Speaking of Social Class…

Are you living in the UK and work as a cleaner, a caretaker, a retail cashier, or in a leisure and travel service occupation? If this is the case then according to the study of Savage et al. (2013) you may belong to the class of the precariat, the social class that is located at the bottom of their new model of social class.

From the abstract of their article we learn the following about the model: “We demonstrate the existence of an ‘elite’, whose wealth separates them from an established middle class, as well as a class of technical experts and a class of ‘new affluent’ workers. We also show that at the lower levels of the class structure, alongside an ageing traditional working class, there is a ‘precariat’ characterised by very low levels of capital, and a group of emergent service workers.” (p. 220)

Referring to my last blog entry and, hence, to Guy Standing’s thoughts on the precariat, being located at the bottom one might experiences challenges with regard to the development of an occupational identity, i.e. an identity that receives its meaning and value from the persons principle work. Due to the high degree of employment flexibility that is demanded from them, Standing argues, members of the precariat do not have the opportunity to belong to a community where norms and standards are developed and transmitted from generation to generation. Lack of community, however, prevents the development of feelings of social belonging in the present and for the future. Moreover, with the precariat we might see an instrumental employment orientation developing because the jobs that they have do not mean more to them than just a means to earn a living. As a consequence, a work-related identity may emerge that is grounded in self-interest and an instrumental (probably also opportunistic) orientation without much care for others or solidarity. This, however, is dangerous as in the long run, members of the precariat may turn into lone wolves, only fighting for themselves as individuals, as well as praising individualism and egoistic gains, what would lead into a future for our workplaces and our society that I certainly would not embrace.

Returning to Savage et al., the authors claim that 15 percent of the population in Britain belongs to the class of the precariat. “This is economically the poorest class, with a household income of only £8k, negligible savings, and they are likely to rent.” (p. 243). For these people, life means not only to be poor in economic terms but also to have very low scores on every other criterion, such as social contacts or highbrow cultural capital. I believe that hardly anyone of us would regard this to be a life to embrace. Moreover, if 15 percent of a country’s population has to life under such conditions this, and here I borrow again one of Standing’s arguments, cannot be sustainable in economic and social terms.

In turn, if you work as chief executive offices, marketing and sales director, judge, or financial managers, according to Savage et al.’s model, you may very well belong to the elite and therefore score very high on economic capital, high on social capital, and again very high on cultural capital. All these features, one can easily observe, can be translated in a number of further advantages, including a reasonable amount of economic, legal and social power. Therefore, as Savage et al. put it “Our findings thus clearly demonstrate the power of a relatively small, socially and spatially exclusive group at the apex of British society, whose economic wealth sets them apart from the great majority of the population.” (p. 235).

Savage, M. et al. (2013). A New Model of Social Class? Findings from the BBC’s Great British Class Survey Experiment. Sociology, 47(2), pp. 219-250.

Posted in human wealth, inequality, precariat, social class | Leave a comment

The Precariat. A New Dangerous Class

In this video clip, Guy Standing introduces what he believes constitutes a new class, the precariat. He argues that this class constitutes the new underclass in Western societies that is just above the poor but still  below the proletariat. He argues that the precariat, i.e. “people who are being habituated to internalize and accept a life of unstable labour and unstable living”, lacks  rights and labour security. However, he also sees potential in the precariat, once it will develop a self-consciousness as a class. In a nutshell: The precariat may have the potential to initiate societal change, which is the same potential that was ascribed to the  proletariat during the last century. Taking history into account, however, I am not sure to what extent the proletariat was able to realize this potential. Therefore, we will have to wait and see if the precariat will be able to do any better.



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Retention and re-integration of older workers into the labour market: What works?

I just found this study from Regina Konle-Seidl. She compares five countries – Germany, France, the Netherlands, Norway and Austria – pursuing the interest to identify what works best to retain employment for older workers and to re-introduce unemployed older workers to the labour market.

Her you can download the full text of her study: http://www.iab.de/en/publikationen/discussionpaper/publikationendetails-discussion-paper.aspx/Publikation/k170516301


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There is a cost when we care

Posted in Emotional labour | Leave a comment

New Books on Gender Studies and Critical Social Theory

The other day I received a notification from Sage that there are two new books available, which – according to my opinion – could be interesting for critical OB teaching.

Posted in Critical thinking, gender | Leave a comment

Too scared to go sick?

Recently the Industrial Relations Journal published an article entitled “Too scared to go sick? The management and the manifestations of workplace attendance in the food retail sector” written by Anastasios Hadjisolomou (2016). Conducting several case studies in the UK and Cyprus, Hadjisolomou seeks to answer the question of how firms in the retail sector ensure cooperation of their staff with regard to attendance. Hadjisolomou refers to an earlier article from Taylor et al., 2010, in which the authors argued that many organisations have embedded a strict absence control regime as an integral element of their labour cost reduction strategies. As Hadjisolomou emphasizes in the discussion of his study, his results parallel Taylor et al.’s findings:

“Despite the differences in formality and the drivers of coercion, the data shows that employees across all four cases were indeed ‘scared to go sick’ (Taylor et al., 2010). Overall, the management across the four case study organisations attempted, as Taylor et al. (2010, p.283) conclude, ‘to solve the problem of the indeterminacy of labour’s attendance [emphasis original] through coercion rather than consensus’.” (p. 430).

This, however, is not the full story. Hadjisolomou also highlights that attendance “was also managed through cooperation and accommodation” (p. 430). In this sense, management did not only employ a coercive approach to force attendance. Particularly shop floor managers also emphasized the prevention of absence, using “flexible practices, such as shift swaps; notice to line managers; early leave; late starts; unpaid leave and a one/two-hour break, to accommodate employees’ circumstances outside work, encouraging attendance through accommodation and cooperation” (p. 428). In this sense, the front line managers attempted to accommodate the workers’ and the organization’s interests (at least to some degree) and not simply enforced attendance using managerial power.

According to Hadjisolomou the combination between coercion and cooperation, hence, punishing absence (i.e. the stick) and accommodating to the needs of employees (i.e. the carrot) constitutes a dual approach to absence prevention. “A plausible explanation to this is that management are aware of the need to combine punitive measures with practices that can sustain possible cooperation within the workplace” (p. 430). Following other authors, Hadjisolomou argues that creating and maintaining a certain amount of cooperation is necessary in order to ensure constant performance from labour, i.e. value-creation. Therefore, the firms in this study developed a “hybrid absence management regime, which balances coercion and cooperation” (p. 430).


Hadjisolomou, A. (2016) Too scared to go sick? The management and the manifestations of workplace attendance in the food retail sector. Industrial Relations Journal, 47: 417–433. doi: 10.1111/irj.12148.

Taylor, P., I. Cunningham, K. Newsome and D. Scholarios (2010), ‘Too scared to go sick’-reformulating the research agenda on sickness absence’, Industrial Relations Journal, 270–288

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Workplace Privacy Under Surveillance

Well one could argue whether there is such a thing like workplace privacy. However, the Workplace Surveillance Team thinks there is and it is under threat. This is most likely the reason why they produced the following video clip.

Posted in control, Management, Managerial control | Leave a comment