Work Identity in Crisis? Rethinking the Problem of Attachment and Loss at Work

  • Strangleman T
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Abstract

The identity and meaning people obtain from their work is a central issue in contemporary sociology. There is a debate between those suggesting that we have witnessed either great rupture or continuity in the way employees engage with their jobs. This article reframes the question posed, developing a critical theoretical framework for understanding narratives of change derived from a range of theorists using concepts of nostalgia, tradition and generations. This framework is then used to read a set of work/life history interviews and autobiographical material from mainly older male workers in the UK railway industry who lament the erosion of their workplace culture and the sustainable moral order of the past. The article seeks to move beyond dismissing such accounts as simple nostalgia and instead suggests that these narratives can be understood as valuable organic critiques of industrial and social change emergent from work culture.

Author-supplied keywords

  • attachment and loss
  • generations
  • memory
  • nostalgia
  • tradition
  • work identity and meaning

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Authors

  • Tim Strangleman

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