Worlds of Work - SO886

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Module delivery information

Location Term Level1 Credits (ECTS)2 Current Convenor3 2021 to 2022
(version 2)
Spring 7 20 (10) PROF T Strangleman checkmark-circle


This module examines the way work shapes society and in turn how society shapes work. Drawing on the fields of sociology, cultural sociology, social policy as well as other disciplines this module explores work in a variety of competing and complementing ways and in doing so offers students a chance to appreciate different themes, issues, methodologies and approaches. These include work identity and meaning; age, generation and class; visual methods and approaches; the cultures of work; work/life balance and the end of work.


Contact hours


Method of assessment

Assessment will comprise three parts.

Part 1. A 15 minute presentation on an area of further study associated with one of the weekly topics. This presentation will build upon class discussion and required readings, as well as independent study and experience of work, sharing insights into additional aspects or new research on a topic. The seminar presentation is worth 20% of the final mark. Presentation dates will be arranged in the initial session of term.

Part 2. Students can choose from a number of tasks including – An annotated bibliography on an area of work, this would include academic, film/ TV sources, official statistics as well as web and archival sources; OR a critical appraisal of an image (or series of images or film) of work with a full bibliography (2000 words); OR a critical autobiographical reflection on an aspect of their own working life (2000 words). This is worth 40% of the final mark.

Part 3. A 2,500-word essay on an aspect of work which the student will develop through the module, the topic of which must be agreed by members of the teaching team. The essay will enable evaluation of students´ understanding of lectures, the level and depth of their own reading and the skills of argument and critical analysis developed in the seminars. Students will be assessed on their ability to evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of concepts and theories pertaining to "work," as well as the strengths and weaknesses of different empirical approaches used to explore it. This is worth 40% of the final mark.

Indicative reading

Strangleman, T. & Warren, T. (2008) Work and Society: Sociological approaches, themes and methods, London, Routledge – Chapters 1 & 3
Cowie, J. (2016) The Great Exception: The New Deal & the Limits of American Politics, Princeton, Princeton University Press.
Cowie, J. & Salvator (2008) 'The Long Exception: Rethinking the Place of the New Deal in American History', ILWCH, 74, 1-32.
Tomlinson, J. (2016) ‘De-industrialization not decline: a new meta-narrative for post-war British History’, Twentieth-Century British History, 27(1), pp. 76-99
British Journal of Sociology, Special Issue: Piketty Symposium, December 2014, Volume 65, Issue 4, Pages ii–ii, 589–747
Strangleman, T. (2016) ‘Deindustrialisation and the Historical Sociological Imagination: Making Sense of Work and Industrial Change’, Sociology
Hall, D. (2012) Working Lives: The forgotton voices of Britain’s post-war working class, London, Bantam Press.
Edwards, P. & Wajcman, J. (2005) The Politics of Working Life, Oxford, Oxford University Press – Chapter 1
Anthony, P. Ideology of Work, London, Routledge.
Joyce, P. (ed.) The Historical Meanings of Work, Cambridge, CUP – Chapter 1
Theriault, R (1995) How to tell when you’re tired: A brief examination of work, New York, Norton.
Terkel, S. (1972) Working: People talk about what they do all day and how they feel about what they do, New York: Pantheon Books. Especially Introduction
Budd, J. W. (2011) The Thought of Work, Cornell: Cornell University Press

See the library reading list for this module (Canterbury)

Learning outcomes

• Identify the debates and theoretical problems when looking at work over historical time, including the meanings attached to the process of industrial change

• Identify the debates and theoretical problems when looking at work across individuals' life courses, including group differences in access to and returns from paid work and participation in and responsibility for unpaid work

• Discuss the role of the state in shaping work, both the labour market as well as for individuals

• Identify the range of ways in which work is experienced by individuals and social groups and how in turn they make sense of work in their lives

• Discuss the ways in which work is simultaneously global, local and idiosyncratic

• Debate a range of inter-disciplinary research evidence used to explicate the theoretical concepts, including noting the strengths and weaknesses of different methodological approaches as well as proposing areas for future research that add to the body of knowledge

• Discuss the limitations of present sociological understandings of work and identify matters requiring further research

• Critically appraise at a level appropriate to postgraduates the epistemological limits of different research methodologies used to explore worlds of work

• Present findings to academic and non-academic audiences


  1. Credit level 7. Undergraduate or postgraduate masters level module.
  2. ECTS credits are recognised throughout the EU and allow you to transfer credit easily from one university to another.
  3. The named convenor is the convenor for the current academic session.
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