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US inequality

Rising income inequality in the United States has become big news over the last few years. Sociology and left political economy have always seen inequality as a structural outcome necessarily produced by the normal operation of capitalist economies. The recent concern shown by mainstream economists and some politicians is more curious, given that – with the exception of a three-year period in the 1990s and again in the 2000s – income inequality has risen steadily from 1968 to the present.

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The WIP team is delighted to welcome a new regular contributor, Doris Ruth Eikhof, Lecturer in Work and Organisation Studies at Stirling Management School, University of Stirling.

Doris has published leading research on creative workers and industries and work-life balance.

In her first post here, Doris discusses the rise of “mumpreneurship” — mothers running parenting-focused businesses from out of their homes — and asks is this is actually a form of female empowerment or a step forward for gender equality in the labor market.

The WIP team is delighted to welcome a new regular contributor, Martha Crowley, associate professor in the Department of Sociology and Anthropology at North Carolina State University.

Martha has published leading research on inequality, poverty, work intensification and job insecurity. Her most recent research has focused on dignity at work.

In her first post here, Martha presents a critical review of the recent Gallop report on “employee engagement” at work, which, she argues, incorrectly blames the lack of engagement at work on individual employees while neglecting the more important role played by organizational design and good management.

The current issue of the journal New Technology, Work and Employment features two articles on Foxconn in China, both of which are free for one month.

As described in the editorial to the issue by Debra Howcroft and Phil Taylor:

“These papers in different ways are concerned with the production of electronic consumables by Foxconn,the Taiwanese-owned multinational supplier, which is China’s leading exporter. … The first of the articles provides the remarkable testimony of Tian Yu, a young female migrant worker, who attempted suicide by jumping from the fourth floor of her dormitory accommodation. Tian’s account has been crafted with great skill and sympathy by Jenny Chan.”

“The second article locates this narrative in the broader political-economic context of the buyer-driven value chain, in which Apple establishes parameters and control over price-setting, production processes and product delivery from its suppliers, notably Foxconn. Based on extensive fieldwork and thorough documentary analysis, Chan, Ngai and Selden analyse the consequences of this asymmetrical power relationship.As the scale of production has ramped up, Apple’s ‘value capture’ and profits have soared while Foxconn’s margins have flatlined, the outcome being massive intensification of work and a harsh workplace managerial regime.”

Work_Family_Interface

The Work-Family Interface: An Introduction by Stephen Sweet (SAGE, 2013).

I am pleased to announce the publication of my new book The Work-Family Interface: An Introduction  (Sage 2014).  While there are so many good books and articles about work and family, I observed difficulties in locating an engaging narrative that succinctly explained the concepts and perspectives central to “work-family” scholarship.  So this book is designed to fill that gap and help instructors orient students (and other interested individuals) to the ways that home and jobs intersect.  Included in my discussions are the impacts that institutional arrangements have on lives, capacities to provide and receive care, family formation, business effectiveness, and sustainability.  It is also designed to demonstrate the connectedness of families across the world in the global economy.  The Work-Family Interface highlights policy paths taken, and those not taken, and the consequences that can be observed by comparing the United States with other societies.

-Stephen Sweet

Ithaca College

The latest issue of Work, Employment and Society (27,3) is a special issue celebrating 25 years of publication. It is freely available to all readers until 31 July 2013:  http://wes.sagepub.com/content/current

  • Reflections on work and employment into the 21st century: between equal rights, force decides, by Mark Stuart, Irena Grugulis, Jennifer Tomlinson, Chris Forde and Robert MacKenzie
  • Unsustainable employment portfolios, by John Buchanan, Gary Dymski, Julie Froud, Sukhdev Johal, Adam Leaver and Karel Williams
  • Women and recession revisited, by Jill Rubery and Anthony Rafferty
  • The nature of front-line service work: distinctive features and continuity in the employment relationship, by Jacques Bélanger and Paul Edwards
  • Postfordism as a dysfunctional accumulation regime: a comparative analysis of the USA, the UK and Germany, by Matt Vidal
  • Financialization and the workplace: extending and applying the disconnected capitalism thesis, by Paul Thompson
  • Finance versus Democracy? Theorizing finance in society, by Sylvia Walby
  • Work, employment and society through the lens of moral economy, by Sharon C Bolton and Knut Laaser
  • Ethnographic fallacies: reflections on labour studies in the era of market fundamentalism, by Michael Burawoy
  • Review of Scott Lash & John Urry The End of Organized Capitalism. Cambridge: Polity Press, 1987, £18.00 pbk, (ISBN: 9780745600697), 248pp, Gibson Burrell, Miguel Lucio Martinez, Ian Greer Response to reviews, Scott Lash and John Urry
  • 25 Favourite WES Articles chosen by WES readers, editors and authors

Young and Isolated

by Jennifer M. Silva

(This article was originally published in the New York Times. The original version can be read here.)

In a working-class neighborhood in Lowell, Mass., in early 2009, I sat across the table from Diana, then 24, in the kitchen of her mother’s house. Diana had planned to graduate from college, marry, buy a home in the suburbs and have kids, a dog and a cat by the time she was 30. But she had recently dropped out of a nearby private university after two years of study and with nearly $80,000 in student loans. Now she worked at Dunkin’ Donuts.

“With college,” she explained, “I would have had to wait five years to get a degree, and once I get that, who knows if I will be working and if I would find something I wanted to do. I don’t want to be a cop or anything. I don’t know what to do with it. My manager says some people are born to make coffee, and I guess I was born to make coffee.”

Young working-class men and women like Diana are trying to figure out what it means to be an adult in a world of disappearing jobs, soaring education costs and shrinking social support networks. Today, only 20 percent of men and women between 18 and 29 are married. They live at home longer, spend more years in college, change jobs more frequently and start families later.

For more affluent young adults, this may look a lot like freedom. But for the hundred-some working-class 20- and 30-somethings I interviewed between 2008 and 2010 in Lowell and Richmond, Va., at gas stations, fast-food chains, community colleges and temp agencies, the view is very different.

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