Gianluca De Angelis & Barbara Grüning (2020)
Frontiers in Sociology 4, pp. 1-18. Open access.
Extract. “Subjectivities at Stake: The Other Side of Non-standard Work
The diffusion of non-standard work arrangements provides a key perspective for understanding the ongoing transformations in the labor market; however, attempting to catch these transformations through statistical observations risks losing communicative effectiveness because people tend to have difficulty recognizing the peculiarities of their own working conditions in terms of the categories defined by the researchers, which necessarily objectify not only the working conditions but also the subjective dimension of the working experience. Taking this question into account can be crucial not only in investigations for scientific purposes but also in inquiries moved by a pragmatic worldview which aim at influencing the orientation of either specific policies (i.e., active employment policies) or trade union campaigns.
Various scholars have observed how, when analyzing statistical indicators, researchers tend more to construct than describe the reality under investigation (Desrosières, 2010, 2011). In particular, Robert Salais claims that when researchers use a table to represent data, they adopt specific conventions of equivalence which determine what can be considered as similar (Salais, 2009, p. 118). When we consider, for example, the employment rate, we look at all the people who have a job in a certain timespan. But to what extent can we assume that people in similar positions in the labor market feel that they share the same conditions? With respect to the distinction between “employed” or “unemployed,” these people have a different status, but we do not know anything about an employed person’s job, whether, for instance, it is a part-time or low-wage job which could make his or her life more similar to the lives of the unemployed. In the current labor market, these questions have become increasingly important since they highlight how the idea of human subjectivity is at the core of both non-standard work arrangements and new working methods.”