Work, Culture and Society in Anglophone Countries

 The raison d’être of the project is to gather scholars who either look for explanations of the specificities of Anglophone societies in relation to work issues, and/or deal with work-related issues (such as occupation, labor force participation, unemployment, work organization, education and training, etc.) taking account of the social and cultural contexts of these societies.

The rationale is the centrality of work in modern societies. The approach draws on the theoretical works of historians, sociologists and anthropologists such as E. P. Thompson, Sidney W. Mintz, Eric Wolf, Herbert Gutman, Zygmunt Bauman, etc.

Here is how Zygmunt Bauman (1968) describes the link between culture and society : "Human behavior, whether individual or collective, is invariably the resultant of two factors : the cognitive system as well as the goals and patterns of behavior as defined by culture systems, on the one hand, and the system of real contingencies as defined by the social structure on the other. A complete interpretation and apprehension of social processes can be achieved only when both systems, as well as their interaction, are taken into consideration."

A tentative definition of culture is the set of representations, behaviors and beliefs (lifestyles) expressing the relationship to the world of social groups, (including work relations), a habitus in the Bourdieu meaning of the word, and not necessarily an ethos in the Weberian sense, interacting with the complex of symbolic representations available in a given social context, among which are rituals (including work rituals), and the material conditions (economic, social, technological) in which work is performed. The study of work, professional and corporate cultures, in their national contexts and within the dynamic processes of globalization, raise problems of intercultural relationships and involves the creation of systems of representation, including visual ones.

The question of what work is also immediately raises the question of what is not : play, leisure, fun, festival, retirement, etc., and of the place of non-work in society and culture. Inasmuch as work is the primary mediation between the human and nature, the question of the relationship to nature is raised, in the various societal and cultural frameworks under study.

Reference : Zygmunt Bauman, "Marxism and the Contemporary Theory of Culture," Co-Existence, 5 (1968) : 171-98.


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