August 2nd, 2008

ASA Awards Ceremony and Presidential Address (2008)


DOUG MCADAM: If I could welcome everyone to the hall. Come on in and grab seats. Welcome to this years’ award ceremony and Presidential Address. I am Doug McAdam, current ASA Vice President. As we
gather in Boston this year to greet old friends, maybe make some new ones, we would do well to remember those of our colleagues who are no longer with us. I ask you to join me in some moments of
reflection and recollection on those who passed during the past year. MICHELE LAMONT: Good evening. I am Michele Lamont, chair of the Committee on Awards. As a Bostonian by adoption, it is my
pleasure to welcome you to the Award Ceremony. I have been asked to say a few words about my city before we proceed. The ASA wants to be sure that you get welcomed by someone with a local accent.
Boston is a sociologically significant city, both intellectually and socially. It is intellectually significant because of the sociological classics produced here. Both classics that are embedded in
place: Street corner society, urban villagers; and those that are rather disembodied: The structure of social action. It is intellectually significant because of the large number of practicing
sociologists who have taught or attended graduate school here. Indeed, Boston may very well be the city with the largest concentration of PhD programs in sociology in the country. With BU, BC, Tufts,
Brandeis, and Harvard to mention only a few. Beyond sociology, the number of Bostonians involved in knowledge production and diffusion is simply staggering. It is difficult to drive or park in Boston
under normal circumstances, but imagine doing it on September 1st, when more than five hundred thousand students move to town. I want to warn you against trying to park your car at Harvard Yard on
that day. Even without an accent it is nearly impossible. Boston is a sociologically significant city because of the many ways in which it has been the avant-garde and alas sometimes at the
arriere-guard of social change in the United States. It also stands for a number of rather transient American society, which makes it American society where it's small. These include the World of
Ethnic Whites and American Capitalism, but note that Boston will soon be a minor/majority city with a growing population of Brazilians and Asians in particular. The world of philanthropy, Boston being
the first city to have a free public library, a free indoor public pool and other philanthropic firsts. The world of a declining upper class, local upper class, the Brannons, who suffered from the
broadening of Harvard student body to include a growing number of Jews, Asians, and members of other groups. The world of the civic minded and neighborhood associations. Town meetings are still a
mainstay of local democracy, and many local towns, all very, very small, have selectmen instead of mayors. The world of venture capitalism, Hi-tech, Route 128 and Kendall Square Biotech, which
competes with Silicon Valley as a center of innovation, and last but not least, it is the first state where gays can legally marry. I am sure that you also want to know that Boston is the site of the
first UFO citing in the U.S., the first to print paper money and Christmas cards, the first place where a human being tried to fly in a bird suit, and also where the sewing machine and the telephone
were invented, at least according to some. As you can see, we have something for everyone. I hope that you will take advantage of the splendid set of tours organized by our colleagues at Northeastern
University between sessions. But before my boisterism takes me further away from the order of business, I want to return to what brings us here today: the very serious and important job of honoring
our distinguished colleagues for their contribution to the research, teaching, diffusion and practice of sociology. So we are going to start with our first award, which is the ASA Dissertation Award,
which honors the best PhD dissertation from among those submitted by advisors and mentors in the discipline. Please welcome Timothy Owens, who will present the award. TIMOTHY OWENS: Good afternoon.
