et al. 1990, which provides an analysis of the Toyota system of automobile production, dubbing the latter “lean production,” which has come to dominate many sectors of manufacturing and even retailing industries, but its consequences for workers’ autonomy have been much in dispute (Vallas 1999). One of the most influential strands of research on workplace change has stemmed from Piore and Sabel 1984, which also speaks of massive changes in the social organization structure of the capitalist economy (see Social Network Theory). Piore and Sabel discuss the movement from mass production to “flexible specialization,” a new technological paradigm that is better suited to rapidly changing patterns of consumer demand and that now promises to usher in an entirely new logic of economic organization, based on the search for flexibility within organizations and labor markets generally. An important study advancing this line of analysis is Saxenian 1994. Critics who argue that flexibility research exaggerates the shift away from organizational hierarchy include Harrison 1994, Vallas 1999, and Thomas 1994. The latter study, a comparative analysis of how workers and managers informally negotiate the introduction of new technologies at work, is one of the few empirically grounded studies of technology that have appeared in recent decades—a fact bemoaned by Orlikowski 2007, which calls for much closer analysis of technology and work organization than recent studies provide.

                                                                                                  • Harrison, Bennett. 1994. Lean and mean: The changing landscape of corporate power in the age of flexibility. New York: Basic Books.

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                                                                                                    A powerful critique of the flexibility thesis, showing how concentrated economic power has expanded even as centralized ownership declines.

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                                                                                                    • Orlikowski, Wanda. 2007. Sociomaterial practices: Exploring technology at work. Organization Studies 28:1435–1448.

                                                                                                      DOI: 10.1177/0170840607081138Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                      Laments the ironic disappearance of technology as an object of organizational analysis in the last two decades, at a time when massive technological change has of course occurred. Uses Latourian analysis to advance a conception of socio-materiality as a framework for analysis of social and technological structures.

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                                                                                                      • Piore, Michael, and Charles Sabel. 1984. The second industrial divide. New York: Basic Books.

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                                                                                                        Promoted an international debate over the rise of a new, post-Fordist logic of economic organization, partly owing to new patterns of consumer demand.

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                                                                                                        • Saxenian, AnnaLee. 1994. Regional advantage: Culture and competition in Silicon Valley and Route 128. Cambridge MA: Harvard Univ. Press.

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                                                                                                          An economic geographer studies how regionally based industrial cultures and institutions differentially equipped Route 128 (Massachusetts) and Silicon Valley (California) to compete in the emerging high-tech world of the 1980s and early 1990s.

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                                                                                                          • Thomas, Robert J. 1994. What machines can’t do: Politics and technology in the industrial enterprise. Berkeley: Univ. of California Press.

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                                                                                                            A multi-industry study that shows how the introduction of new process technologies is woven into intra-firm struggles over power and prestige. Using Giddens’s theory of structuration, the author advances a “power-process” theory in the effort to account for the varied outcomes of technological change.

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                                                                                                            • Vallas, Steven P. 1999. Re-thinking post-Fordism: The meaning of workplace flexibility. Sociological Theory 17.1: 68–101.

                                                                                                              DOI: 10.1111/0735-2751.00065Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                              A theoretical and empirical critique of publications that foresee a withering away of hierarchical controls over labor in an era of labor market flexibility.

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                                                                                                              • Womack, James P., Daniel T. Jones, and Daniel Roos. 1990. The machine that changed the world. New York: Rawson.

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                                                                                                                The world according to the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, which funded the International Motor Vehicle Program at MIT, which in turn generated this massively influential tome. The book combines historical analysis of the emergence of lean production at Toyota with arguments about the lean system’s empowering and efficiency-generating consequences.

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                                                                                                                • Zuboff, Shoshana. 1988. In the age of the smart machine. New York: Basic Books.

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                                                                                                                  Sophisticated theoretical analysis of several industrial contexts, arguing that the centralized organizational models developed with respect to older, dumb technologies can no longer be used effectively in the context of new information technologies. Argues that firms are compelled to adopt less hierarchical forms of work organization if they are to survive.

