Book of the Month Archive

The Oxford Handbook of Meaningful Work (Apr 2019)

Ruth Yeoman, Catherine Bailey, Adrian Madden, and Marc Thompson (editors)

The Oxford Handbook of Meaningful Work examines the concept, practices and effects of meaningful work in organizations and beyond. Taking an interdisciplinary approach, this volume reflects diverse scholarly contributions to understanding meaningful work from philosophy, political theory, psychology, sociology, organizational studies, and economics.

In philosophy and political theory, treatments of meaningful work have been influenced by debates concerning the tensions between work as unavoidable and necessary, and work as a source of self-realization and human flourishing. This tension has come into renewed focus as work is reshaped by technology, globalization, and new forms of organization. In management studies, much empirical work has focused on meaningful work from the perspective of positive psychology, but more recent research has considered meaningful work as a complex phenomenon, socially constructed from interactive processes between individuals, and between individuals, organizations, and society. This Handbook examines meaningful work in the context of moral and pragmatic concerns such as human flourishing, dignity, alienation, freedom, and organizational ethics.

The collection illuminates the relationship of meaningful work to organizational constructs of identity, belonging, callings, self-transcendence, culture, and occupations. Representing some of the most up to date academic research, the editors aim to inspire and equip researchers by identifying new directions and methods with which to deepen scholarly inquiry into a topic of growing importance. [from publisher web site]

Oxford, United Kingdom: Oxford University Press. 508 pages
ISBN: 9780198788232
Call number: HF5548.8 .O93 2019

The New Politics of Transnational Labor: Why Some Alliances Succeed: (Mar 2019)

Marissa Brookes

Over the years many transnational labor alliances have succeeded in improving conditions for workers, but many more have not. In The New Politics of Transnational Labor, Marissa Brookes explains why this dichotomy has occurred. Using the coordination and context-appropriate (CCAP) theory, she assesses this divergence, arguing that the success of transnational alliances hinges not only on effective coordination across borders and within workers' local organizations but also on their ability to exploit vulnerabilities in global value chains, invoke national and international institutions, and mobilize networks of stakeholders in ways that threaten employers' core, material interests.

Brookes uses six comparative case studies spanning four industries, five countries, and fifteen years. From dockside labor disputes in Britain and Australia to service sector campaigns in the supermarket and private security industries to campaigns aimed at luxury hotels in Southeast Asia, Brookes creates her new theoretical framework and speaks to debates in international and comparative political economy on the politics of economic globalization, the viability of private governance, and the impact of organized labor on economic inequality. From this assessment, Brookes provides a vital update to the international relations literature on non-state actors and transnational activism and shows how we can understand the unique capacities labor has as a transnational actor. [from publisher web site]

Ithaca, NY: ILR Press, an imprint of Cornell University Press. 202 pages
ISBN: 9781501733192
Call number: HD6475.A1 B76

The Winding Road to the Welfare State: Economic Insecurity and Social Welfare Policy in Britain (Feb 2019)

George R. Boyer

How did Britain transform itself from a nation of workhouses to one that became a model for the modern welfare state? The Winding Road to the Welfare State investigates the evolution of living standards and welfare policies in Britain from the 1830s to 1950 and provides insights into how British working-class households coped with economic insecurity. George Boyer examines the retrenchment in Victorian poor relief, the Liberal Welfare Reforms, and the beginnings of the postwar welfare state, and he describes how workers altered spending and saving methods based on changing government policies.

From the cutting back of the Poor Law after 1834 to Parliament’s abrupt about-face in 1906 with the adoption of the Liberal Welfare Reforms, Boyer offers new explanations for oscillations in Britain’s social policies and how these shaped worker well-being. The Poor Law’s increasing stinginess led skilled manual workers to adopt self-help strategies, but this was not a feasible option for low-skilled workers, many of whom continued to rely on the Poor Law into old age. In contrast, the Liberal Welfare Reforms were a major watershed, marking the end of seven decades of declining support for the needy. Concluding with the Beveridge Report and Labour’s social policies in the late 1940s, Boyer shows how the Liberal Welfare Reforms laid the foundations for a national social safety net.

A sweeping look at economic pressures after the Industrial Revolution, The Winding Road to the Welfare State illustrates how British welfare policy waxed and waned over the course of a century. [from publisher web site]

Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press. 346 pages
ISBN: 9780691178738
Call number: HN385 .B69 2019

Workers Without Borders: Posted Work and Precarity in the EU (Jan 2019)

Ines Wagner

How the European Union handles posted workers is a growing issue for a region with borders that really are just lines on a map. A 2008 story, dissected in Ines Wagner’s Workers without Borders, about the troubling working conditions of migrant meat and construction workers, exposed a distressing dichotomy: how could a country with such strong employers’ associations and trade unions allow for the establishment and maintenance of such a precarious labor market segment?