This year’s ASA Dissertation Award goes to Helen Beckler-Merrill, currently a lecturer at Harvard University where she received her PhD in Sociology and Social Policy. Merrill received her BA Suma
Cum Laude from Princeton University. Her outstanding dissertation, written under the direction of Professor Mary Waters, examines the incorporation of Latino Immigrants to two different counties in
rural North Carolina. The ways in which political and other institutions were transformed through immigration, and how racial hierarchies are challenged and modified. Merrill’s sophisticated
analysis is based on one year of ethnographic study, rich interview data, and art and archival research. Merrill will begin a Robert Wood Johnson postdoctoral fellowship at UC Berkley, UC San
Francisco in the fall of 2008. Help me welcome Helen Beckler-Merrill. HELEN BECKLER-MERRILL: Thank you. I have been in shock ever since I got this award. It was very unexpected. I was notified of my
receipt of this award on Tuesday, May 13th. Although it was an ecstatic day for me, it was also a disappointing one. That same day North Carolina made an official decision to deny all undocumented
immigrants any access at all to degree-seeking courses in its community colleges and public universities. This decision overturned a mandate coming from the outgoing democratic governor in the fall of
2007 to allow undocumented immigrants access to the state’s institutions of higher education, albeit at prohibitive out-of-state resident fees. It also overturned previous policy, which during the
time of my research, allowed each of North Carolina’s community colleges to choose whether or not it would elect to admit undocumented students. It is arguably the most restrictive policy towards
undocumented students in higher education in the country today, and it has been dubbed a George Wallace moment. I watched in sadness as news of the decision unfolded. Since in my dissertation I
attempted not only to document the current patterns of inclusion and exclusion of Hispanic newcomers in new destinations across the rural American South, but also to warn against three very real ways
in which these newcomer’s progress may be threatened in the future: By lack of access to jobs, lack of access to higher education, and lack of access to healthcare and political voice. I uncovered
many positive aspects surrounding immigrants’ dispersion into rural America today, and I attempted to show why and how these hopeful patterns of inclusion and short distance mobility are emerging,
but I also encountered a few very serious reasons to worry, and North Carolina’s recent decision to restrict newcomers’ access to higher education is chief among them. I therefore dedicate my
receipt of this award to the Latino community in North Carolina, which is bearing the greatest burden of this important change. I also owe a tremendous debt of gratitude to the academy at large; to
the members of the Dissertation Selection Award Committee; to my three extremely talented and supportive dissertation advisers: Mary Waters, Jennifer Hockshield, and Bill Wilson at Harvard for guiding
me through this very long process. To the sociology departments at Harvard and at Princeton for helping me to develop my interests and skills over the years, to the other researchers studying new
immigrant destinations for helping to influence my work. To my parents for providing great material and emotional assistance in all phases of my life, to my husband for patiently enduring what must
have seemed like thousands of conversations about immigration, and last but not least to my key informants and other subjects for sharing their lives and stories with me during my field work. Thank
you again for bestowing this unexpectedly high honor upon me. I am humbled by your consideration of my work, and I hope that it will make a strong contribution to public sociology in the years to
come. Thank you. MICHELE LAMONT: So our second award is the Jessie Bernard Award, which is given in recognition of scholarly work that has enlarged the horizon of sociology to encompass fully the
role of women in society. The contribution may be in empirical research, theory or methodology. It is presented for significant cumulative work done throughout a professional career, so please welcome
Demie Kurz as she presents this year’s recipient. DEMIE KURZ: Greetings! Arley Russell Hockshield is one of the most imaginative and productive feminist sociologists of the last thirty years.
Through her commitment to scholarship on women in gender, her extensive publications, and her mentoring of graduate students, Arley Hockshield has had an enormous impact on the fields of the sociology
of gender, the sociology of the family, sociology of emotions, and the study of contemporary work and family life. Her research and writing have not only changed the contours of knowledge in the
social sciences, but have also reached wider audiences and influenced public debate. Her work exemplifies the ideals of an engaged, informed and feminist public sociology in the tradition of the late
esteemed Jessie Bernard. Please welcome Arley Hockshield. ARLEY RUSSELL HOCKSHIELD: In my one minute, I would like to give great thanks. Being singled out individually is a good time to reflect on all
the people and the community that has shaped me. I would like first to give thanks to the Jessie Bernard Committee, to you Demi, and thanks both sociological and personal. I feel deep gratitude for
sociology itself as an illuminating perspective that I think is ever more important in these dark political times. And, I feel grateful for the women’s movement, which has inspired me and helped in
my work, and which I think helped me, and perhaps others, turn not fully fitting in to the world into the study of fits. I am grateful to my mentors, Neil Smeltzer and the late Erving Goffman. I am
grateful to my colleagues and friends: Ann Switler, Barry Thorn, Joan Cole and her husband who are kindly here; and to my students, especially the organizers of today’s panel: Jennifer Pierce and
Linda Blum; and at the eastern meetings last year: Karen Hanson, Anita Gary and Annette Laroux who have taught me as much as they believe I have taught them. And most of all, I am grateful to my
husband of 43 years, Adam Hockshield. He writes of brutal conquests of Africa, and the evils of the British slave trade, Stalin Schoolagg, and he brings his eager readers a lot of bad news. But to me,
he has brought good news, happiness. Thank you. MICHELE LAMONT: Our third award is for The Public Understanding of Sociology, and it is given annually to a person or persons who have made exemplary
contribution to advance the public understanding of sociology, sociological research, and scholarship among the general public. The award may recognize a contribution in the preceding year, or for a
longer career of such contribution. Please welcome Jan Thomas as she presents this year’s recipient. JAN THOMAS: Good afternoon. I am pleased to announce we have two recipients this year. I will
give you a description about both of them, and then present the awards. Our first Co-winner of the ASA’s Public Understanding of Sociology Award this year is Shirley Laska. Professor Laska has been
an important and prolific scholar of environmental sociology and disaster studies for the past four decades. But it is her work educating policy makers and the public since hurricane Katrina
devastated New Orleans that truly inspired the selection committee. Despite being displaced from her home and office by hurricane Katrina, professor Laska worked tirelessly giving interviews, making
presentations, conducting media appearances and testifying before congress to emphasize that hurricane Katrina was anything but a natural disaster. Using the tools of our discipline and her own
research she helped educate Americans that environmental disasters are not natural or random; rather they are social and unequal in profound ways. Our second award recipient is David Segal, Professor
of Sociology and Director of the Center for Research on Military Organization at the University of Maryland, and the foremost military sociologist in the United States. David’s research and outreach
on understanding the military as an institution and how it articulates with the broader American society is of critical importance today. In recent years, he has been interviewed on major radio
programs and quoted in leading newspapers. He has frequently provided congressional testimony on topics ranging from educational benefits for military service, to sexual orientation in the military.
