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Edited by Keith Townsend and Adrian Wilkinson
Chapter 18: Dimensions of Dignity: Defining the Future of Work
18 Dimensions of dignity: defining the future of work 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...
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