Contemporary work life is often in various sociological diagnoses of the times depicted as a thoroughly deplorable state of affairs. In fact, most – or at least many – of the general sociological theories dealing with work life in late capitalist and neoliberal societies describe and analyze it exclusively through a critical and pessimistic lens. There may be good reasons for this, but we also need to consider if these diagnoses are in fact correct and reflect social reality. In this article, the authors first present four distinct yet interrelated critical sociological diagnoses dealing with contemporary work life. The first one is the ‘Flexibilization Diagnosis’ represented by, e.g., Richard Sennett. The second is the ‘Brasilianization/Balkanization Diagnosis’ as described by, e.g., Ulrich Beck and Zygmunt Bauman. Third is the ‘Commercialization Diagnosis’ associated primarily with the work of Arlie R. Hochschild. Finally, we have the ‘Precarization Diagnosis’ promoted by, amongst others, Guy Standing. Each of these diagnoses provides important conceptual and analytical ammunition for a scathing critique of contemporary work life. Finally, we discuss the pros and cons of these diagnoses and conclude that although they are indeed useful in pointing to some of the obvious as well as hidden downsides of contemporary work life, we need also be wary not uncritically and without empirical grounding to accept or reproduce their premises and exclamations.
- Arbejdsliv, samtidsdiagnose, fleksibilisering, balkanisering, brasilianisering, kommercialisering, prekarisering, Zygmunt Bauman, Ulrich Beck, Richard Sennett, Arlie Hochschild, Guy Standing