His influential translation of military scholarship for multiple audiences makes him a most worthy recipient of this award. Please help me congratulate these outstanding sociologists. SHIRLEY LASKA:
It is a new script when you have two people receiving the award here. For most of my career I have focused research on community dynamics within the sub-disciplinary area of environmental sociology.
This meant that I partnered with bio- and physical scientists and engineers within the academy, and numerous governmental agencies and professional organizations to support community sustainable
goals. Consequently, when hurricane Katrina struck, I was unexpectedly positioned to analyze in a broader public arena the physical versus the social dynamics of the event. While powerful winds,
torrential rain and storm surge occurred, the catastrophe that Katrina became was socially constructed, not explainable physically. We, our society, had created the deep levels of social
vulnerability, set in motion and reinforced for centuries that produced so many deaths and such widespread and personal family devastation. The rapid societal learning curve to this revelation was
palpable. How tragic, however, that our sociological lenses and recommendations for social change became so widely appreciated only with such a magnitude of suffering. On behalf of all the many
sociologists who had been so personally committed post-Katrina to expanding the public understanding of the social construction of a natural disaster, I accept this award. Thank you. DAVID SEGAL: I am
greatly honored and extremely humbled by sharing the award this year with Shirley Laska. In the eleven years that this award has been given, this is the second time it has been given to somebody who
studies disasters, and the second time that it has been given to someone who studies the military. The latter is particularly important to me, because when I became a professional sociologist during
the Vietnam era, studying the military wasn’t very popular in the discipline of sociology. I think we have matured over the years and learned that is a major social institution. It is indeed the
largest employer in the United States. Wal-Mart was catching up until it’s recent downsizing. And it’s not going to go away. I went into military sociology because I felt that this was an
institution that was too important to be left unstudied, and I am thrilled that our discipline is coming to accept that. I am also thrilled that our discipline has established this award. For much of
my career I was frustrated by the fact that some of our neighboring social science disciplines — psychology, economics, political science — both celebrated and nurtured outside constituencies, and
in fact those constituencies proved very important when threats were made to those disciplines. It is important that sociology now recognizes that people outside the discipline should understand
sociology, and may be of assistance to the discipline when we are under threat, as happens more frequently than most of us recognize. I want to thank those of my colleagues who played a role in
nominating me for this award. Things like this don’t happen automatically. I want to thank those journalists, those policy makers, and those colleagues in the discipline across the country who
supported the nomination. And, in particular, I want to thank the awards committee for granting me this great honor. Thank you very much. MICHELE LAMONT: Our third award is the Cox-Johnson-Frazier
Award, which honors the intellectual traditions and contributions of Oliver Cox, Charles S. Johnson, and E. Franklin Frazier. The award is given either to a sociologist for a lifetime of research,
teaching and service to the community; or to an academic institution for its work in assisting the development of scholarly efforts in this tradition. Please welcome Robert Newby as he presents this
year’s recipient. ROBERT NEWBY: Let me just say that this year’s recipient of the Cox-Johnson-Frazier Award is Cora Marrett. Cora has had an outstanding career in promoting the development of
sociologists of color, as well as those of women. She has run the Minority Opportunities Summer Training Program, and, among other things, she has had an outstanding career in making this discipline
more inclusive. And so we should welcome Cora for her accomplishments in receiving this Cox-Johnson-Frazier Award. CORA MARRETT: A named award carries with it special challenges. After all, one is to
build on and enhance great traditions. Imagine how daunting it is then to receive an award named for three outstanding scholars! I think however, that I will wait until tomorrow to think about the
daunting challenges. For now I simply want to say to all of my colleagues: Thank you! MICHELE LAMONT: The next award, which is still a relatively recent award, is the Award for Excellence in the
Reporting of Social Issues, which honors individuals for their promotions of sociological findings and a broader vision of sociology. The ASA would like to recognize the contributions of those who
have been especially effective in disseminating sociological perspectives and research. Please welcome Michael Burawoy as he presents this year's recipient. MICHAEL BURAWOY: This year's award
winner, the prolific filmmaker Michael Apted, is no conventional reporter, nor is he formally trained in sociology. Yet his instincts are fundamentally sociological. The committee’s choice is
largely based on his unique Up series, which vividly chronicles the reproduction of social class through the lives of fourteen British children selected for the first film, Seven-Up, made in 1964, and
followed up every seven years since then. The latest film, Forty Nine Up appeared in 2006. A virtuoso in the open-ended interview, Apted combines this with brilliant editing to produce a riveting
social commentary on nearly a half-century of British life. The world eagerly awaits Fifty Six Up. MICHAEL APTED: The world will have to wait a little bit longer. This is a very heady atmosphere, and