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                                                                                                                  Service Work

                                                                                                                  Until relatively recently, much of the literature on work has focused on manufacturing, on the assumption that “industry” has historically anchored the advanced capitalist economies. By the 1990s, however, this assumption no longer seemed tenable, and analysts began to seek out the distinctive features of the burgeoning service occupations. One of the most influential studies in this vein was Hochschild 1983. Focusing on flight attendants as a revealing case in point, Hochschild emphasizes their need to engage in what she calls “emotional labor”—that is, to use bodily displays and especially facial gestures in ways that had no connection to authentic feelings, but conformed to the organization’s efforts to produce desired states on the part of the customers. Hochschild viewed the performance of emotional labor as part of a trend toward the commercialization of human feeling and the loss of control over interpersonal interaction. Hochschild’s analysis was one of the few that invoked Marxist theories of alienation, now leavened with themes drawn from Goffman’s work on impression management. Perhaps the most influential study that emerged in the wake of Hochschild’s work is Leidner 1993, which views “interactive service work” in terms of a triangular relationship that links the employer, the worker, and the customer. Leidner compares work in fast-food establishments and door-to-door insurance sales in an effort to understand what might be termed the geometry of service work. Some studies of service work conducted since these are the study of doormen in wealthy Manhattan apartment buildings (Bearman 2005), the analysis of workers in luxury hotels (Sherman 2005), and studies of casino workers in Nevada and South Africa (Sallaz 2009). Parallel with these studies are investigations of service work in less formal environments, as in the case of research on care work (Hondagneu-Sotelo 2001), which engenders unique and often wrenching tensions between wage labor and the affective bonds that characterize family life. In differing ways, each of these studies seeks to identify the distinctive challenges that service workers encounter in their dealings with customers and employers, their modes of coping with these challenges, and the forms of identity and subjectivity that service work promotes. An ongoing debate concerns the similarities and differences between work in manufacturing and service industries, the applicability of labor process models, and the distinctive features of the service labor process.

                                                                                                                  • Bearman, Peter. 2005. Doormen. Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press.

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                                                                                                                    Combines structural analysis of the doormen’s occupation with more Goffmanian emphasis on performativity. The study identifies the challenges that doormen face in their everyday working lives, stemming from their need to become expert in the personal preferences of residents even as they maintain strategic interpersonal distance from their lives.

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                                                                                                                    • Hochschild, Arlie Russel. 1983. The managed heart: The commercialization of human feeling. Berkeley: Univ. of California Press.

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                                                                                                                      Studies airline attendants, stressing the human costs that ensue when workers must perform “emotional labor,” expressing feelings that are typically at odds with their authentic internal states. Hochschild views the growing salience of emotional labor as promoting a new form of alienation that Marx could not have foreseen.

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                                                                                                                      • Hondagneu-Sotelo, Pierrette. 2001. Doméstica: Immigrant workers cleaning and caring in the shadows of affluence. Berkeley: Univ. of California Press.

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                                                                                                                        A study of immigrant Latinas pressed into domestic service as housecleaners, nannies, and other domestics. The tension between wage labor and personal styles of interaction magnifies the class and ethnic gulfs between employer and worker, generating dilemmas that are all the more intense owing to the lack of regulation in this occupational field.

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                                                                                                                        • Korczinski, Marek, and Cameron McDonald. 2009. Service work: Critical perspectives. New York: Routledge.

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                                                                                                                          An excellent collection of current theory, research, and debate over the nature of service work. Especially important is Korczinski’s chapter on the “customer-centered bureaucracy” that exists in the service and retail sectors, which captures the tensions and contradictions that accompany efforts to routinize work that must envelop both workers and customers alike.

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                                                                                                                          • Leidner, Robin. 1993. Fast food, fast talk: Service work and the routinization of everyday life. Berkeley: Univ. of California Press.

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                                                                                                                            Uses perspectives from Goffman and Simmel to understand the varying patterns that can inform the triangular relation among employer, worker, and customer under different market conditions.

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                                                                                                                            • Sallaz, Jeffrey 2009. The labor of luck. Berkeley: Univ. of California Press.

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                                                                                                                              An ethnographic study of casino capitalism in the United States and South Africa. Sallaz worked as a dealer, the better to tease out the ways in which informal social relations modify identically designed dealing pits in two different cultural contexts.

