The Sociology of Work

The Sociology of Work

The Sociology of Work

The Sociology of Work

Excerpt

This book was originally intended as a description of occupational institutions, but it has gradually turned into an essay on the division of labor. The division of labor is a curiously neglected topic. It is difficult for a sociologist to read the works of Adam Smith, lately professor of moral philosophy in the University of Glasgow, without regretting that nineteenth-century scholars spent untold effort on the embellishment of Smith's model of the self-adjusting market, but saw nothing interesting in his lucid analysis of occupational institutions. Something of the same sort happened a hundred years later when Emile Durkheim undertook a doctoral dissertation on the division of social labor, and made a very fair start toward answering the tremendous question "What holds society together?" Yet that study is remembered for certain methodological innovations, and for an invalid proof that ethical principles can be scientifically verified.

Happily, there has been a great deal of careful research on the causes and consequences of occupational differentiation. Much of it is incidental to some other study--of educational placement, of manpower utilization, of industrial relations, or of annuity schedules--but this does not necessarily detract from its sociological relevance, as the following pages will illustrate many times.

The most compelling reason for studying the sociology of work is that no description of the human landscape is possible without taking into account the productive activities to which most adults give most of their time, and the principles which govern the allocation of social rewards and deprivations. As Everett Hughes wrote in introducing a special issue of the American Journal of Sociology on the Sociology of Work: "In our particular society, work organization looms so large as a separate and specialized system of things, and work experience is so fateful a part of . . .

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