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Chapter 8

SOC227H5 Chapter Notes - Chapter 8: Richard Sennett

Course Code
Gregory Bird

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Chapter 8: The Meaning and Experience of Work
Work and Alienation
alienation: human condition resulting from absence of fulfilling work
Karl Marx and Alienation Work within Capitalism
alienate: act of separation, or transfer of something to new owner
Marx talks about alienation in terms of effects of capitalist production relations on
working class
Products didn’t belong to those who produced them (alienation from the product)
o Decisions about what to produce and about sale of finished products not made by
workers and profits that were made were the owners to keep
Alienation from activity of work
o Transfer of control over labour process for workers to capitalists or managers
o Didn’t have chance to decide how work should be done
Alienation from other workers around them
o Because capitalist employment relationships involve exchange of labour for a
wage, work was transformed from a creative and collective activity to a monetary
o Work itself became a commodity
Alienation occurs when workers have little or no control over conditions of their work
and few chances to develop to their fullest potential as a creative human being
Source of alienation can be traced to organization of work under capitalism
Alienation exists even when workers do not recognize it is there
Social-Psychological Perspective on Alienation
Powerlessness of workers
Many jobs offer limited opportunities for personal growth and self-fulfillment
Self-estrangement and normlessness
Main focus of social-psychological perspective is absence of basic job rewards
Robert Blauner on “Alienation and Freedom”
Robert Blauner defined alienation in terms of powerlessness, meaninglessness, isolation
and self-estrangement
Freedom-referring to ability to choose how one does one’s work
Theory that technology is a major determinant of degree of alienation experienced at
o Alienation most acute because of low-skilled, repetitive tasks that deprived
workers of control over their actions
Richard Sennett on “The Corrosion of Character”
Describes how today’s labour market is characterized by constant restructuring of work
organization, emphasis on flexibility in production and delivery of services, greater
reliance on nonstandard workers and glorification of risk taking
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