Life in Temporary and Scattered Work Practices
Edited by Torben Elgaard Jensen and Ann Westenholz
Afterword: The tyranny of the epochal and work identity
Afterword: the tyranny of the epochal and work identity Paul du Gay THE EPOCHAL As the contributions to this volume indicate, one of the most striking things about much contemporary theorizing about work and identity – whether critical or managerial in orientation – is the epochalist terms in which it is framed. By the term ‘epochalist’, we are referring to the use of a periodizing schema in which a logic of dichotomization establishes the available terms of debate in advance, either for or against. As Tom Osborne (1998, p. 17) has indicated with reference to contemporary social theories, epochal accounts are those which seek to encapsulate the Zeitgeist in some kind of overarching societal designation; that we live in a postmodern society, a modern society, an information society, a rationalised society, a risk society … Such epochal … theories tend to set up their co-ordinates in advance, leaving no ‘way out’ from their terms of reference. Whether the theorizing in question is being conducted by Zygmunt Bauman (2000 – ‘Liquid Modernity’), Scott Lash and John Urry (1994 – ‘Economies of Signs’), Manuel Castells (2000 – ‘The Network Society’), Tom Peters (1992 – ‘Chaos’ or ‘Crazy Times’) or Charles Leadbeater (1999 – ‘The Knowledge Driven Economy’), and whether the interpretation proffered is bitterly pessimistic or dizzyingly optimistic, the common denominator is an epochalist emphasis. Indeed, such is the standing of epochal analysis, not only within the social and management sciences, but also within the worlds of public policy and business strategy, that discussion of a given issue – ‘globalization’, ‘work’, ‘identity’...
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