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Studies in Symbolic Interaction

ISBN: 978-0-76231-096-8, eISBN: 978-1-84950-261-0

ISSN: 0163-2396

Publication date: 7 July 2004


A lament of the educated during the past few decades has been over the incursion of work into private life. In the modern industrialized world, where consumer pleasures and entertainments abound, it is ironic that those best positioned to purchase them are often too engrossed in work to take the time to do so. The most skilled, privileged and well-remunerated in our society are consumed by work. In the nineteenth century, for the most educated and privileged to be so occupied would have meant social exclusion. Paid work (or sold-time) was a form of debasement; it brutalized the mind making the individual unfit for the enjoyment of social virtues (Mills, 1956, pp. 215–218; Sombart, 1915, p. 18). Now, 100 years later, the circumstances are neatly inverted. Work is a source of social status and privilege and those without work are devalued and excluded. Nikolas Rose (1990, pp. 160–161) describes the modern “world of work” as “a realm in which productivity is to be enhanced, quality assured and innovation fostered through the active engagement of the self-fulfilling impulses of the employee.” In other words, the individual’s desires for “autonomy” and “creativity” map neatly onto the organization’s search “for excellence and success.” It is an elective affinity as elegant as Protestantism with capitalism.


Finkelstein, J. and Lynch, R. (2004), "WORK WITHOUT END: THE MAKING OF A SUBJECTIVE CULTURE", Studies in Symbolic Interaction (Studies in Symbolic Interaction, Vol. 27), Emerald Group Publishing Limited, Bingley, pp. 191-205.



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