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.

Chapter 1: The culturalization of work in the 'new' economy: an historical view

Liz McFall

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


1. The culturalization of work in the ‘new’ economy: an historical view Liz McFall INTRODUCTION Each of us is aware, emotionally and intellectually, that we are potentially unemployed, potentially underemployed, potentially insecure or temporary workers, potential ‘part-timers’. … the central figure of our society – and the ‘normal’ condition within that society – is no longer (or is tending no longer to be) that of the ‘worker’. It is becoming rather the figure of the insecure worker … (Gorz 1999, p. 53) Gorz’s measured summation of what is happening to work and working identities in the ‘new’ – that is to say, knowledge- or information-based – economy, resonates with much that has been written on the subject. The scenarios that different authors describe range from the wildly optimistic to the cataclysmically bleak, deploying styles and evidence ranging from apocalyptic hyperbole to dense, statistically informed projection. Perhaps the only point on which there is widespread agreement is that substantive restructuring of the economy at a global level is underway, occasioned by an increasing dependence on knowledge or information resources; and that this will, in fact has already begun to, irretrievably transform the character of work. The scale and scope of economic restructuring mean that its effects are to be felt not just upon employment and work but on the entire ‘social landscape of human life’ (Castells 2000, p. 1). This transformation is too profound to put down to simple historical change; rather, a sense of a complete break or rupture with the past pervades much of the...

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