Living in The Risk Society – When Precarization Kills

This story is a good illustration of C. Wright Mills’s formulation of personal troubles and public issues, with a reminiscently Durkheimian case of suicides:

So, most of the FT workers started their careers when promises were made to them as to what they could expect in terms of working conditions. But then, in the name of flexibility, privatization and adaptability to the global market, conditions are radically altered unilaterally.

On his blog, sociologist Camille Peugny offers a possible explanation for this:

What Peugny outlines here is that living in the risk society, under conditions of precarious work, takes a social-psychological toll on workers. He bases this on sociologist Robert Karasek’s Job Demand Control (JD-C) Model, which itself is based on two central propositions:

One can see how this applies to the case of the FT workers: for instance, they were hired as technicians with a great deal of autonomy and team work. Now, their position has been downgraded to call center workers and telemarketers and teams have been broken up, replaced with competitive Dilbert-like cubicle conditions. There is no question that job strain has a clear impact on health, physical and mental.

To use different terms, the combination of structural and symbolic violence in the form of degraded and humiliating working conditions conspire to create an environment where workers find no positive aspect, added to the external social pressure that they should not complain because, after all, they have jobs. The implication is that one should be grateful for a job, any job, because even that can be taken away so one should just suck up the daily degradations and humiliations and that the rat race is the only labor market in town:

3 thoughts on “Living in The Risk Society – When Precarization Kills

  1. Interestingly, the same thing happened at Telstra, Australia’s semi-privatized telecoms company. The ludicrous contention that suicide is a ‘contagious fad’at France Telecom can be disproved through comparing the two. They seem to have put similar pressures on their employees for similar reasons, with similar results.

    A 2007 current affairs report on it can be found here:

    The introduction states:
    “When Sally Sandic, a young Melbourne woman who worked at a Telstra call centre, took her life early this year, the spotlight shifted briefly onto Telstra’s management practices…Staff past and present complain to Four Corners that the incessant scrutiny is dehumanising, frightening and devoid of trust… Telstra is not the only large company to be thinning its workforce and changing its culture. But as it remakes itself in a wrenching transition from public to private hands, losing nearly a third of all staff, it is at the very sharpest end of reform.”

  2. Pingback: Living in The Risk Society – When Precarization Kills – Aussie Edition | The Global Sociology Blog

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