What is it about?

How will work be organised in the future? This paper reveals that although there are multiple stories about the future of work, a similar storyline is adopted across many of the competing visions. Most visions firstly squeeze all forms of work into one side or the other or some dichotomy and then proceed to temporally and/or normatively sequence the two sides of the dualism and finally label the resultant one-dimensional and linear trajectory as some -ism, -ation or post-something or-other.

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Why is it important?

This paper evaluates critically such hierarchical binary narratives (e.g., the shift from informal to formal work, non-commodified to commodified work, localisation to globalisation, Fordism to post-Fordism, bureaucracy to postbureaucracy) and displays how these dominant narratives, as well as the counter narratives that simply invert the temporal and/or hierarchical sequencing of these dichotomies, over-simplify lived practice. The paper concludes by offering a way forward that transcends these one-dimensional linear tales and recognises the heterogeneous and multiple directions of work in order to provide a more kaleidoscope-like understanding of the direction of work and open up the future of work to new possibilities.

Perspectives

Opens up thinking about the future of work

Professor Colin C Williams
University of Sheffield

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This page is a summary of: Re-thinking the future of work: Beyond binary hierarchies, Futures, September 2008, Elsevier, DOI: 10.1016/j.futures.2007.12.003.
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