Sociology of Work

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Course TypeCourse CodeNo. Of Credits
Discipline ElectiveSUS1SC8454


Semester and Year Offered: Fifth semester, third year undergraduate

Course Coordinator and Team: Dr Priyasha Kaul.

Email of course coordinator: Priyasha[at]aud[dot]ac[dot]in

Pre-requisites: None

This course has been designed with the aim of introducing students to the changing notions of ‘work’ and its wider sociological implications in the contemporary world. It will enable an appreciation of the interconnected nature of the lived experience of work in varied socio-cultural and economic contexts. As the course outline shows (below), it charts the trajectory of the changing notions and meanings around work from the industrial revolution to the contemporary context of technologically enabled workplaces. The units have been designed to analyse the idea(s) of work around varied axes of paid/unpaid, work/leisure, family/workplace, race, caste, gender and class. The aim is to help students unhinge their ideas around the notion of what constitutes ‘work’ and explore its intersectionality with diverse sociological contexts and aspects in order to arrive at a holistic understanding of work as not just standardized and/or paid employment but as an important sociological aspect of society.   

Course Outcomes:

  • It will enable students to gain an understanding of the diverse and fragmented nature of work in today’s times and the sociological legacy behind differential valuations of work vis-à-vis  aspects like gender, caste, class etc.
  • It will enable critical thinking and engagement by helping students learn about and articulate various crucial debates and discussions in the sociology of work and related areas.
  • The group project will further promote teamwork and presentation skills among the students.
  • It will also help develop their communication and speaking skills. 

Brief description of modules/ Main modules:

  • The industrial revolution and work: This unit traces the socio-historical legacy of the industrial revolution and the contemporary idea of ‘work’. It will also focus on the related processes of industrialization and industrialism.
  • Sociological Approaches: Changing nature of ‘work’ : This unit will focus on how the concept of ‘work’ has been studied in classical sociological works of scholars like Max Weber, Karl Marx and Emile Durkheim. It will also interrogate how these notions of work have changed with the advent of post-industrial and digital economies.  
  • Alienation and the workplace : This unit focuses on the relationship between work and alienation from the manufacturing sector to the varied forms of the contemporary workplace.
  • Identities and work: This unit focuses on the intersectionality between gender, caste, class and race in relation to experiences of work in the contemporary context.
  • Flexible working : This unit focuses on the ideas around flexible-working, work-life balance, family and care responsibilities vis-à-vis work and the technologically enabled workplace.

Assessment Details with weights:
There will be continuous assessment using different methods which will include both graded and ungraded components. 
The ungraded assessment components will include class discussions (both in the classroom and online through the Google classroom group set up at the beginning of the semester for all students enrolled in the course by the course ci-ordinator to facilitate interactions and debates) and class presentations.
The graded assessment for the course will be divided into four components of assessment:

  • Class test: 20%
  • Mid semester exam: 20%
  • Home assignment: 20%
  • End semester exam: 40%

Reading List (in the order of the modules):

  • Grint, K and Nixon, D. (2015). The Sociology of Work. Cambridge: Polity Press. (Ch 1 & 2)
  • Kumar, K. 1973. Prophecy and Progress, London: Allen Lane. (Pp 45-111)
  • Bell, Daniel. 1976, The Coming of Post-Industrial Society, London: Heineman. (Ch 1&3)
  • Etzioni, A. and Jargowsky, P. A. (1990). ‘The false choice between high technology and basic industry’ in K. Erikson and P. Vallas (eds.) The Nature of Work: Sociological Perspectives. New Haven and London: Yale University Press  (pp. 304-317). 
  • Grint, K and Nixon, D. (2015). ‘Classical Approaches to Work: Marx, Durkheim and Weber’ in The Sociology of Work: An Introduction. Polity Press. Cambridge. (Ch 3)
  • Weber, M. (2001). The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism. London: Routledge.
  • Erikson, K. (1986). ‘On Work and Alientaion’, American Sociological Review, Vol. 51 (1), Pp. 1-8.
  • Shantz, A., Alfes, K. and Truss, C. (2014). ‘Alienation from Work: Marxist ideologies and their twenty-first century practice’, The International Journal of Human Resource Management, Vol 25 (18), Pp. 2529-2550.
  • Taylor, S. (1998). Emotional Labour and the new Workplace’ in Thompson and Walhurst (eds.) Workplace of the Future. London: Macmillan, Pp. 84-100
  • Breen, R. and Cooke, L. P. (2004). ‘The persistence of the gendered division of domestic labour’, European Sociological Review, Vol. 21 (1), Pp. 43-57. 
  • Devine, F. (1992). Gender Segregation in the Engineering and Science Professions: A case of continuity and change’ in Work, Employment and Society’, 6 (4) Pp.557-75.
  • Grint, K and Nixon, D. (2015). ‘Race, ethnicity and labour markets: recruitment and the politics of exclusion’ in The Sociology of Work: An Introduction. Polity Press. Cambridge. (Ch 7)
  • Jodhka, S.S. and Newman, K. (2007). ‘In the name of globalization: Meritocracy, productivity, and the hidden language of caste’, Economic and Political Weekly, 42(41), Pp. 4125-4132. 
  • Agarwal, B. (1988). ‘Who sows? Who reaps? Women and Land rights in India’, Journal of Peasant Studies, Vol. 15 (4), pp. 531-81.
  • Thorat, S. et al. (2009). ‘Urban Labour Market Discrimination’, Indian Institute of Dalit Studies: Working Paper Series, Vol. 3 (1), Pp. 1- 18.
  • Oakely, A. (2005). ‘Housework and Family Life’ in The Ann Oakley Reader: Gender, Women and Social Science. Policy Press: Bristol.
  • Grint, K and Nixon, D. (2015). ‘The meaning of work in the contemporary economy’ in The Sociology of Work: An Introduction. Polity Press. Cambridge. (Ch 10)
  • Kelliher, C. and Anderson, D. (2010). ‘Doing More with less?: Flexible working practices and the intensification of work’, Human Relations, Vol. 63 (1). Pp. 83-106.
  • Wajcman, J. et al. (2008). ‘Families without Borders: Mobile Phones, Connectedness and work-home divisions’, Sociology, Vol. 42 (4). Pp. 635-652.

Additional Reference:

  • Visual resources: Industrial Revolution Overview (Short documentary)
  • Visual resources: 24 Hours: The call centre story (NDTV: Short documentary on work, transnationalism and idemtity)
  • Visual resources: India Untouched (documentary on caste and work)
  • Visual resources: From Sexual Harassment to Selective Mistreatment: The Regulation of Gender at Work (Harvard University documentary)