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Sociology 2169 Chapter Notes -Visible Minority, Outsourcing, Household Division

Course Code
SOC 2169

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Chapter 1: Text notes: Sociological Approaches to Studying Work
What is Work?
-Economists see work as activity that produces a good or service for the market
oCovers most of paid labor but excludes much of what else we view as work excludes housework,
schoolwork etc. (unpaid), illegal drugs etc.
-Tilly and Tilly
oWork: human effort that adds use value to goods and service
oUse Value: what is produced has some value (economic and social value)
oEncompasses paid work, as well as domestic work, illegal work etc.
The Sociology of Work
-Sociology: the study of human society (institutions, groups, and change)
-Work is a social activity in many social locations and institutions, affected by processes of social change
-Main themes:
oImpact of social structure on people and the ways in which people shape social institutions
Our nature is based on preexisting conditions
How the structure of work and conditions shape our experiences, and how we adapt to the structure
Seek fulfillment through work (not fulfilled = collectively fight)
oLink between work and social change
How the organization of work and conflicts prompt social change
How broader social/economic changes alter work
Work has changed over time in its organization, structure, technology and markets
oLink between work and social inequality
Work is central to the production and reproduction of inequality
Influences income, life expectancy, standard of living and health
Intersectional gender, class, race etc. combine in ways to shape our interactions and experience
Work organizations are gendered and racialized
A Note About Terminology
-Use the term gender over sex
oGender is not biologically determined but socially and culturally defined
oAssumed differences between men and women shape social relations, and these relations are infused
with power
-Class: describes economic inequalities in society
oMarxist – class defined at the point of production: owner vs. worker
oWeber – social/economic category determined by one’s opportunities, life chances and lifestyle
oWork and Industry - fundamentally determined by (and shapes/influences) occupation and one’s position
in the labor market
-Race: people of colour used over visible minority
oRacial categories are socially constructed – society shares an understanding of the meaning
oRacialization: how society have constructed “race” to allow categorization of people by certain real or
imagined phonotypical/genetic differences

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Gives meaning that reflects how members of a group are seen
Categories become real and reflect people’s experiences
Visible minorities fare more poorly in the labour market in terms of participation and income
Sociological Approaches to Work
-Sociological Theory: set of ideas that helps us study, interpret and understand a social phenomena
-Draw on many theories to shed light on an issue/event, use certain theories for certain problems
Marxist Theory
-Studied the nature of work in modern capitalist societies
-Alienation and exploitation through the extraction of surplus value are still used
-2 central assumptions:
oLabour Theory of Value: labour=source of all value; nothing has value unless labour is expended on it
E.g. apple has no value unless it is picked from a tree
Ex: wooden chair has value by being worth the wood chopping, shaping, assembly, sanding
oWork is what truly separates humans from animals
We express our humanity through work
We think about what we will do conceptualize
Animals work is driven by instinct
-Work in a capitalist society is inherently alienating
-Capitalism robs workers of control over the means of production and products of their labour
-Work is only a way to get paid, not to fulfill higher human needs
oCan be psychologically damaging, distorting our nature & interactions/limiting our potential growth
-4 sources of alienation:
oAlienated from the product they produce
Don’t own it, can’t say how it will be disposed
oNo control over the process of production
High division of labour – someone tells them what to do
oAlienated from themselves or from engaging in creative activity
Little time to conceptualize and direct
oAlienated from others, with few opportunities to connect with coworkers
Compete for jobs, promotions etc.
-Owners grow rich off the labour workers, through the extraction of surplus value
oCreate value which is then sold employers profit because they only pay workers a fraction of the
value provided
-Surplus value workers produce, but aren’t paid for, results in profit for employers
-Exploitation means work inherently generates conflict

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oWorkers and employers have opposing interests
Workers want to increase surplus value by increasing productivity, changing production, altering
division of labour, or technology
Works aim to reduce surplus value to get paid more
-Capitalist societies are inherently unequal
oOwner/Worker division stems from organization of production and profit
-Coercive nature enhanced as workers need employment to survive
-Proletariat/Bourgeoisie = fundamental class cleavage in society
-Organization of work established and reproduced class inequalities
-Marx predicted revolution
Weberian Approaches
-Analysis of bureaucracy and modern organization
-Work is in bureaucratic settings with hierarchies, complex divisions of labour, and formal rules/procedures
-Rationalization : ppl continually strive to find the optimum means to reach a given end in a very rule-driven
and formal way
oDrive to improve guides decision making within organizations and impacts workers, shaping available
jobs and what work’s like
oPressured to follow rules and be efficient
-Ritzer – McDonaldization : principles of the fast food restaurant are coming to dominate American society
and the rest of the world
o4 principles:
Efficiency: best means to reach a given end
Limited menu brings mass production through technology, and closely directing the work
of employees
Customers begin to do more work
Calculability: quantity over quality
Large portions, cheap, how many customers (a lot of it)
Quality of product is downplayed
Predictability: virtually the same menu and environment
Workers use a script, limiting to employees (robotic)
Control : what workers do and how they do it (ensures predictability and efficiency)
Customers are also controlled
Lines, limited menus, uncomfortable seats to leave etc.
-Guide organizations in a variety of industries (government, schools, sports etc.)
oE.g. public schools are more standardized – curriculum and tests (efficient and predictable)
-Main Disadvantages less variety, lower quality, more control over us
oMore stress and burnout
oPotentially dehumanizing
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