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                                                                                                                              • Sherman, Rachel. 2005. Class acts: Service and inequality in luxury hotels. Berkeley: Univ. of California Press.

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                                                                                                                                Ethnographic analysis of two luxury hotels (one formal and the other flexible). Sherman asks how relatively subordinate workers experience the production of luxury for others and how this lends shape to their identities.

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                                                                                                                                Ascriptive Inequalities

                                                                                                                                The major classical perspectives toward work were essentially silent on the role of racial and gender inequalities. American sociology has redressed this imbalance, especially since World War II, as the gendered and racialized nature of work organizations has become the object of sustained empirical inquiry. At times, gender (see Research on Gender at Work) and race (see Racial and Ethnic Disparities at Work) have been studied separately, the better to do justice to each dimension’s unique attributes. At other times, the dynamics that underlie racial and gender disparities have been compared, thereby gaining an empirically informed understanding of the different dynamics attending each. More recently still, studies have sought to disentangle the interaction and intersection that characterizes racial and gender inequalities at work. Not surprisingly, given the legal and political significance of these two dimensions of inequality, a complex and voluminous literature has emerged on this terrain.

                                                                                                                                Research on Gender at Work

                                                                                                                                Research here has operated at varying levels of analysis. Some studies have used the work group (or organization) as the unit of analysis. One of the most seminal works in this genre has been Kanter 1977, a study of the gendering of managerial occupations in particular. Kanter studied a multinational corporate headquarters. Perhaps its signal contribution has stemmed from its effort to link the relative proportions of men and women in a given work group to the patterns of interaction that arise among its members. Kanter theorized that where women workers accounted for only a small proportion of a given department’s workforce (as in “skewed” groups), the women were likely to experience three perceptual tendencies: greater visibility (and thus more intense performance pressures), an exaggeration of their differences from the dominant group (leading to heightened boundaries), and an imposition of exaggerated images or perceptions on women (despite their individual differences). A recent application of Kanter’s theory is Blair-Loy 2001, which is concerned with the symbolic boundaries that impede the success of women employed as finance executives. One offshoot of Kanter’s research has been analysis of the “glass ceiling” that women encounter at the upper reaches of work organizations. Developing this metaphor in a new direction, Williams 1995 reports research showing that the effects of skewed groups were different for men and for women. Thus, when men are employed in nursing, they often derive career advantages (a phenomenon Williams dubbed the “glass escalator”). While there are empirical studies questioning the validity of these structural metaphors, there is little reason to doubt the broader notion that work organizations remain highly gendered and starkly unequal arenas. Three of the mechanisms that have been subject to particularly close study in recent years involve the role of social networks in fostering career disparities (Huffman and Torres 2002; see also Social Network Theory), the effects of occupational segregation on the pay and prestige that women workers can expect to receive (Tomaskovic-Devey 1993, Charles and Grusky 2004), and the role of the courts in the institutionalization of gender inequality (Nelson and Bridges 1999).

                                                                                                                                • Blair-Loy, Mary. 2001. It’s not just what you know, it’s who you know: Technical knowledge, rainmaking, and gender among finance executives. Research in the Sociology of Work 10:51–83.

                                                                                                                                  DOI: 10.1016/S0277-2833(01)80021-2Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                  An interview-based study of the survival strategies adopted by women employed as financial analysts seeking to navigate through the boundaries established in this historically masculine occupation. Especially interesting for the changes that emerge in comparison with Kanter’s theory.

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                                                                                                                                  • Charles, Maria, and David B. Grusky. 2004. Occupational ghettos: The worldwide segregation of women and men. Stanford, CA: Stanford Univ. Press.

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                                                                                                                                    An influential analysis of the persistence of occupational segregation even in the context of growing gender egalitarianism. The authors argue that “gender essentialism” is not inconsistent with meritocratic logics, and that traditional assumptions about gender have in effect trumped ideals of equal representation.

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                                                                                                                                    • Gorman, Elizabeth, and Julie Kmec. 2009. Hierarchical rank and women’s organizational mobility: Glass ceilings in corporate law firms. American Journal of Sociology 114.5: 1428–1474.

