On shopworking

Smith, A. (2012) On shopworking. New Left Review, 78, pp. 99-113.

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Publisher's URL: http://newleftreview.org/II/78/andrew-smith-on-shopworking


Service workers now make up nearly 80 per cent of the labour force in Britain, with a still higher proportion in the United States, and the sector constitutes a fast-growing field in the sociology of work. Recent investigations have focused on the hitherto overlooked relationship between front-line service workers and their customers: what effect does this have on the ‘lived experience’ of their work? [1] In what follows I offer some thoughts on conceptualizing the interactions between employees and customers, shaped in part by critical reflection on my own experience of working in a long series of service-sector and retail jobs. For that very reason, a brief epistemological comment may be in order here. ‘Reflexive’ consideration of researchers’ involvement in their research context has become a familiar feature of social-science inquiries, along with a wariness about claims of objectivity; a range of more experimental approaches to participant observation have celebrated subjective expression—for example, auto-ethnography—as a methodological virtue. Investigations ‘looking at’ something, with all that this implies about the apparently self-contained cognition of the observer, have come under attack; they are counterposed to a sociology that is willing to be part of ‘talking about’ things, to share in the ongoing, everyday attempt at a reckoning with social experience.

Item Type:Articles
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Smith, Professor Andrew
Authors: Smith, A.
Subjects:H Social Sciences > HD Industries. Land use. Labor
H Social Sciences > HM Sociology
H Social Sciences > HX Socialism. Communism. Anarchism
College/School:College of Social Sciences > School of Social and Political Sciences > Sociology Anthropology and Applied Social Sciences
Journal Name:New Left Review
ISSN (Online):2044-0480

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