Conference Agenda

RN17_05a: Theoretical and Methodological Challenges
Thursday, 22/Aug/2019:
11:00am - 12:30pm

Session Chair: Alex Lehr, Radboud University
Location: UP.1.218
University of Manchester Building: University Place, First Floor Oxford Road


Organizational Responses To Active Labour Market Policies

Petra Hiller

University of Applied Sciences Nordhausen, Germany

This paper takes up the discussion about increasingly permeable boundaries of organizations and questions the assumption in research on active labour market policies that networked organizations have an increased "openness" to their environment.

Based on an empirical case study on the implementation of active labour market policies in a German job centre, this paper shows that the boundaries of networked organizations do not tend to become more permeable and therefore controllable by their environment. On the contrary, the empirical data indicate: inter-organizational collaboration in the implementation of active labour market policies triggers a redesign of internal structures, which in the case of the examined job centre is aimed at stabilizing the organizational boundaries.

How is this empirical finding to be explained? To answer this question, the paper proposes to broaden the prevailing perspective. Unlike the open-systems perspective in active labour market research, we assume that organizations as social systems are cognitively open and operatively closed at the same time. If this assumption is correct, then the openness observed in networked organizations relates to the cognitive dimension of the organizational system. However, this does not mean that organizations are becoming more permeable at their borders because at the operational level, formalisation and closure of the system remains.

Feasible Work as a New Perspective on Employment Mutations. Exploring the Experiences of the Unemployed People

Didier Demaziere1, Marc Zune2

1Sciences Po, France; 2Université de Louvain

New forms of employment and work are developing, both in salaried work and on its boundaries with informal or self-employment. We explore these changes from the standpoint of unemployment, based on the experiences of the unemployed. These people undergo the uncertainties of searching for a job and wonder what they can expect and demand. Our core hypothesis is that what employment means evolve through the experience of unemployment, and we propose to theorize this evolution with the concept of “feasible work”.

An intensive fieldwork (in-depth interviews with fifty-five unemployed individuals) makes it possible to identify what the “feasible work” they are aiming for means to them. The analysis is then focused on alternative projections to the standard employment norm: different kinds of non-salaried positions, often defined with weak statuses, on the edges of free-lance work and informality. This movement towards autonomous work is invested with two opposite meanings: as a mobilizing alternative, or as a resigned withdrawal. The careers and biographical resources of the unemployed people explain this differentiation.

Finally, we conclude that our approach makes it possible to enrich knowledge of the dynamic of social statuses and the norms that organize them. It underscores the extent to which unemployment is a matrix of enforced socialization into the most fragile forms of paid work. The theoretical value of the concept of feasible work is that it helps to understand the inconspicuous spreading of employment mutations that are usually described by macro sociological approaches.

A Conceptual Model For Understanding Meaning In Working Life

André Sebastian Alvinzi

Örebro university, Sweden

In recent years, scholars have addressed the topic of what meaning employees experience in their jobs. Some argue that a large quantity of paid work performed in Western societies is meaningless in terms of its societal contribution. Others claim that paid work in itself is an intrinsically meaningless activity. Studies imply that large numbers of Swedish and British employees think their jobs are meaningless. However, the majority of studies examining the meaning of work use a quantitative design and typically neglect nuanced understandings of meaning. What is seldom taken into consideration in existing studies are purposive and existential dimensions of meaning. This paper contributes with a nuanced conceptual model for understanding meaning at work. I argue that in order to develop our understandings of meaning in working life, scholars will benefit from including additional concepts of meaning. The paper focuses on current concepts of meaning in relation to work; what is lacking in these concepts; and how existing concepts of meaning can be developed into including existential and purposive dimensions. Given the link between meaningfulness and employee engagement, public health and quality of life, knowledge about nuanced meanings of different jobs could potentially benefit society and individuals.