Wagner introduces an overlooked piece of the puzzle: re-regulatory politics at the workplace level. She interrogates the position of the posted worker in contemporary European labour markets and the implications of and regulations for this position in industrial relations, social policy and justice in Europe. Workers without Borders concentrates on how local actors implement European rules and opportunities to analyze the balance of power induced by the EU around policy issues.

Wagner examines the particularities of posted worker dynamics at the workplace level, in German meatpacking facilities and on construction sites, to reveal the problems and promises of European Union governance as regulating social justice. Using a bottom-up approach through in-depth interviews with posted migrant workers and administrators involved in the posting process, Workers without Borders shows that strong labor-market regulation via independent collective bargaining institutions at the workplace level is crucial to effective labor rights in marginal workplaces. Wagner identifies structures of access and denial to labor rights for temporary intra-EU migrant workers and the problems contained within this system for the EU more broadly. [from publisher web site]

Ithaca, NY: ILR Press, an imprint of Cornell University Press. 176 pages
ISBN: 9781501729157
Call number: HD8378.5.A2 W34

Disruption in Detroit: Autoworkers and the Elusive Postwar Boom (Dec 2018)

Daniel J. Clark

It is a bedrock American belief: the 1950s were a golden age of prosperity for autoworkers. Flush with high wages and enjoying the benefits of generous union contracts, these workers became the backbone of a thriving blue-collar middle class.

It is also a myth. Daniel J. Clark began by interviewing dozens of former autoworkers in the Detroit area and found a different story--one of economic insecurity marked by frequent layoffs, unrealized contract provisions, and indispensable second jobs. Disruption in Detroit is a vivid portrait of workers and an industry that experienced anything but stable prosperity. As Clark reveals, the myths--whether of rising incomes or hard-nosed union bargaining success--came later. In the 1950s, ordinary autoworkers, union leaders, and auto company executives recognized that although jobs in their industry paid high wages, they were far from steady and often impossible to find. [from publisher web site]

Urbana, IL: University of Illinois Press. 243 pages
ISBN: 9780252042010
Call number: HD8039.A82 U632165

Leading with Dignity: How to Create a Culture that Brings out the Best in People (Nov 2018)

Donna Hicks

This landmark book from an expert in dignity studies explores the essential but under-recognized role of dignity as part of good leadership. Extending the reach of her award-winning book Dignity: Its Essential Role in Resolving Conflict, Donna Hicks now contributes a specific, practical guide to achieving a culture of dignity.

Most people know very little about dignity, the author has found, and when leaders fail to respect the dignity of others, conflict and distrust ensue. She highlights three components of leading with dignity: what one must know in order to honor dignity and avoid violating it; what one must do to lead with dignity; and how one can create a culture of dignity in any organization, whether corporate, religious, governmental, healthcare, or beyond. Brimming with key research findings, real-life case studies, and workable recommendations, this book fills an important gap in our understanding of how best to be together in a conflict-ridden world. [from publisher web site]

New Haven, CT: Yale University Press. 214 pages
ISBN: 9780300229639
Call number: HD58.7 .H53 2018

Working for Respect: Community and Conflict at Walmart (Oct 2018)

Adam Reich and Peter Bearman

Walmart is the largest employer in the world. It encompasses nearly 1 percent of the entire American workforce—young adults, parents, formerly incarcerated people, retirees. Walmart also presents one possible future of work—Walmartism—in which the arbitrary authority of managers mixes with a hyperrationalized, centrally controlled bureaucracy in ways that curtail workers’ ability to control their working conditions and their lives.

In Working for Respect, Adam Reich and Peter Bearman examine how workers make sense of their jobs at places like Walmart in order to consider the nature of contemporary low-wage work, as well as the obstacles and opportunities such workplaces present as sites of struggle for social and economic justice. They describe the life experiences that lead workers to Walmart and analyze the dynamics of the shop floor. As a part of the project, Reich and Bearman matched student activists with a nascent association of current and former Walmart associates: the Organization United for Respect at Walmart (OUR Walmart). They follow the efforts of this new partnership, considering the formation of collective identity and the relationship between social ties and social change. They show why traditional unions have been unable to organize service-sector workers in places like Walmart and offer provocative suggestions for new strategies and directions. Drawing on a wide array of methods, including participant-observation, oral history, big data, and the analysis of social networks, Working for Respect is a sophisticated reconsideration of the modern workplace that makes important contributions to debates on labor and inequality and the centrality of the experience of work in a fair economy. [from publisher web site]

New York, NY: Columbia University Press. 332 pages
ISBN: 9780231188425

Temp: How American Work, American Business, and the American Dream Became Temporary (Sep 2018)

Louis Hyman

The untold history of the surprising origins of the “gig economy” –how deliberate decisions made by consultants and CEOs in the 50s and 60s upended the stability of the workplace and the lives of millions of working men and women in postwar America.

