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Session Overview
Session
RN17_08: Development of the Sociology of Work in Europe
Time:
Thursday, 22/Aug/2019:
6:00pm - 7:30pm

Session Chair: Valeria Pulignano, KU Leuven
Location: UP.1.218
University of Manchester Building: University Place, First Floor Oxford Road
Book presentation: Meet the authors

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Presentations

Development of the Sociology of Work in Europe: theories, methods, politics.

Robert Stewart

Grenoble Ecole de Management, United Kingdom

Development of the Sociology of Work in Europe: theories, methods, politics.

Paul Stewart

This presentation reports on the findings of the recent 11 country programme exploring the nature and form of the Sociology of Work in Europe in the period form the end of the second world war. One of the notable features to emerge from the individual stories of path-dependant development of the sub-discipline of the Sociology of Work since 1945 in Europe has been the importance of links with US sociology (and the sociology of work) and, on occasion, with other North American social sciences including social psychology and economics. Beyond North America, there has also been a degree of engagement, and at times an appropriation, of concepts from other disciplines such as history and political economy. Our review of the SoW also highlights two other significant findings: the subject is always, has always been, in a state of intellectual flux not only in every country but internally to such a degree that we might be able to argue that this state of flux, of spread, actually constitutes one feature of its ontology. It has no ‘centre’—it is always and everywhere contested and reframed. This can also be seen with respect to institutional context within which the subject is practiced so that the institutional space, in addition to the intellectual boundaries, of the sub-discipline have also always been subject to spread. The other feature of the sub-discipline which our cases reveal, again with variation according to country, history and changing social relations, is that of the role of the state in relation to the way in which the sub-discipline is practiced. The latter can be seen sometimes in the extent of state provisioning of research, at other times in terms of the way in which the state frames teaching and research activities, and again, in respect of its sometimes open expectation that the SoW should be a feature of state planning.

Thus, not only is the SoW not above society (let alone the state) since we know that it obviously changes its focus as society evolves. What is also interesting in terms of a putative sociology of the sociology of work, as it emerges from our studies, is that the SoW presents different faces according to the what (social relations), the where (history-social and institutional space) and the who (gender, ethnicity and class position) of those undertaking research in the sub-discipline. These all matter in determining the kinds of sociology of work we are presented with and these features vary within and between countries according to time, circumstance and the historical trajectory of each country’s political economy.



Labour Sociology in Italy: Resisting Erosion Through Transformation and Dynamism

Valeria Pulignano

KU Leuven, Belgium

The paper outlines the main socio-political transformations which occurred in Italy from second World War and their impact on the sociology of work as part of labour sociology and/or industrial sociology or more generally economic sociology. It sheds light on the historical foundations and the evolution of the sociology of work in Italy, by diversifying between three different periods (i.e. 1945- 70s; 1970s-1980s, and from late 1980s onwards) and identifies its main themes and disciplinary specificity while confronting it with the question of cross-boundary fertilization with other disciplines in social sciences, particularly gender studies and labour relations. The resulting sociology of labour which evolved is dynamic and distinctive. This occurred in an historical period in Italy characterized by important institutional and political changes, which followed the transformation of capitalism.



Swedish Sciology of Work

Bengt Furåker

Dept. of Sociology and Work Science,University of Gothenburg, Sweden

Sociology of work has been a vital subfield of Swedish sociology ever since the subject became an independent university discipline about 70 years ago. It was a time with huge economic growth, peaceful industrial relations and increasing standards of living in the country. In international comparison, sociology arrived late, but already from the beginning we encounter a preoccupation with work-related research. Theoretical and empirical inspiration was taken from American sociology and social psychology. In the mid-1960s the dominant paradigm of sociology of work began to be questioned. New theoretical perspectives – especially conflict- and power-oriented approaches – made their way into the field. In the course of revaluation, the discipline itself became more conflict-ridden. Another development was that many sociologists now approached the trade unions, thereby to some extent distancing themselves from employers. After some years, things calmed down, but the period of reorientation left its imprint on the sociology of work. Neoliberal ideology got a stronger foothold in Sweden toward the end of the 1980s, but this did not mean that sociologists became neoliberals. Most of them remained within the paradigms they had taken on board during their academic training. Eventually, however, another kind of reorientation occurred. Academic criteria became stricter, international publishing became increasingly important and differentiation and specialization took some steps forward. With the liberalization of the Swedish society and economy, sociologists met certain new topics concerning, for example, flexibility, temporary work agencies and large inflows of immigrants to the labour market. However, we also see a diminished interest among younger researchers for the sociology of work. To some extent, this may be a reaction against the subfield’s strong position within the wider discipline for several decades.



Toward a Sociology of Work in the UK

Carol Stephenson

Northumbria University, United Kingdom

The paper draws upon makes four inter-related claims in relation to the development of the sociology of work (SOW) in the UK. First, it offers a sociology of the sociology work, exploring the power bases and the social and economic structures that have shaped the discipline and led to a neglect of disadvantaged workers. Second, it challenges the view that the 1950s and 1960s heralded a ‘golden age’ of sociology of work. Third, it challenges the notion that the sociology of work is at its most vital when embedded within Sociology Departments and that the ‘spread’ of the study of work into business schools was a distraction and, at worst, a degradation of the sub-discipline. Finally, it calls for a return to a focus on the primary role that work and employment plays in the reproduction of social inequalities.



 
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