Transformation of the Worlds of Labor

(Last modified July 2008)

The aim of this research and book project is to identify and analyze trends and consequences of the current transformations in the world of labor.

Comprehending interviews are employed here to explore subjective experience and modes of coping with changes in various realms of work, reflecting a broad spectrum of branches and a variety of employment situations. Each specific world of work will be presented in sociological “portraits” focusing on individuals of groups of people from a particular working environment. These portraits will include people who perceive themselves as the powerless victims of current transformations as well as those apparently capable of adapting pragmatically, or, finally, others who have positive attitudes towards change or who are actively engaged in implementing it.

Some of the possible spheres of work to be examined are agriculture, the health care system, civil service, the logistics industry (transportation and storage), retail sales, tourism, some segments of production, or education and culture. A key theoretical and methodological prerequisite is the long-term familiarity of interlocutors recruited from each sector with its day-to-day realities, since there are intended to serve as informants who can describe and discuss their work setting with a certain degree of historical depth.

The project is designed to encompass international comparisons; some fifty sociologists, historians, journalists, and artists from Germany, Austria, and Switzerland are involved. The project is headed by Prof. Dr. Franz Schultheis and Dr. Berthold Vogel and will run for twenty-one months, from January 2008 to September 2009. Financial support for working meetings, academic conferences, and publications has been provided by the Swiss National Fund, the University of St. Gallen, the ESSE network (European Research Space in Social Sciences), and the Hamburg Institute for Social Research.

A project implemented jointly by the University St Gallen and the Hamburg Institute for Social Research