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Randy Hodson’s research on workplace inequalities and dignity at work asks vital questions about the capacity of employment to provide the resources needed to support a…
Randy Hodson’s research on workplace inequalities and dignity at work asks vital questions about the capacity of employment to provide the resources needed to support a decent life. A decent life involves not merely the capacity to meet basic needs but also the possibility of investing in upward mobility, for example by pursuing a college degree. Rising employment inequalities and slow-growing wages in the United States over the past several decades have challenged the capacity of ordinary workers to make these investments. Yet worries about college affordability are more likely to be expressed as a concern over the price of schooling than as a concern over the returns to work. In this chapter, I conduct an historical analysis of trends in the costs of college compared to trends in wages from the 1970s to the 2000s in order to evaluate how stagnating wages affected the possibilities for paying for college, using several different data sources on college costs and wages. I focus on the question of how much money a student worker could earn toward the costs of college. I show that over time student work became a significantly less lucrative undertaking and would have covered less of the costs of college over time even if college costs had remained stable. I conclude that we must pay attention to how the jobs crisis affects a range of institutions and growing stratification in opportunity in America. As Randy Hodson argued in his voluminous research, dignity at work has far-reaching consequences for the chances of a decent life.
Increased worker autonomy and participation are being proclaimed as the foundation for economic competitiveness in the 1990s (Reich, 1991). Management has been generally favorable towards such strategies and surveys of workers also indicate widespread support (Hackman, 1990). However, trade unionists fear that these new organizations of work are, at least in part, being sponsored by management in an attempt to undermine unions and manipulate workers (Grenier, 1988; Parker, 1985). More cautious forms of this argument propose that participation schemes are initiated to extract from workers the important “working knowledge” (Kusterer, 1978) and “tricks of the trade” (Thomas, 1991; Hodson, 1991) that are often workers' resource in bargaining with management over wages and conditions. Participation schemes may also lead to the unraveling of “informal agreements” between workers and front line supervisors concerning work effort and work procedures that both labor and management would prefer to keep hidden (Thomas, 1991:8).
Gender divisions are embedded in and essential to the structure of capitalist production. While most men and women in the United States both now work for wages, they…
Gender divisions are embedded in and essential to the structure of capitalist production. While most men and women in the United States both now work for wages, they rarely work together. Gender segregation has been identified as one of the major issues of the earnings gap between men and women. An explanation of the forces responsible for this has been difficult to achieve. Most theories fail to consider the contribution of demand‐side factors to gender segregation. Neo‐Marxist analysis of labour market segmentation and theories of the dual economy have provided new frameworks for investigating these structural or demand‐side features of industrial organisation. The pattern of blue‐collar segregation in US manufacturing industries is examined drawing on these theories. Employment data from the US census is used to identify how the levels of blue‐collar segregation in manufacturing industries are influenced by the industry's location within the core or peripheral sector of the US economy. Many of segregation's proposed remedies stress the role of supply‐side factors. These strategies focus attention almost exclusively on male and female workers and ignore the structure of the workplace. Strategies that ignore the dualistic nature of the US economy offer only partial solutions and may be counter‐productive. If forced to eliminate or reduce segmentation, employers may simply restructure their labour processes in a way that undermines rather than contributes to gender inequality. It is apparent that the pursuit of gender equality in the workplace is intrinsically related to and dependent on the broader efforts of workers to achieve greater control over production, both at the workplace and in the economy as a whole.
In eulogizing Randy Hodson, I reflect on and celebrate the development and deepening of Randy’s intellectual legacy as I have seen it unfold and intersected with it at…
In eulogizing Randy Hodson, I reflect on and celebrate the development and deepening of Randy’s intellectual legacy as I have seen it unfold and intersected with it at different points over the years. Our careers commenced in 1980 as labor sociologists were turning their attention toward worker agency in an emerging post-bureaucratic era of neo-liberalism. Our careers next intersected two decades later in an era of globalization through our initiative in building a transnational sociology of work. Randy triumphed as an agent of worker agency as he moved the field into the globalizing, post-bureaucratic epoch of the discipline’s intellectual history.
