Sociology 2169 Study Notes 1st Semester Midterm.docx

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22 Apr 2012
Sociology 2169 Study Notes
Chapter 1
What is Work?
Paid Work: An activity that a person receives payment for performing
Econmist: activity that produces a good or service for the market
Unpaid+Paid Definition: “Exertion of energy, physical or mental; effort directed to some purpose
or end”
Marxian definitions:
o An activity that produces a “use value” – a good, or service useful to us.
o Tilly and Tilly (1998): work is “human effort that adds use value to goods and services”
use value means what is produced has value, whether economically, socially
or personally
Sociology of Work
Major Themes in Sociology of Work
o Sociological research is concerned with the impact of social structure on people and in
the way which people shape social institutions
o The link between work and social change
o Link between work and social inequality
Income is tied with inequality
Sociologists are interested in work as a social activity:
o 1) work contributes something to society (economically and otherwise)
o 2) People work with others and within social institutions. ie work is embedded in
systems of social relations and social structures.
o 3) work produces “social outcomes” for workersincome, social identity, social status,
social relations; impact on health.
What Sociologists Study:
o 1) the link between work and social outcomes, especially, social inequality, social well-
o 2) Dramatic transformations occurring at work; what people do.
o 3) Impact of working on people, as work dominates most people’s days.
o 4) The ways in which people shape work unions, technology, etc.
o 5. Social characteristics of workers: who works where, how much? For how long?
What does work do for us?
o 1) Economic role:
Individual level: people support themselves through work
Social level: work contributes to societal well-being.
o 2) Social functions: identity, fulfillment, satisfaction, social interaction, social status.
o Some have instrumental attitudes to work: work is a means to an end.
o Others have an emotional attachment to work and derive satisfaction, meaning from
the work itself.
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Theories of Work
Marxist Theory
o Saw work as a key to reproducing inequality, also a source of it
o Labour theory of value-belief that labour is the source of all value, if labour is not put
into it has no value
o Second assumption is that work is what truly separates humans from animals, and work
is how we express our humanity
Animals work by instinct VS humans who think about what were going to do,
we conceptualize
o Alienation
Argued that capitalism robbed workers over control over their work and gave it
to owners, thus psychologically damaging, limiting our potential for growth,
distorting human nature and our interactions with others, etc.
1) Workers are alienated from the product they produce
o They do not own the product
2) Workers do not have control over the process of production
o Cannot judge how fast, what they can use and what order
3) Alienated from themselves / creative activity
o Little say in conceptualizing or directing work
4) Alienated from others
o Cannot connect with coworkers
o Exploitation
Owners exploit workers by making a profit from the extraction of surplus value
Workers create value in product, owners sell value, and pay workers
only partially of the full value so they can profit, never paid full value of
Nature of exploitation means work is inherently conflictive
Employers want more surplus value VS Workers want less
Bourgeoisie VS Proletariat
Nature of exploitation means that workers do not work freely but to survive
Weberian Approach
o Concerned with bureaucracy
o Rationalization
A process through which people (and organizations) continually strive to find
optimum means to reach a given end in a rule driven formalized way
Bureaucracies are like this, trying to be efficient as possible with
advanced divisions of labour, specialized workers, lots of rules
o Ritzers McDonaldization
Extreme form of rationalization, like the fast food resteraunts
4 key elements
1) Drive for Efficiency
o Best means to an end EX. Limited menu, mass producing,
technology, making customers do work
o Concern and emphasis for quantity over quality (substitute)
o Same thing, from one point in time to place
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o Lack of variety, scripted interactions, similar restaurants
o Efforts to control people in order to achieve more of the key
o Technology, menus, bad seats, etc
o Both theories bring dehumanization, limiting humans for potential
o McDization also going to into school curriculums, governments, etc
o Concerned about power linked with knowledge
Knowledge brings power and power produces knowledge
People who know things about you have power over you
o Also concerned with rise in a disciplinary society in last 100 years
People less likely to be ruled by force, but surveillance, discipline and treatment
From physical punishment, or alter the soul correcting
o Explored how architecture and design can facilitate surveillance
Ideal structure/organization Panopticon
Individuals are always visible to those who can watch them but not vice-
Thus the watchers have power and control because power is visible (we
know someone is watching over us) and unverifiable (we don’t know
what they’re doing)
Thus people discipline themselves to avoid being screwed
Positive, increases production and conformity
Negative, to the extent that people experience it a ssuch
Gender and Race
o Can affect the workplace differently
o Dual system Theory
Capitalism structure has a parallel system of inequality, in gender inequality,
shaped by patriarchy mens power over women
o Dual Labour Market Theory
Explains difference in labour market opportunity
Proposes that economy has two sectors, one for dominant workers and one
for marginal workers and those with good education go for top sector
There is no competition for same jobs with those who have same experience
Criticized for being too simple, experiences cannot just be put into two
o Split Labour Market Theory
Argues that people with different ethnic backgrounds are paid differently for
substantially similar job
Bonanich argued that people with different ethnic background may have
differing political and social resources that shape labour market opportunities
Leads to ethnic antagonism (such as Chinese workers)
o Racial and gender characteristics have historically been held to be socially meaningful
and to have implications for behaviour, ability etc.
to shape labour market opportunities and experiences
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