                                                                                                                                      DOI: 10.1086/595950Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                      This study tests the applicability of the glass ceiling metaphor to the situation of attorneys seeking positions as associates and as partners. The results demonstrate the complexity of labor markets, which involve phenomena rooted both inside and outside the firm.

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                                                                                                                                      • Huffman, Matt, and Lisa Torres. 2002. It’s not only “who you know” that matters: Gender, personal contacts, and job lead quality. Gender and Society 16.6: 793–813.

                                                                                                                                        DOI: 10.1177/089124302237889Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                        Women and men derive different and unequal types of contacts, in accordance with their positions in the social structure generally.

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                                                                                                                                        • Kanter, Rosabeth Moss. 1977. Men and women of the corporation. New York: Basic Books.

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                                                                                                                                          The classic study of organizational structure, gender inequality, and the mythical assumptions that underlie inequality in the headquarters of a multinational firm.

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                                                                                                                                          • Nelson, Robert L., and William P. Bridges. 1999. Legalizing gender inequality: Courts, markets, and unequal pay for women in America. New York: Cambridge Univ. Press.

                                                                                                                                            DOI: 10.1017/CBO9780511499340Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                            Uses data from existing cases of judicial litigation to examine how courts have utilized data on gender disparities in pay. Shows that finer and more careful analysis and conceptualization of the data in these cases would have brought to light actionable forms of inequality. In the absence of such analysis, courts have been complicit in the reproduction gender disparities at work.

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                                                                                                                                            • Williams, Christine L. 1995. Still a man’s world: Men who do women’s work. Berkeley: Univ. of California.

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                                                                                                                                              Argues that male nurses in fact derive substantial advantages when they are outnumbered, owing to widespread assumptions about their skills and abilities and relational ties that women only rarely enjoy.

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                                                                                                                                              • Tomaskovic-Devey, Donald. Gender and racial inequality at work: The sources and consequences of job segregation. Ithaca, NY: ILR, 1993.

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                                                                                                                                                A study that compares the individual and structural sources of gender and racial disparities in pay, using data from a survey of North Carolina employees. Finds sharp and interesting differences in the sources of pay disparities along gender and racial lines. Especially useful as a critique of human capital theory.

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                                                                                                                                                Racial and Ethnic Disparities at Work

                                                                                                                                                Sociological research has long established the fact of unequal treatment by race but has often struggled to identify the precise mechanisms (other than direct discrimination) that account for such inequalities. The magnitude of the racial disparity is perhaps most dramatically shown in Pager 2003, whose experimental studies reveal that white job seekers with felony convictions actually fare better in low-wage labor markets than do black applicants with clean records. Such racial disparities have been found in numerous occupations. Collins 1997, studying managers and executives, found evidence that blacks are more often assigned to “racialized” segments of the firm, handling community relations and urban affairs desks that peripheralize them within the firm. Numerous studies have found that blacks are significantly less likely to gain promotion to supervisory positions than are comparably qualified whites (Wilson 1997), to be more harshly evaluated than their dominant group counterparts, and to have their supervisory opportunities limited to contexts involving co-ethnics (Smith and Elliott 2002). One important line of analysis here has involved the study of social capital and social networks, which seem to account for at least some of the racial disparities at work (Royster 2003). This pattern is complex, however, and the actual operation of social networks in the diffusion of employment opportunities remains a matter of dispute (Fernandez and Fernandez-Matteo 2006). Two further lines of analysis that hold particular promise are studies that aim to elucidate the meaning of workplace diversity (Edelman, et al. 2001; Ely and Thomas 2001), as well as the consequences of given diversity practices for the relative position of minorities in particular occupations over time (Kalev, et al. 2006).

                                                                                                                                                • Collins, Sharon M. 1997. Black corporate executives: The making and breaking of a black middle class. Philadelphia: Temple Univ. Press.

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                                                                                                                                                  Used interview data with seventy-six black executives to analyze their career trajectories. The study finds a disproportionate tendency for respondents to be assigned to racialized positions on the periphery of the corporate opportunity structure, ironically owing to normative pressures on the firm to demonstrate racial progress.

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                                                                                                                                                  • Edelman, L. B., S. R. Fuller, and I. Mara-Drita. 2001. Diversity rhetoric and the managerialization of law. American Journal of Sociology 106:1589–1641.

