Identity in the Age of the New Economy

Identity in the Age of the New Economy

Life in Temporary and Scattered Work Practices

Edited by Torben Elgaard Jensen and Ann Westenholz

Identity in the Age of the New Economy is a multi-faceted view of contemporary employment and identity that questions a number of the myths related to the so-called new economy, knowledge society or network society. It argues that one of the most striking things about much contemporary theorizing on work and identity is the epochalist terms in which it is framed: changing forms of identity and subjectivity are assumed to be consequences of a shift to an entirely new economic, social and cultural era, signalled by concepts such as postmodernity, risk society, network society or new economy.


Torben Elgaard Jensen and Ann Westenholz

Subjects: business and management, organisation studies, social policy and sociology, sociology and sociological theory


: studies of work and identity beyond the epochal Torben Elgaard Jensen and Ann Westenholz The nexus between identity and the organization of work life has been explored in a diverse array of social science traditions, from Weber’s link between bureaucracies and protestant ethics to Giddens’s link between disembedded, globalized institutions and self-reflexive identities. In the past decade, there has been a sharp increase in a particular kind of story about identity and work life. The story, told with increasing frequency, suggests that there has been a rupture with a more stable past; work life has changed quite dramatically, and the consequences for identity are only beginning to dawn on us. The story comes in various versions: • • • • • • It is argued that careers are becoming boundaryless as opposed to the bounded careers of earlier times. It is argued that lifelong employment will be replaced by ever more short-term employment, contracting, and freelancing. It is argued that working is increasingly about individual networking as opposed to the formalized and bureaucratic work organization of yesterday. It is argued that a pervasive scattering of communities is taking place as opposed to the more coherent and consistent communities of the past. It is argued that a new economy is superseding an old economy. In general, it is argued that organizations are becoming much more flexible and thus demanding much more flexibility of their members. What then, does this supposed rupture mean to identity? The disagreement in the social science literature and the popular press is considerable....