Post-Fordist reconfigurations of gender, work and life: theory and practice

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Abstract

Based on an in-depth study with 56 informants (25 women and 31 men), across the ICT (information and communication technology), creative and academic sectors in one city/regional hub in Ireland, this article investigates the so-called revolution in work/life practices associated with the post-Fordist labour processes of the Knowledge Economy from the perspectives of workers themselves. Recent theorizations of post-Fordist work patterns emphasize a rearranging of work and life place boundaries; a reconfiguring of work and life time boundaries; and a dissolving of the gendered boundaries of work and life (production and social reproduction) (Adkins and Dever; Morini and Fumagalli; Gill and Pratt; Weeks; Hardt and Negri). Our findings suggest that, instead of dissolving boundaries, workers constantly struggle to draw boundaries between what counts as work and as life, and that this varies primarily in relation to gender and stage in a gendered life trajectory. Work extensification is compensated for via a perceived freedom to shape one's own life, which is articulated in terms of individualized boundary-drawing. While younger men embraced ‘always on’ work, they also articulated anxieties about how these work habits might interfere with family aspirations. This was also true for younger women who also struggled to make time for life in the present. For mothers, boundary drawing was articulated as a necessity but was framed more in terms of personal choice by fathers. Although all participants distinguished between paid work and life as distinct sites of value, boundaries were individually drawn and resist any easy mapping of masculinity and femininity onto the domains of work and life. Instead, we argue that it is the process of boundary drawing that reveals gendered patterns. The personalized struggles of these relatively privileged middle-class workers centre on improving the quality of their lives, but raise important questions about the political possibilities within and beyond the world of post-Fordist labour.

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APA

Gray, B., Ciolfi, L., de Carvalho, A. F. P., D’Andrea, A., & Wixted, L. (2017). Post-Fordist reconfigurations of gender, work and life: theory and practice. British Journal of Sociology, 68(4), 620–642. https://doi.org/10.1111/1468-4446.12267

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