The Myth of the Reflexive Worker: Class and Work Histories in Neo-Liberal Times

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

66 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Several influential social theorists contend that the increased insecurity injected into the labour market by neo-liberal economic policies, coupled with a discourse of flexibility concretised in lifelong learning initiatives, have contributed to the withering of class in contemporary society. Careers and job shifts now follow a ‘de-standardised’ pattern, they argue, in which people incessantly switch between divergent occupations, education, training and benefits, all propelled by a socially-induced reflexivity that knows no class bounds. Empirical assessments of this bold assertion have, so far, been far from supportive but, being chiefly quantitative in orientation, leave many important questions unanswered. This paper, starting out from a theory of class indebted to the late Pierre Bourdieu, draws on a qualitative research project examining the life histories of 55 individuals to fill in the gaps and demonstrate how work trajectories, despite changes that have taken place, are still driven along class tracks by class motors.
Translated title of the contributionThe Myth of the Reflexive Worker: Class and Work Histories in Neo-Liberal Times
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)413 - 429
Number of pages17
JournalWork, Employment and Society
Volume24
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Sep 2010

Bibliographical note

Publisher: BSA Publications Ltd

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