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Léonie Hénaut

Research Findings

Polyoccupationalism: The unexplored world of workers’ occupational identities.

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April 10, 2024

Occupations are a key source of identity in modern social life. But what exactly do contemporary occupational identities look like? In the heyday of Western industrialization, sociologist Émile Durkheim conceived of occupations as cohesive social groupings, or “small classes,” whose rooting in the division of labor meant that they provided workers with exclusive and powerful identities – as miners, nurses, or professors. In recent decades, however, the rise of postindustrial forms of work has transformed the Durkheimian landscape. As employment becomes more contingent and labor is increasingly project-based, workers’ ties to their jobs are not as strong as they used to be. It is unclear, however, how this shift away from the industrial regime has transformed occupational identities. How do workers identify with occupations in the postindustrial era?

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