to you by the students of past
Sociology of Work Leisure and Consumption classes... Enjoy
course has been constructed to examine work, leisure and consumption
as interrelated social, cultural and economic relationships. The central
premise of the sociology of work -- once known as "industrial sociology"
-- is that production relations shape the basic institutional frameworks
that influence almost all other parts of people's lives. This is especially
so in an economy where labor is organized through markets -- those not
engaged in paid labor in such societies are either unemployed, retired,
or perform non-paid labor (the latter, historically, a role performed
primarily by women). Notice, how each of these latter categories immediately
conjure up moral connotations as well. In modern market-based societies
labor is not just a material imperative, it has also been an idealized
activity that guides moral judgments. The work ethic has been a prized
cultural possessions of the middle classes. Until the twentieth century,
work's opposite -- leisure -- was deemed sinful by some, a luxury by
others. The social and cultural changes that have occurred in the twentieth
century with respect to work, leisure and consumption have been vast.
How did the mechanization and bureaucratization of work change the experience
and meaning of work? What made leisure and consumption activities more
attractive and acceptable to people?
just as scholars were proclaiming the US a post-industrial leisure society
in the 1970s, the tides turned again and leisure time began a long-term
decline for many people. A massive process known as "deindustrialization,"
began in the mid 1970s and resulted in the loss of the hallmark heavy
industrial jobs such as steel production and machine building, and triggered
the erosion of many relatively high-skill and thus, high-paying, jobs.
At the same time, the aggregate economic importance of consumption has
continued to expand. In fact, many areas that have been hard hit by
the loss of industrial firms and skilled jobs have tried to replace
these jobs with tourist-based and/or service-sector economies. Think
also of how many cities there are where shopping malls and gallerias
now dominate the urban landscape. Today, this process now known as "corporate
downsizing," continues, as "lean and mean" corporations
continue to reshape themselves to compete in world markets. But now
it is getting difficult to annually coax sufficient Christmas purchases
from consumers who are making less money as workers. What will the relationship
be between our work identities and our consumer identities as we enter
an age that some have labeled as "postmodern"?
to downsizing and deindustrialization is the emergence of the "high-tech"
economy driven by computers and advanced telecommunications. How will
the emerging computer and Internet technologies transform the social
relations of work? Will telecommuting become widespread, literally changing
the spatial arrangements of our cities? Some suggest these new technologies
have the capacity to do away with the authoritarian and controlling
relationships that have dominated workplaces for at least the past two
centuries. Others point out that these new technologies are already
being used to more closely monitor and observe employees' work behaviors.
How will the changing organization of workplaces in conjunction with
new technologies alter income inequalities? Can these new technologies
actually increase productivity enough to offset the loss of other industries?
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