Article

Sociology of Work and Employment

Steve Vallas

in Sociology

ISBN: 9780199756384
Published online July 2011 | | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/obo/9780199756384-0057
Sociology of Work and Employment

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  • Sociology
  • Comparative and Historical Sociology
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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.

Article.  9518 words. 

Subjects: Sociology ; Comparative and Historical Sociology ; Economic Sociology ; Gender and Sexuality ; Health, Illness, and Medicine ; Population and Demography ; Race and Ethnicity ; Social Movements and Social Change ; Social Stratification, Inequality, and Mobility ; Social Theory

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