Every working person in the United States asks the same question, how secure is my job? For a generation, roughly from 1945 to 1970, business and government leaders embraced a vision of an American workforce rooted in stability. But over the last fifty years, job security has cratered as the postwar institutions that insulated us from volatility–big unions, big corporations, powerful regulators–have been swept aside by a fervent belief in “the market.” Temp tracks the surprising transformation of an ethos which favored long-term investment in work (and workers) to one promoting short-term returns. A series of deliberate decisions preceded the digital revolution and upended the longstanding understanding of what a corporation, or a factory, or a shop, was meant to do.

Temp tells the story of the unmaking of American work through the experiences of those on the inside: consultants and executives, temps and office workers, line workers and migrant laborers. It begins in the sixties, with economists, consultants, business and policy leaders who began to shift the corporation from a provider of goods and services to one whose sole purpose was to maximize profit–an ideology that brought with it the risk-taking entrepreneur and the shareholder revolution and changed the very definition of a corporation.

With Temp, Hyman explains one of the nation’s most immediate crises. Uber are not the cause of insecurity and inequality in our country, and neither is the rest of the gig economy. The answer goes deeper than apps, further back than downsizing, and contests the most essential assumptions we have about how our businesses should work.

[from publisher web site]

New York, NY: Viking. 388 pages
ISBN: 9780735224070

The Rise of the Working-Class Shareholder: Labor's Last Best Weapon (Aug 2018)

David Webber

When Steven Burd, CEO of the supermarket chain Safeway, cut wages and benefits, starting a five-month strike by 59,000 unionized workers, he was confident he would win. But where traditional labor action failed, a novel approach was more successful. With the aid of the California Public Employees’ Retirement System, a $300 billion pension fund, workers led a shareholder revolt that unseated three of Burd’s boardroom allies.

In The Rise of the Working-Class Shareholder: Labor’s Last Best Weapon, David Webber uses cases such as Safeway’s to shine a light on labor’s most potent remaining weapon: its multitrillion-dollar pension funds. Outmaneuvered at the bargaining table and under constant assault in Washington, state houses, and the courts, worker organizations are beginning to exercise muscle through markets. Shareholder activism has been used to divest from anti-labor companies, gun makers, and tobacco; diversify corporate boards; support Occupy Wall Street; force global warming onto the corporate agenda; create jobs; and challenge outlandish CEO pay. Webber argues that workers have found in labor’s capital a potent strategy against their exploiters. He explains the tactic’s surmountable difficulties even as he cautions that corporate interests are already working to deny labor’s access to this powerful and underused tool.

The Rise of the Working-Class Shareholder is a rare good-news story for American workers, an opportunity hiding in plain sight. Combining legal rigor with inspiring narratives of labor victory, Webber shows how workers can wield their own capital to reclaim their strength. [from publisher web site]

Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. 331 pages
ISBN: 9780674972131
Call number: HD7105.35.U6 W43

Confronting Dystopia: The New Technological Revolution and the Future of Work (Jul 2018)

Eva Paus (Ed.)

In Confronting Dystopia, a distinguished group of scholars analyze the implications of the ongoing technological revolution for jobs, working conditions, and income. Focusing on the economic and political implications of AI, digital connectivity, and robotics for both the Global North and the Global South, they move beyond diagnostics to seek solutions that offer better lives for all. Their analyses of the challenges of technology are placed against the backdrop of three decades of rapid economic globalization. The two in tandem are producing the daunting challenges that analysts and policymakers must now confront.

The conjuncture of recent advances in AI, machine learning, and robotization portends a vast displacement of human labor, argues the editor, Eva Paus. As Confronting Dystopia shows, we are on the eve of—indeed we are already amid—a technological revolution that will impact profoundly the livelihoods of people everywhere in the world.

Across a broad and deep set of topics, the contributors explore whether the need for labor will inexorably shrink in the coming decades, how pressure on employment will impact human well-being, and what new institutional arrangements—a new social contract, for example, will be needed to sustain livelihoods. They evaluate such proposals as a basic income, universal social services, and investments that address key global challenges and create new jobs. [from publisher web site]

Ithaca, New York : ILR Press, an imprint of Cornell University Press. 296 pages
ISBN: 9781501719851
Call number: HD6331 .C687 2018