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Work and Consumption

Sociology of Work

‘Sociology of work’ designates a wide field of research, including industrial sociology, employment, and technology studies. Scholars in this research field study the patterning of work and the shaping of work institutions in the context of larger trends in society and economy such as globalization, the rise of the service economy, and digitization. The institute’s research also addresses an important set of questions with regard to the structuring of power relations, modes of managerial control, and social participation at work. Current research projects apply a critically-reflexive approach in studying more recent developments of work organization in the context of the emerging platform economy. Empirical questions focus on new types of governing and controlling performance, changing skill requirements, and the blurring of boundaries between work and non-work, paid and unpaid work. This research also engages in current debates on re-defining standards for ‘decent work’ in the context of a ‘decent life’, addressing the larger issues of valuation and recognition at work and the problem of overwork and precarity.

Inequality and Solidarity

This research area examines the centripetal and centrifugal forces of social interaction in modern societies. In exploring the cohesive forces of societies, we focus particularly on the determinants, manifestations, and transformations of solidarity. Exemplary research projects shed light on the forms of exchange in which solidarity emerges in groups, on how experiences in labor markets shape the understanding of solidarity, and on the relationships between institutionalized and civic forms of solidarity.

In focusing on the dividing forces of societies, we study the social and symbolic dimensions of inequality as well as its underlying mechanisms and institutional practices. Research interests include the following questions: How do distinction and categorization processes create and reproduce social inequality? What are the impacts of economic and social inequality on mutual trust and collaborative commitment? How do work place experiences and employment conditions generate inequality? To tackle these questions, the institute cooperates with WU’s Research Institute for Economics of Inequality.

Sustainable Development

This research area is characterized by a focus on sustainable development and social-ecological transformations. Research in the field is conducted at the intersection of ecology, economy, and society, and is highly inter- and transdisciplinary. In addition to basic research, studies on implementation strategies for societal sectors and real-life practices help explore transformational potential. Research topics cover a broad spectrum: social-ecological conflicts; the (in)compatibility of economic development and sustainability; consumption and food production; social dimensions of ecological sustainable development such as inequality; sectoral research such as sustainable energy consumption and energy poverty.

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