forgive me if I feel nervous, even frightened, but as one of the very few non-sociologists in the room I feel entirely outnumbered and overwhelmed. I would like to thank the American Sociological
Association for this great honor and for their hospitality, and to thank Michael for making it possible with the help of Ruth Miltman, and the awards committee who chose me. I have spent over forty
years pursuing these fourteen people, so what have I learned about life from it and what does it all add up to? Well I can think of no better way of expressing that then by borrowing from Robert
Frost: Everything I have learned in life can be told in three words: It goes on. Thank you very much. MICHELE LAMONT: The next award is the Award for the Distinguished Career for the Practice of
Sociology, which honors an outstanding contribution to sociological practice. The award may recognize work that has facilitated or served as a model for the work of others, work that has significantly
advanced the utility of one or more speciality areas of sociology, and by so-doing has elevated the professional status or public image of the field as a whole, or work that has been honored or widely
recognized outside the discipline for its significant impact, particularly in advancing human welfare. Please welcome Virginia Aldegit Heide as she presents this year’s recipient. VIRGINIA ALDEGIT
HEIDE: Thank you. This award is presented to John McKinlay, an internationally prominent medical sociologist who has made landmark contributions to public health, epidemiology, medical training,
clinical decision making, and health policy. Through his research, which has been conducted both within and outside the academy, he is a prolific scholar who has authored, co-authored or edited more
than five hundred professional papers and seventeen books; and he is an intellectual giant with over three decades of similar articles in public health and clinical healthcare, in which he has applied
sociological theory to identify knowledge gaps, form research questions, and interpret results. We happily bestow the 2008 Distinguished Career Award for the Practice of Sociology on John McKinlay.
JOHN MCKINLAY: Ladies and gentleman, colleagues, this was such an honor and a surprise, and I would like to thank my colleagues for nominating me and for the committee for selecting me. We all benefit
from great colleagues, and I would like to acknowledge the fantastic contributions to my development, growth. My colleagues in Aberdeen, Scotland, and many, many wonderful years at Boston University.
In thinking about this award I thought of the many people who also in medical sociology made terrific contributions to the field and to the Association. I would like to dedicate this award to them as
well. People who have made lifetime distinguished contributions as well, who are no longer with us: Eliott Freidson, Irving Zola, Saul Levine, Peter Rossi, Vera Rita, Howie Freeman, Sam Blume and
others. My work has been distinguished by looking, as some people say, upstream. Someone was trying to explain the dilemmas in the practice of medicine. This applies more today than ever before. One
of my first papers actually, many years ago, someone was trying to explain the practice of medicine and he says, “It seems like this: There I am standing by the shore of a swiftly flowing river, and
I hear the cry of a drowning man or woman. I dive into the river, pull them to shore, start applying respiration, and then I hear another cry. I dive in, pull them to shore, respiration, and then
another cry. You know, I spend so much time hearing the cries, diving in, resuscitating people, I never have a chance to look upstream to see who the hell is pushing them all in.” And I have spent
most of my life looking upstream at social determinants of disease, which is really what medical sociologists do, and what is now called fundamental causation. Thank you very much. MICHELE LAMONT:
The ASA Distinguished Contributions to Teaching Award honors outstanding contributions to undergraduate and/or graduate teaching of sociology. The award recognizes contributions that have made a
significant impact on the manner in which sociology is taught at the regional, state, national or international level. Please welcome Susan Ferguson as she presents this year’s recipients. SUSAN
FERGUSON: Good afternoon. I am pleased to present this teaching award to two recipients this year: Elizabeth Grauerholz, Professor of Sociology at the University of Central Florida, is the 2008
co-recipient of the American Sociological Associations Distinguished Contributions to Teaching Award. Professor Grauerholz is a gifted teacher and an accomplished textbook author, and her tireless
efforts to improve teaching throughout the discipline are truly remarkable. She has made significant contributions to the Scholarship on Teaching and Learning, to the eminence of our disciplines
flagship teaching journal, Teaching Sociology, to the quality of instruction around the country via publications, workshops, and consultations and lectures, and to the advancement of sociology through
serving on committees, boards and panels supporting quality teaching. Carol Jenkins, our other recipient of the 2008 American Sociological Associations Distinguished Contributions to Teaching Award,
is a Professor of Sociology at Glendale Community College in Arizona. Her contributions to teaching about rural communities have been profound, and she has been a champion of including issues of
diversity in the curriculum. She is a leader in efforts at articulation of courses across institutional settings, an expert on student assessment and undergraduate teaching and learning, including
valuable resource materials. She has provided extensive organizational leadership and training across institutional settings. Please join me in honoring Elizabeth Grauerholz and Carol Jenkins.