This chapter examines the ways in which some organizations overstep their bounds by making unlimited claims on their employees’ lives. Organizations that do this are…
This chapter examines the ways in which some organizations overstep their bounds by making unlimited claims on their employees’ lives. Organizations that do this are described as “greedy institutions,” using the term coined by sociologist Lewis Coser. Sullivan explains how modern technologies and other factors have enabled employers to make increasing claims on employees, extending the workday beyond its traditional limits and overworking the employees. Technologies such as smart phones have enabled employers to get greedier – often while appearing to do just the opposite. For example, an employer can appear to be generous to employees by issuing company-funded smart phones, but those smart phones become tethers that keep the employees attached to their work and their supervisors 24/7. Sullivan argues that while many corporations are greedy, some universities are now also becoming greedy, partially because of increasing demands for productivity and efficiency in higher education. Sullivan discusses these issues within the context of the work of Randy Hodson, who influenced Sullivan’s thinking and writing on this topic.
After multiple decades stumbling in the status attainment wilderness, the sociological study of inequality is now cultivating a new garden: the workplace generation of…
After multiple decades stumbling in the status attainment wilderness, the sociological study of inequality is now cultivating a new garden: the workplace generation of inequalities. While our theories have long focused on contextually embedded social relations – often in production – as generating inequality, our methods have lagged, focusing instead on individual status attainment, abstracted from social relations including those at work. In this chapter, we outline first how we got into this mess, and then advocate a principled comparative methodological framework for studying the organizational generation of durable inequalities. We highlight the particular contribution of Randy Hodson to the original critique of individualistic status attainment research and his role in developing alternative methodologies, some of which we think should be further developed today.
Randy Hodson’s categories offer an ambitious, comprehensive framework for analysing the objective and subjective conditions that shape dignity and resistance at work. In…
Randy Hodson’s categories offer an ambitious, comprehensive framework for analysing the objective and subjective conditions that shape dignity and resistance at work. In this chapter, we engage with Hodson and his collaborators work through exploring its potential usefulness in helping understand the experience of low-skill and low-paid factory workers at the end of supermarket supply chains in the United Kingdom. In emphasising the purposeful and strategic actions of workers to attain and maintain dignity within work, and management-influenced conditions that destroy or deny it, Hodson’s perspectives overlap with themes in more recent labour process theory that elaborate expanded notions of labour agency. While we share such concerns, we also identify some limitations to the framework and its explanatory powers, particularly where threats to dignity are associated with concepts of abuse and mismanagement. Our investigations of the supermarket supply chain reveal that management, authority and work organisation in these plants is not, by and large, ‘abusive’, ‘chaotic’ or ‘anomic’. Such terminology creates the unavoidable impression of pre-rational workplaces based on arbitrary, personal power. In our cases, the plants are not much ‘mis-managed’ as managed rationally according direct and indirect pressures exerted through supply chain power dynamics. Hodson’s framework for addressing issues of dignity and to a lesser extent resistance, remain an indispensable but incomplete entry point for understanding its dynamics.
In this tribute to Randy Hodson, I will demonstrate how the defining concept of his research – that “life demands dignity and meaningful work is essential for dignity” …
In this tribute to Randy Hodson, I will demonstrate how the defining concept of his research – that “life demands dignity and meaningful work is essential for dignity” (Hodson, 2001, p. 3) – has led me to fundamentally reinterpret much of my earlier fieldwork, principally represented in Managing in the Corporate Interest: Control and Resistance in an American Bank (Smith, 1990) and Crossing the Great Divide: Worker Risk and Opportunity in the New Economy (Smith, 2001). I then suggest that we add a fifth condition to his formulation of challenges to dignity. Hodson identified four: management abuse, overwork, limits on autonomy, and contradictions of employee involvement. The framework needs to be contextualized within the fifth major challenge of our times: the broader environment of employment precariousness under neoliberalism that has deeply affected our micro-experiences at work, including those singled out by Hodson.