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Work as Conceptual Category

Gayatri Sahgal

Edited by Rana Behal , Alice Mah, Babacar Fall
Tulika Books, New Delhi, 2011, pp.182, Rs. 400.00


Rethinking Work: Global, Historical and Sociological Perspectives, is a collection of essays which explores the theme of work as a separate conceptual category that exists apart from labour. In doing so the contributing authors provide a perspective on the factors that define the contours of the meaning of work and the reality of its experi-ence. In the chapter aptly titled 'I Feel Like a Kid in Front of Them' Mayer Ahuja explores how age differences condition specific forms of work organization in the context of the soft-ware industry. In investigating this dynamic he finds that the emergence of global value chains within the industry has not only led to a dis-integration of the value chain across the deve-loped and developing economies but has also been accompanied by specific characteriza-tion of the work force, which reflects a trans-national age gap. He argues that while age differences in some contexts can contribute towards the unequal division of labour, it is not necessarily so in all cases. The business models followed by companies also play a significant role in transforming age differences into inequalities in the division of work. The author however warns that overriding age differences can prove to be a fairly complex task even in companies which view such divisions as a challenge to be tackled with, as in the case of G-Pro. However, while the relationship between age differences and division of work is not entirely direct, such differences however do play a role in defining life cycles, and the temporal and spatial rhythms of work. Taking the case of Indian and German software emp-loyees, the author argues that the biographical constellations in India which are intertwined with age both impede and enable labour utili-zation associated with transnational mobility. The implication of this is that while compa-nies may require senior employees to travel and relocate, the biographical constellation of employees in India is such that those who are willing to fulfil such responsibilities are typi-cally the junior unmarried workers. Regarding the temporal patterns of work, according to Ahuja, the low average age and lack of family obligation, influence corporate strategies of labour utilization which lead to longer working hours and lower intensity of work. Young Indian workers thus typically work longer hours doing less intense work than their European counterparts who on account of being older and with family obligations work regular hours, engaged in more intensive work. From, Auhja's ...

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