                                                                                                                                                    DOI: 10.1086/321303Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                    The authors use institutionalist theory to develop an analysis of the diffusion of the concept of workplace diversity, viewing the latter as a managerial construct that gives corporations much more operational latitude than the older, civil rights frame. Business seems to embrace and define diversity in largely instrumental lines, as a condition of doing business in certain markets.

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                                                                                                                                                    • Ely, Robin J., and David A. Thomas. 2001. Cultural diversity at work: The effect of diversity perspectives and diversity processes. Administrative Science Quarterly 46:229–273.

                                                                                                                                                      DOI: 10.2307/2667087Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                      Studying three white-collar workplaces, the authors find that the concept of “diversity” assumes divergent meanings, and that these meanings have implications for the intergroup relations and career opportunities developed among these organizations.

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                                                                                                                                                      • Fernandez, Roberto, and Isabel Fernandez-Matteo. 2006. Networks, race, and hiring. American Sociological Review 71.1: 42–71.

                                                                                                                                                        DOI: 10.1177/000312240607100103Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                        Using a company-specific dataset, the authors find reasons to question the link between social networks and minority disadvantage. They specify some of the tasks that remain to be addressed if the race–social network linkage is to be established with certainty.

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                                                                                                                                                        • Kalev, Alexandra, Frank Dobbin, and Erin Kelly. 2006. Best practices or best guesses? Assessing the efficacy of corporate affirmative action and diversity policies. American Sociological Review 71.4: 589–617.

                                                                                                                                                          DOI: 10.1177/000312240607100404Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                          The authors combine data from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission with a retrospective data on diversity practices, enabling them to see how the latter practices have affected the demographic composition of jobs at the establishment level. The results suggest that some diversity practices are either useless or worse; structurally based approaches toward diversity, which render given offices responsible for making demographic gains, have the strongest beneficial effects.

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                                                                                                                                                          • Pager, Devah. 2003. The mark of a criminal record. American Journal of Sociology 108.5: 937–975.

                                                                                                                                                            DOI: 10.1086/374403Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                            Uses in-person experimental audit methods to test the interaction effects of criminal records and minority status.

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                                                                                                                                                            • Royster, Deirdre A. 2003. Race and the invisible hand: How white networks exclude black men from blue collar jobs. Berkeley: Univ. of California Press.

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                                                                                                                                                              Studied white and black working-class youth engaged in vocational training. White youth are more closely embedded within networks that furnish job leads and referrals, providing advantages that few black youth command.

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                                                                                                                                                              • Smith, Ryan A., and Elliott, James R. 2002. Does ethnic concentration influence employees’ access to authority? An examination of contemporary urban labor markets. Social Forces 81.1: 255–279.

                                                                                                                                                                DOI: 10.1353/sof.2002.0062Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                Opportunity for promotion of minorities is often limited to co-ethnics, in a process the authors dub “ethnic matching.” This generates a tendency the authors refer to as the “sticky floor,” restricting upward mobility for minorities within the firm.

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                                                                                                                                                                • Wilson, George. 1997. Pathways to power: Racial differences in the determinants of job authority. Social Problems 44:38–54.

                                                                                                                                                                  DOI: 10.1525/sp.1997.44.1.03x0211cSave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                  Hiring processes differ for whites and blacks, as paths into supervisory positions tend to be more demanding and formalized for blacks than for whites.

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                                                                                                                                                                  Precarious Employment

