Research Handbook on the Future of Work and Employment Relations
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Research Handbook on the Future of Work and Employment Relations

Edited by Keith Townsend and Adrian Wilkinson

The broad field of employment relations is diverse and complex and is under constant development and reinvention. This Research Handbook discusses fundamental theories and approaches to work and employment relations, and their connection to broader political and societal changes occurring throughout the world. It provides comprehensive coverage of work and employment relations theory and practice.
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Chapter 18: Dimensions of Dignity: Defining the Future of Work

Sharon Bolton


Sharon Bolton INTRODUCTION Human dignity has long been a focus of studies on work, organization and society (Durkheim, 1971; Lutz, 1995; Smith, 1976; Sayer, 2007; Weber, 1947). In contemporary accounts, dignity is closely associated with issues of respect, worth, esteem, equality, autonomy and freedom (Bolton, 2007; Bourdieu, 1999; Hodson, 2001; Rayman, 2001; Sayer, 2005). The one word ‘dignity’ encompasses issues that have exercised critical scholars of work and society for decades. Yet there is little consensus on how dignity might be defined and what does and does not contribute to its achievement in relation to work. When discussed in relation to ‘decent work’ at the level of policy it is clearly expressed as a core objective (ILO, 2008). At the organizational level, Best Practice Management (BPM) tends to obscure references to human dignity under headings such as organizational citizenship behaviours, job enlargement, teamwork, diversity management, satisfaction in work, responsible autonomy and distributional justice. At the present time there are also some high-profile campaigns which concentrate on workplace bullying and harassment as the central facilitator of indignity at work. However, though the subject of dignity is undeniably linked to many vital work and employment issues, it tends to be assessed as an individual human attribute and thus is neglected as a potential development in the debate centred on good and decent work and best practice. This chapter suggests that if dignity and its relationship to contemporary work were to be more clearly explicated, it could serve as a useful means to...

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