In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Paid Work

  • Introduction

Sociology Paid Work
Rudi Wielers
  • LAST REVIEWED: 26 June 2019
  • LAST MODIFIED: 26 June 2019
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199756384-0199


Ever since the emergence of sociology as a discipline, sociologists have shown an interest in paid work. Marx, Weber, and Durkheim’s interest in societal changes was inspired by the rise of market relations and paid work. The classical sociologists studied the growth and spread of paid work in relation to the development of inequality, rationalization, and social cohesion. Since then, the form and content of employment relationships has changed substantially and keeps on changing. The continued interest of sociologists in these developments has culminated in a well-established field of research. This article explores that field of research in three parts. The first part of the bibliography lists textbooks, reference manuals, journals, and national research traditions. The field shows substantial variety due to the constant development of the labor market and employment relations, and due to institutional differences in the architecture of employment relations. The second part of the article focuses on developments in paid work. The following themes are explored: the growth of paid work relationships, the increase in the number of paid work hours, the major changes in the architecture of employment relationships, the effects of paid work relationships on the well-being of workers, and the development of work values and work-hour preferences. The third part focuses on different labor market positions. This section starts with the standard employment relationship and then moves on to its counterpart: unemployment. It continues with workers in nonstandard positions, such as temporary jobs, part-time jobs, jobs with irregular and long work hours, and self-employed workers.

Journals, Textbooks, and Reference Manuals

In the sociology of work and employment relations, a central place is assigned to the sociology of paid hours. Research in this field focuses on societal developments that give shape to employment relationships and to the impact of employment relationships on society in terms of well-being, social inequality, and solidarity. In the study of employment relations, the sociological perspective has a place next to labor economics, psychology of work, industrial relations, and human resource management (HRM). Each discipline has its own perspective and research field. This article focuses on the field of sociology, but since contributions from adjacent fields have had their impact on the sociology of work, they will be referred to when appropriate. The research field of the sociology of work and employment relationships shows considerable variety for two reasons. Firstly, work and employment relationships have changed substantially since employment relations started to emerge. As a consequence, research interests are constantly shifting from one topic to another. Secondly, there always has been a considerable variety among countries in the institutional design of employment relations. Countries have developed their own institutions in and around paid work, and often also their own national research traditions, with own textbooks and journals. Since it is not possible to do justice to these national research traditions, the focus here will be on contributions in the English language. During the late 20th and early 21st centuries English-language journals, which often publish comparative research, have become the main publication outlets for researchers from other language domains as well. It is to be noted, however, that textbooks, which are directed toward other audiences such as students, still have a strong national flavor.

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