                                                                                                                                                                  While much of the sociology of work has been concerned with either the content or the distribution of employment opportunity, in recent years a substantial amount of research has been conducted on the employment relationship itself. Thus, during much of the post-Depression decades, employment for much (but not all) of the paid labor force was framed in terms of permanent, full-time work with benefits—a stable relationship that has come to be called the “standard work arrangement.” Beginning in the early 1980s, however, the employment relationship began to evolve in novel directions. One of the earliest studies to point this out was Pfeffer and Baron 1988, which identified a wide array of reasons why employers favored forms of employment that minimized their commitment to their workforce. Where previously employers had sought to “internalize” their stock of human resource skills (much as they did with other factors of production), by the 1980s employers reversed course, now seeking to “externalize” the human resources on which they relied. Most commonly used in this vein were temporary help firms, part-time employees, and the outsourcing of labor supplies and production services deemed to lie outside the “core competency” of the firm. Dubbed “contingent” or “nonstandard” forms of employment, such patterns have grown far more rapidly than has the paid labor force as such. Some research exists that suggests that employers’ associations engaged in concerted national campaigns to ensure that state-by-state laws were friendly to the interests of the temporary help industry in particular (Gonos 1997). Although debate persists over the importance of these trends for the rise of income inequality and employment instability, there is little question that the rise of nonstandard employment has reduced the sense of occupational security that employees enjoy. In material terms, these trends are evident in the decline of defined pensions, reductions in the availability of health insurance, and other manifestations of a deteriorating quality of employment for significant segments of the paid labor force (Kalleberg 2009). At the same time, some segments of the occupational structure—technical consultants and experts of various sorts—have benefited from these trends, especially when they can establish ongoing relations with clients and staffing agencies that align well with the occupational communities to which they belong (Barley and Kunda 2006). While a large literature has examined various aspects of the contingent labor market, one question that awaits much more research concerns how workers respond, individually and collectively, to these shifts in the employment relationship. In the United States, institutional encouragement abounds for the lionization of these trends, which the business press often portrays as paths toward emancipation from oppressive bureaucracies (as in the best-selling books Johnson 1998, and Pink 2001). Research reported in Sharone 2007 has begun to develop structural understandings of how labor-market institutions (as opposed to free-floating cultural codes) constrain the responses of American workers to the rising uncertainty that accompanies the employment relation today.

                                                                                                                                                                  • Barley, Stephen R., and Gideon Kunda. 2006. Gurus, hired guns, and warm bodies: Itinerant experts in a knowledge economy. Princeton, NJ: Princeton Univ. Press.

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                                                                                                                                                                    A rich ethnographic account of the labor-market institutions that support and sustain contract workers, viewed as an occupational community.

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                                                                                                                                                                    • Gonos, George. 1997. The contest over ‘employer’ status in the post-war U.S.: The case of temporary help firms. Law and Society Review 31.1: 81–110.

                                                                                                                                                                      DOI: 10.2307/3054095Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                      An analysis of the national campaign to revise labor laws on a state-by-state basis in ways that defined employment agencies (and not the actual users of temporary labor) as the legal employers of record. This movement’s success was vital to the growth of temporary employment.

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                                                                                                                                                                      • Johnson, Spencer. 1998. Who moved my cheese? An amazing way to deal with change in your work and in your life. New York: Putnam.

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                                                                                                                                                                        Uses a simple parable of mice in a maze as a trope with which to frame organizational and economic change. It invites employees to focus only on outcomes and never on underlying causes. Dissent is powerfully discouraged. Now issued in a version for teenagers.

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                                                                                                                                                                        • Kalleberg, Arne L. 2009. Precarious work, insecure workers: Employment relations in transition. American Sociological Review 74: 1–22.

                                                                                                                                                                          DOI: 10.1177/000312240907400101Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                          Analysis of the rising “precarity” in the employment relation, using national data and Polanyian economic theory.

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                                                                                                                                                                          • Pfeffer, Jeffery, and James Baron. 1988. Taking the workers back out: Recent trends in the structuring of employment. Research in Organizational Behavior 10:257–303.

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                                                                                                                                                                            One of the earliest studies on contingent work, this theoretical analysis identifies the organizational factors that promote the decline of the standard employment relation.

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                                                                                                                                                                            • Pink, Daniel. 2001. Free agent nation: The future of working for yourself. New York: Warner.

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                                                                                                                                                                              The preeminent evangelist of uncertainty, defined as emancipation.

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                                                                                                                                                                              • Sharone, Ofer. 2007. Constructing unemployed job seekers as professional workers: The depoliticizing work-game of job searching. Qualitative Sociology 30.4: 403–416.

                                                                                                                                                                                DOI: 10.1007/s11133-007-9071-zSave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                                Uses game theory (especially as formulated by Burawoy) to interpret the job-search repertoires of unemployed high-tech workers in the United States and Israel.

