PTo earn our living, are we doomed to lose it? This questioning of the meaning of work was the heyday of 1968. It resounds today with a strange familiarity. Even if they are far from resulting in shared prescriptions, the diagnoses of the moment on the crisis of work are striking by their common eagerness to be satisfied with a few indicators with questionable meanings in order to conclude to the advent of a sudden “civilizational rupture “.
Let us remember, for example, the wave of resignations in 2021-2022: while the phenomenon is explained simply by the behavior of employees wishing to take advantage of an economic situation favorable to professional mobility, many Observers were quick to put forward a generational argument. The “great resignation” would be the expression of a crisis of “work value” attributable to young working people less predisposed than their elders to sacrifice themselves on the altar of productive engagement.
It turns out that this belief in cultural ruptures between entire generations is not new. It has been manifesting on regular dates for several decades now. However, sociological surveys of young people do not make it possible to rigorously justify the basis…
We find similar paralogisms in the stories that, over the past few months, have attempted to explain the transformations in the relationship to work. Produced and disseminated by research and polling institutes, consulting firms and think tanks that have invested in the market for the expertise of the future of work, the narratives offered are all the more difficult to convince because they ignore any historical depth, that they make do with weak explanations, that they often give priority to the analysis of opinions rather than that of practices.
Dominant and dominated
Despite these limits, the case seems settled: an epidemic of “laziness” would have infected a large part of the active population, the French would tend to withdraw into themselves, professional motivations would no longer be what they were… If such antiphons are not original, they resonate with the government’s rhetoric which, in order to justify its pension reform, has never ceased to demand more effort and sweat.
To counter these stories, another story deserves to be told, which does not reduce the relationship to work to a simple matter of “extreme fatigue”. Because work is a social relationship, it brings domination. To put it in Weberian terms (Max Weber, 1864-1920), work relations are always informed by the will of the dominators who want to have a lasting influence on the action of the dominated. Asymmetrical, they condition both autonomy “at” work and autonomy “of” work.
You have 50.89% of this article left to read. The following is for subscribers only.