by Benjamin H. Snyder
The twenty-first century workplace compels Americans to be more flexible. To embrace change, work with unpredictable schedules, be available 24/7, and take charge of one’s own career. What are the wider implications of these pressures for workers’ lives? How do they conceive of good work and a good life amid such incessant change?
In my recently published book, The Disrupted Workplace, I consider these questions in light of three groups of American workers—financial professionals, truck drivers, and unemployed job seekers. I look at how they construct moral order in a capitalist system that demands flexibility.
Based on seventy in-depth interviews and three years of participant observation, I argue that the flexible economy transforms how workers experience time. New scheduling techniques, employment strategies, and technologies disrupt the flow and trajectory of working life, which makes the workplace a site of perplexing moral dilemmas. Work can feel both liberating and terrorizing, engrossing in the short term but unsustainable in the long term.
The book contributes to conversations about the human costs of flexible and precarious work by examining how both high and low status workers construct moral order within workplaces and careers that are chaotic and shifting.