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                                                                                                                                                                                Globalization and Work

                                                                                                                                                                                The relentless push of economic activity across national borders raises a host of political-economic questions that sociologists of work have been slow to address. There are, however, points at which progress has begun to emerge. Scholars concerned with factory regimes have brought labor process concepts to bear upon factories in China and other parts of the developing world (Pun and Smith 2007). Concern for the structure of global commodity chains has extended beyond world systems theorists, becoming the common property of scholars concerned with the spread of sweatshops (Collins 2003), employment practices at Wal-Mart (Lichtenstein 2006), and the possibilities and pitfalls facing transnational social movements in defense of workers’ rights (Seidman 2007, Brooks 2007). Sociologists of work have grown increasingly mindful of the transnational connections that link economic activity in far-flung regions of the world—for example, when rising rates of labor force participation among American men and women engender increasing demand for paid care work, in turn heightening demand for the labor of immigrant women in Latin America and other regions of the world (Hondagneu-Sotelo 2001 as cited under Service Work). Scholars have also paid increasing attention to the ways in which the spatial dispersion of economic activity impacts organizational structures, fostering more highly polarized occupational structures in large metropolitan locales. In a more domestic vein, scholars have also documented the ways in which the rhetoric of globalization can provide a powerful threat which employers can use as a lever to extract material gains from workers in US labor markets (Bronfenbrenner 1997).

                                                                                                                                                                                • Bronfenbrenner, Kate. 1997. The effect of plant closings and the threat of plant closings on worker rights to organize. Supplement to Plant closings and workers rights: A report to the council of ministers by the Secretariat of the Commission for Labor Cooperation. Dallas: Bernan.

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                                                                                                                                                                                  A pioneering effort to show how the discourse of capital mobility tends to disempower workers.

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                                                                                                                                                                                  • Brooks, Ethel Carolyn. 2007. Unraveling the garment industry: Transnational organizing and women’s work. Minneapolis: Univ. of Minnesota Press.

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                                                                                                                                                                                    A scathing indictment of consumer-based movements in defense of workers’ rights, arguing that these movements “employ” sweated labor in a manner much like the systems they protest.

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                                                                                                                                                                                    • Collins, Jane Lou. 2003. Threads: gender, labor and power in the global apparel industry. Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press.

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                                                                                                                                                                                      An anthropological analysis of textile and garment production from a global point of view, examining the interwoven fates of workers in Virginia and Mexico.

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                                                                                                                                                                                      • Lichtenstein, Nelson, ed. 2006. Wal-Mart: The fact of twenty-first century capitalism. New York: New Press.

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                                                                                                                                                                                        A useful collection of creative papers, tracing the history of Wal-Mart, its global operations, the logistics revolution it has led, and Wal-Mart’s impact on local communities both in the US and abroad.

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                                                                                                                                                                                        • Pun Ngaiand Chris Smith. 2007. Putting the transnational labour process in its place: The dormitory labour regime in China. Work, Employment and Society 21, 1: 27–45.

                                                                                                                                                                                          DOI: 10.1177/0950017007073611Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                                          This article emphasizes the importance of spatial constraints on the movements of Chinese workers in export-processing zones, whose lack of spatial and residential freedoms leave them especially dependent on their employers.

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                                                                                                                                                                                          • Pun Ngai. 2005. Made in China: Women factory workers in a global workplace. Durham, NC: Duke Univ. Press.

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                                                                                                                                                                                            A sensitive and theoretically sophisticated analysis of the experiences and identities of young Chinese women recruited into China’s burgeoning factories from the rural hinterlands, written by a Taiwanese anthropologist who worked in South China factories for an extended period of time. Probably the most revealing ethnography of China’s factory regimes in print.

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                                                                                                                                                                                            • Seidman, Gay W. 2007. Beyond the boycott: Labor rights, human rights and transnational activism. New York: Russell Sage Foundation.

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                                                                                                                                                                                              Seidman studies three relatively successful instances of transnational movements in defense of workers’ rights and finds each riddled with limitations. Two are especially important: the tendency of such anti-sweatshop movements to engage in media-driven sensationalism that often distorts the issues foreign workers actually confront, and the emphasis on consumerism, which tends to neglect the role of states in the extension of democratic rights.

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