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Chapter 1

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SOC 606
Melanie Knight

Introduction - Chapter 1 What is Work • Economists (and many others) generally see work as activity that produces a good or service for the market • ^ This definition excludes unpaid work (cleaning our home, shoveling our driveway, washing our car) • "Use value" - what is produced has some value (not necessarily economic, but rather, personal and or social value) The Sociology of Work • Sociology is the study of human society (societal institutions, social groups, and processes of social change) • Sociologists are interested in how work is organized and how it relates to other social institutions ANote about Terminology • Feminists generally prefer the term "gender" over "sex" • Gender is not biologically determined, but socially and culturally defined • Assumed differences between men and women shape social relations, and these relations are infused with power • Gender also shapes social institutions and social practices • The term "class" is used in describing economic inequalities in society • People writing from a Marxist position see class defined at the point of production: Whether one is a worker or an owner is the main determinant of class • Those who approach class from a Weberian position see class as a social or economic category determined by one's opportunities, life chances, and lifestyle • In general, class refers to economic inequality that is fundamentally determined by (and in turn shapes and influences) occupation and one's position in the labour market • The concept of "race" is particularly controversial and problematic: It is difficult to find terminology to reflect the fact that people of colour have generally had different opportunities and experiences than others in Canadian society • Racialization: How we as a society have constructed "race" to allow categorization of people by certain "real or imagined phenotypical or genetic differences" such as skin colour or certain facial features SocologicalApproaches to Work Marxist Theory • The Labour Theory of Value holds that labour is the source of all value: Nothing has value unless labour is expended on it (for example: an apple has no value to us unless someone first picks it from the tree) • Marx belived that work is what truly seperates us from animals • Although animals labour, they do so in a different manner:Animals' work is driven by instinct, while we humans think about waht we are going to do: We conceptualize it before we do it Alienation • Marx saw work in a capitalist society as alienating • Marx argues that capitalism robs workers of control over the means of production and the products of their labour and puts this control in the hands of owners • Work becomes only a way to get paid and loses its ability to fulfill higher human needs • Marx named four sources of alienation for workers under capitalism 1. Workers are alienated from the product they produce. They do not own this product. They have no say over how it wil be disposed. They produce something through their own effort, but it is not theirs 2. Workers do not have control over the process of production: Someone other than workers make decisions about how fast to work, the order in which to complete tasks and the use of equiptment 3. Workers are alienated from themselves or from engaging in creative activity: They do what others tell them and have little opportunity to direct and conceptualize their own work 4. Workers are alienated from others, with few opportunities to talk and connect with coworkers. Workers are forced to compete with each other to obtain jobs, promotions, and other rewards, which further drives them apart • The division of labour under capitalism physically and emotionally isolates workers from one another • Marx believed that workers would become dissatisfied with work in a capitalist system and feel unfulfilled Exploitation • Marx also believed that workers under capitalism were highly exploited • Capitalists (owners) grow rich off the labour of workers, through the extraction of surplus value • Workers producing goods or services for sale create something of value, which is sold by their employers • Employers profit because they pay workers only a fraction of the value they provide • The surplus value that workers produce, but are not paid for, result in profit for employers • Marx believed that the division between workers and owners- or the proleteriat and the bourgeoisie- was the fundamental "class clevage" in society • The organization of work established and reproduced class inequalities • Marx predicted that workers would tire of this economic class exploitation and would throw off their oppressors Weberian Approaches • One of Weber's most valuable concepts: Rationalization • Rationalization: Aprocess through which people continually strive to find the optimum means to reach a given end in a very rule-driven and formal way • For George Ritzer, McDonaldization is the current trend in rationalization • Ritzer contends that "the principles of the fast-food restaurant are coming to dominate American society and the rest of the world • Ritzer explains that McDonald's (McDonaldization) emphasizes four principles 1. Efficiency: Finding the best means to reach a given end. Ritzer believes that by offering a limited menu, mass producing standardized goods through the use of technology, and closely directing the work of employees, fast-food restaurants are very efficient 2. Calculability: An emphasis on quantity over quality. Fast-food restaurants emphasize numbers- how large their servings are, how cheap their food is, and how many customers they have served. Their advertising encourages us to buy their food because there is a lot of it and it is cheap, not because it tastes good. ("If billions and billions have been served, how bad can it be...") < Quantity is taken as a substitute for quality 3. Predictability: All McDonald's restaurants, no matter where they are located, have virutally the SAME menu and environment. Workers follow a script. 4. Control: Workers and customers at restaurants like McDonald's are tightly controlled. It is control over what workers do and how they do it that ensures predictability and efficiency. Customers are also tightly controlled (lines, limited menus, few options, and uncomfortable seats) • Ritzer believed that these four principles guide other fast food restaurants, and organizations in a variety of industriesAS WELL (schools, hospitals, construction companies, etc) Advantages of McDonaldization: • Predictability can be comforting • Standardization can ensure a more consistent product • Better organizational efficiency can provide faster service to more people at a lower cost Disadvantages of McDonaldization: • Less variety • Lower quality • More control over us as consumers and workers • Workers are more prone to stress and burnout in highly controlled, fast-paced environments • According to Ritzer, McDonaldization is potentially "dehumanizing" and harmful • He believes that individuality is discourages • Like Marx, Weber and Ritzer see work as potentially denying workers that which defines us as human • They say that while rationalization brings many gains, it also comes with substantial costs Bringing in Gender and Race • Early Marxist-feminists argued that men benefited from women's unpaid labour in the home, just as capitalists benefit from workers' unpaid labour- the surplus value they provided • Dual systems theory holds that while the workings of capitalism structure class inequality, there is a parallel system of gender inequality, shaped by patriarchy, associated with men's power over women • These systems interact to structure social life, and result in an organization of work that entrenches gender inequality even as it reproduces class inequality • Dual labour market theory holds that the economy has two sectors 1. In the primary sector, work is characterized by good wages and working conditions, opportunities for advancement, and other rewards 2. In the secondary sector, work is less stable and low paid, and working conditions are poorer • Those with more education and social influence will be able to find jobs in the primary sector, but the more economically vulnerable are locked into jobs in the secondary sector • People in the secondary sector are usually women, members of some visible minorities, immigrants, young, and or the disabled • Split labour market theory argues that there are circumstances when people from different ethnic backgrounds are paid differently for substaintially similar work •
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