What is work? Is it simply a burden to be tolerated or something more meaningful to one's sense of identity and self-worth? And why does it matter? In a uniquely thought-provoking book, John W. Budd presents ten historical and contemporary views of work from across the social sciences and humanities. By uncovering the diverse ways in which we conceptualize work—such as a way to serve or care for others, a source of freedom, a source of income, a method of psychological fulfillment, or a social relation shaped by class, gender, race, and power—The Thought of Work reveals the wide-ranging nature of work and establishes its fundamental importance for the human experience. When we work, we experience our biological, psychological, economic, and social selves. Work locates us in the world, helps us and others make sense of who we are, and determines our access to material and social resources.
By integrating these distinct views, Budd replaces the usual fragmentary approaches to understanding the nature and meaning of work with a comprehensive approach that promotes a deep understanding of how work is understood, experienced, and analyzed. Concepts of work affect who and what is valued, perceptions of freedom and social integration, identity construction, evaluations of worker well-being, the legitimacy and design of human resource management practices, support for labor unions and labor standards, and relationships between religious faith and work ethics. By drawing explicit attention to diverse, implicit meanings of work, The Thought of Work allows us to better understand work, to value it, and to structure it in desirable ways that reflect its profound importance.
1. Work as a Curse
2. Work as Freedom
3. Work as a Commodity
4. Work as Occupational Citizenship
5. Work as Disutility
6. Work as Personal Fulfillment
7. Work as a Social Relation
8. Work as Caring for Others
9. Work as Identity
10. Work as Service
Conclusion: Work MattersNotes
"The Thought of Work is an erudite and engaging interdisciplinary synthesis of ten meanings of work that shows the centrality of work in our lives, identity politics, and society. The book draws on meanings of work from the social sciences and humanities and discusses their implications for a wide range of policy issues, including labor-management relations, the environment, human resource management, race relations, health and mental health, poverty, and gender relations."
Daniel B. Cornfield, Vanderbilt University and editor, Work and Occupations
"Budd does an excellent job of describing how work has utterly triumphed among us... but also confronts the issue of the deeply and widely held view that work no longer offers food for the soul and that many people's experience of paid employment is characterized by a radical loss of meaningfulness beyond its obvious and fundamental functionality."
Work, Employment & Society
"John W. Budd's The Thought of Work provides a much needed and highly eloquent statement of the meanings and orientations to work across time and nations. It is essential reading for students of work from senior scholars to beginning undergraduates."
Randy Hodson, Distinguished Professor of Social and Behavioral SciencesThe Ohio State University and past editor,
American Sociological Review
"This is a really useful and important book for anyone working or especially teaching in the field of employment studies.... The book can be used in a number of ways and at different levels to teach about work. It is, for example, an excellent way to introduce students to the general subject matter of economic life. Importantly, it invites the reader to think in theoretical, conceptual and at times philosophical ways about work.... Budd and his publisher are to be congratulated on producing a text that will be an invaluable resource for teachers and students of sociology, philosophy, management and business, as well as other disciplines. The book deserves to be a staple on any self-respecting critical reading list on work and employment. The Thought of Work is part of a real renaissance in the interdisciplinary study of work and is to be applauded."
British Journal of Industrial Relations
"In academic analysis as in everyday life, we hold conflicting perspectives and assumptions regarding work. In this impressive book, John W. Budd offers a comprehensive overview of past and present conceptions of working life and demonstrates that it is necessary and possible to find complementarities across our often contradictory ways of thinking about work."
Richard Hyman, London School of Economics, author of Understanding European Trade Unionism