Work and Labour Studies Program, Department of Social Sciences
Faculty of Liberal Arts and Professional Studies, York University
THE FUTURE OF WORK
AS/SOSC 1510 9.0 – 2013-14
Lectures: Wednesday 4:30- 6:30 Location: Vari Hall A
Course Instructor: David Langille [email protected]
647 280 7747
Office: Ross North 743 Office Hours: Thursday 3:00-4:00 pm
Calendar Description: This course studies the emerging patterns of work in Canadian
society. It provides a comprehensive understanding of the post-war work world, the
causes of its breakdown, changing values and identities, and competing scenarios
for work, leisure and unemployment.
Course credit exclusion: AK/SOSC 1740 6.00.
Required Course Texts:
Krahn, Harvey, Graham S. Lowe and Karen Hughes.
Work, Industry, and Canadian Society, 6th Edition, Toronto: Nelson, 2011.
New - $90.95 – lots of second-hand copies available
O'Brien Moran, Michael and Karen Soiferman.
A Student's Guide to Academic Writing, Toronto: Pearson, 2014.
New - $66.95
* These will be supplemented by various articles posted on the Moodle site.
T1 –W 19:00 – McLaughlin College 113 - Janet Boekhorst [email protected]
T2 – W 19:00 – Stong College 223 - Amélie Delage [email protected]
T3 – R 8:30 - Bethune College 322 – Travis Hay [email protected]
T4 – F 14:30 - Vari Hall 3000 - Guio Jacinto [email protected]
T5 – R 12:30 - ACW 106 – David Langille [email protected]
T6 – cancelled
T7 – R 16:30 - ACW 205 – Rachel Manning [email protected]
T8 – F8:30 - Vari Hall 1005 - Nathan Prier [email protected]
T9 – F10:30 - Health NE 030 – David Langille [email protected]
T10 – cancelled
T11 – F10:30 - McLaughlin C101 - Peter Brogan [email protected]
T12 - F12:30 - Stong C205 - David Langille [email protected]
This is an exciting time to be studying the future of work. Much of the world is struggling
to recover from an economic recession of a scope not seen since the Great Depression of
the 1930’s. Our national income has increased but so has income inequality, causing a
growing gap between the wealthy 1% and the rest of us. The bankers of Bay Street are
prosperous once again, but many Canadians have remained insecure and fearful since
the crash of 2008.
For many working people these feelings are not new – their lives have become more
precarious over the past thirty years since the transnational corporations and their allies in
government engineered the process of global economic restructuring. The gains our
parents and grandparents were able to secure in the post-war era have been undermined
as wages were rolled back, the social safety net shredded, and the regulatory regime
undone. People are suffering as jobs have been lost in manufacturing, forestry, mining
and other sectors. Millions of working people are afraid their jobs will be exported, "down-
sized", or "contracted out." More and more people are coping with layoffs, part-time work,
and temp agencies -- and find themselves working longer for less. The middle class is
shrinking as the rich get richer. Many fear that they are just a couple of pay-cheques
away from eviction and hunger, as poverty moves from the margins into the mainstream.
People find optimism where they can. Some seek a secure perch within the corporate
world by becoming more competitive than their peers. Others seek security within the
public sector, hoping that a government job will last in the face of tax cuts, downsizing
Critics believe that the current economic crisis marks the failure of an economic system
premised on selfishness and greed – they see the current crisis as opportunity to
overcome injustice and improve the human condition. However, it is premature to think
this latest recession signals the end of capitalism, or even presume it marks a substantial
departure from the neo-liberal current of the past thirty years. At this point, the balance of
social forces are not sufficient to change the prevailing economic system or substantially
improve the conditions of working people. But the outcome of the crisis is still not clear,
and the balance could be tipped in either direction.
Complicating the picture still further, the economic crisis is occurring in the midst of
unprecedented climate change which threatens our whole civilization, if not all life on
earth. How will jobs be affected as we put a greater value on quality of life rather than
quantity of goods consumed?
Our job this year is to examine how these environmental trends, economic structures,
political institutions and social forces affect the future of work. Will these factors drive us
apart and further alienate us from our employers and from each other, or will we be drawn
together in common cause? Will we all be able to find green jobs that are satisfying and
2 THEME FOR THE COURSE -- BUILDING A BETTER WORLD
I propose that the theme of our class be "Building a Better World" -- in fact, I hope that
you will make this your theme for the rest of your working life.
Of course I want you to be able to provide for yourself, your family and your community.
But work should not be just a means to accumulate more possessions -- more stuff.
The biggest problems in the world today are climate change and global economic
insecurity and unemployment.
The best way to save the world is to change our values -- our criteria of success -- so that
we put a higher value on quality of life rather than quantity of goods consumed.
Parts of this world are drowning in junk and obesity while other parts of the world go
hungry or without housing.
And what's really sick, is that such inequality exists right here in our own city, our own
province, our own country.
So if you really want to save the world -- and save your own skin in the process -- you will
get on board with this movement for the common good.
It is not something I invented -- it is as old as civilization -- it's about taking care of people
-- making sure that everyone has enough to live.
It's about fairness and decency -- what we now call equality and human rights.
It's about giving people more control over their lives -- what we now call democracy.
It's also about taking care of the earth -- what we new call sustainability.
There is a good list of things to work on -- equality, democracy, sustainability.
We have a lot of work to do.
3 CONTENT GOALS
• Describe the nature of work and working life.
• Explore our economic history so as to understand the evolution the Canadian
“labour market” – the development of capitalism, the rise of Fordism, and the neo-
liberal assault on working people which rolled back the gains of the post-war era.
• Examine how specific sectors are being affected, and the issues or problems that
affect particular demographic groups such as women, youth, seniors, immigrants,
those with disabilities, etc.
• Appreciate the full range of economic, social and political possibilities and how
working people might achieve greater economic security, justice, dignity and
• Introduce the social sciences – notably sociology, economics and political science
– and gain respect for the rigour that goes into academic scholarship and
evidence-based research in particular.
• What is happening to the world of work? (descriptive)
• Why are things the way they are? Where have we come from? What proceeded
the current era? (analytical)
• What might be? (speculative) What sort of future should we create for ourselves?
• What are my own prospects – or those of my family, friends, community, nation or
• How can I change the world – and improve our prospects?
• Read and take notes. Listen and take notes. Learn to read quickly but remember
the key terms and major themes, and reflect critically on what you read.
• Locate resources – books, journals, articles.
• Weigh evidence and select appropriate material.
• Learn to give proper citations that give credit where due and avoid academic
dishonesty. Learn to paraphrase, not plagiarize.
• Learn the analytic tools (concepts and methods