“Disorders at work”: unequivocal work

The book. “Our project is that of the working society”, announced the one who was elected President of the French Republic in 2017 on this program. It very explicitly displays the place of work in a company that would bear its name. The health events since 2020 have reminded us that work remains more than ever at the center of public policies. “Whether it is to frame it, to regulate it, to free it, to free itself from it, to reform it or to reinvent it, the word” work “haunts political speeches from all sides”, Marie-Anne Dujarier analysis.

And yet, can you say for sure when you are working? Is your point of view shared by your relatives, your employer and public administrations? What do we call working in our society? It is to this seemingly innocuous question that the book by Marie-Anne Dujarier, professor of sociology at the University of Paris, is devoted, Disorders at work (PUF).

The essay breaks with the representation according to which there is a thing or a subject behind the word work, which designates a spectacular diversity of tasks and professions, but also of statuses and situations. Giving up on building a universal definition of work, the sociologist is interested in “At work as a historically constructed social representation which expresses the state of society and is imposed on us to finally equip our way of thinking, acting and feeling”.

Article reserved for our subscribers Read also Behind “Les Mutations du travail”, the question of meaning

As early as the 1970s, feminists had emphasized the deeply political nature of the meaning of the word “work”. The entry into the “capitalocene”, networked digital practices and artificial intelligence are bringing this issue back to the fore. The “work” category of thought is troubled by these empirical social transformations.

Harmful jobs

Today’s society is characterized by jobs that are sometimes unnecessary, even harmful to our livelihood, at the very moment when many practices not identified as work are vital. Significant incomes are obtained without doing anything, while employment does not allow everyone to earn their bread. Situations accumulate in which activity, social and economic utility, employment and income are disarticulated, opening up on social and psychological conflicts.

Should we reform labor institutions to integrate new practices, excluding unnecessary or toxic jobs from labor law? Or should we twist these practices so that they fit into current institutions, like the struggles to pay domestic work or Uber drivers?

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