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Changing Contours of Work

Changing Contours of Work
Jobs and Opportunities in the New Economy

Fourth Edition
  • Stephen Sweet - Ithaca College, Boston College, Cornell University, State University of New York at Potsdam
  • Peter Meiksins - Cleveland State University, Cleveland, Ohio

April 2020 | 368 pages | SAGE Publications, Inc

The authors are proud sponsors of the 2020 SAGE Keith Roberts Teaching Innovations Award—enabling graduate students and early career faculty to attend the annual ASA pre-conference teaching and learning workshop.

Changing Contours of Work is an exploration of the American workplace in the larger context of an integrated global economy. Presented with engaging vignettes and rich data, this Fourth Edition shows the reader how the "old economy" is now operating within the "new economy" and how that integration shapes the development of work opportunities.

Authors Stephen Sweet and Peter Meiksins use an international comparative perspective, revealing the historical transformations of work and identifying the profound effects that these changes have had on lives, jobs, and life chances. This text supports the reader's understanding of the origins of current problems confronting working people in the new economy, and contributes to a much-needed dialogue about the strategies for liberating workers from poverty, drudgery, discrimination, stress, and exploitation.
List of Exhibits
About the Authors
Preface to the Fourth Edition
1. Mapping the Contours of Work
Scenes From the New Economy

Culture and Work

Structure and Work

Class Structures

Job Markets and Job Demands

Demography and the New Labor Force

Agency and Careers


2. New Products, New Ways of Working, and the New Economy
A Postindustrial Society?

The End of Mass Production?

New Skills?

Interpersonal Skills in the Workplace

High-Tech Work

New Cultures of Control?

Technological Change and a Jobless Future?

Rigid Jobs or Flexible Jobs?

The End of Organized Labor?

A New Global Economy?


3. Economic Inequality, Social Mobility, and the New Economy
Are Economic Divides Narrowing or Widening in the United States?

Are Career Pathways Opening or Closing?

Missing Rungs in the Ladder

Entry Points: Securing the Good Job in Young Adulthood

Exclusion Owing to Criminal Conviction

Is the Global Economy Becoming More Flat or Bumpy?


4. Whose Jobs Are Secure?
Risk and Work: Historical and Comparative Views

How Insecure Are Workers in the New Economy?

The Costs of Job Loss and Insecurity

Old and New Careers

Risk, Well-Being and Retirement

The Dawn of the Gig Economy


5. A Fair Day’s Work? The Intensity and Scheduling of Jobs in the New Economy
Time, Intensity, and Work

How Much Should We Work? Comparative Frameworks

Why Are Americans Working So Much?

Nonstandard Schedules: Jobs in a 24/7 Economy

How Americans Deal With Overwork


6. Gender Chasms in the New Economy
When Did Home Work Become Nonwork?

Women’s Participation in the Paid Labor Force in America

Gender Inequalities in Compensation

Socialization, Career Selection, and Career Paths

Interpersonal Discrimination in the Workplace

Structural Dimensions of Gender Discrimination

The Devaluation of “Women’s Work”

How Job Designs Discriminate

Strategies to Bridge the Care Gaps: International Comparisons


7. Race, Ethnicity, and Work: Legacies of the Past, Problems in the Present
Histories of Race, Ethnicity, and Work

African American Exceptionality

The Immigrant Experience

Magnitude of Racial Inequality in the New Economy

Intergenerational Transmission of Resources

Race, Ethnicity, and Economic Capital

Race, Ethnicity, and Human Capital

Race, Ethnicity, and Social Capital

Race, Ethnicity, and Cultural Capital

Geographic Distribution of Race and Work Opportunity

Racial Prejudice and Discrimination

Racialized Jobs

Race, Ethnicity, and Work: Social Policy

Organizational Strategies

Affirmative Action

Immigration Policy


8. Reshaping the Contours of the New Economy
Opportunity Chasms

Class Chasms

Gender Chasms

Racial and Ethnic Chasms

International Chasms

Agents of Change


Activist, Advocacy, and Interest Groups

Unions and Organized Labor



International Organizations and International Controls


Appendix: Legislative and Regulatory Time Line of Worker Rights and Protections in the United States

“A thorough book, which is one of the best fits for this current course.”

“I believe this book is well organized. I often get positive feedback on my course surveys referring to the text.”

John Castella
Rutgers University

“We adopted it as a department because it had the best overall coverage of contemporary issues explored by our major, was reasonably priced, and was quite readable.”

Paula B. Voos
Rutgers University

“This insightful book offers a clear, concise, and comprehensive introduction to the history, present, and future of work in the U.S. I appreciate the accompanying graphs and charts, as well as it's engagement with race, class, and gender. The comparisons, both to work conditions in European nations and the global South, are important and eye-opening for my students.”

Hinda Seif
University of Illinois at Springfield

Sample Materials & Chapters

Chapter 1

Chapter 2