ELIZABETH GRAUERHOLZ: Thank you. Years ago, when I started graduate school, I was in my first semester. One of my fellow graduate students asked me what I wanted to do when I finished, and I said I
wanted to teach. And I immediately realized that is the wrong answer. You don’t say that in graduate school. So I quickly learned that the more appropriate response is something other than that, but
I always knew that I wanted to teach. I just assumed that I was going to have to be very private about it. And here I am. It can’t get much more public than this. It’s incredible. But along the
way I learned that teaching really is a very public endeavor, and I could not have done it without the help and support of a lot of people. In particular, two individuals had huge impacts on my
teaching career: Bernice Pesko-Solito, and Reese McGee taught me that a new definition of a successful sociologist is one who is not only a great researcher, but a really committed, dedicated teacher
as well. It would not have been possible either without the help of a discipline that honors contributions to teaching, and I feel really special to be a part of this organization, and especially the
efforts of Carla Howery at the ASA have been very terrific. As well as members, many members, too many to mention, the section on teaching and learning. Most of all though, I want to thank my husband
David, who in all the years we have been married, it’s the first time he has ever attended an ASA meeting and he is here today, and my daughters actually are in Europe and they can’t be here, but
Emma and Lara, who make all of this meaningful. Thank you. CAROL JENKINS: How honored and grateful I am to receive this affirmation for what I consider to be one of the highest callings in one’s
life: The opportunity to pass on the insights our discipline, and to be in service to students who have been entrusted to me. As I reflect on my own educational experience, I tend to remember teachers
and mentors more so than methods and theories. There are so many teachers, colleagues and mentors to acknowledge. Those who have influenced my personal and professional life. In particular, I have
been so blessed to have come from an award-winning family of teachers, who together provided ninety-nine years of classroom service to students. It would have been wonderful to have my parents and my
brother here today, but each finished their earthly journey five years ago. I honor their memory with this award. Thanks also needs to be extended to my graduate professor and mentor, Cornelia Butler
Flora, retired ASA Deputy Executive Director Carla Howery who embraced and mentored and systematically included teaching sociologists from non-university settings into the ASA. Thank you also to
sociology colleagues who continue to energize the undergraduate experience: Nancy Greenwood, Jay Howard, Janet Huber-Lowry, Diane Pike, Ed Cane, Greg Wise, Kathleen McKinney who also has assisted me
with my societal research. Thank you also to my rural sociology colleagues who partner with me in undergraduate curriculum transformation initiatives to include rural diversities in sociological
analyses: Jan Flora, Linda Labayo, Ann Tickamyer and Kathy Rutkowski. I also share this award with my community college colleagues who, with so many others, educate over fifty-one percent of
America’s first and second year college students in this country: Stephen Steele, Wava Haney, David Levinson, Kathy Rowle, Susan Ferrell, Susan St. John among many. And finally, thanks go to my
students who give me a reason to come to work each day, although one student did remark on a recent course evaluation: “I didn’t learn much in your class, but you sure made me think about a bunch
of stuff.” That actually happened. From my father I learned that true success is finding out what your calling is, and then doing it. I found mine. I trust you will find yours. Thank you so very
much. MICHELE LAMONT: The ASA Distinguished Scholarly Book Award is presented annually to the best single book published in the two calendar years. Please welcome Robert Bulman as he presents this
year’s recipient. ROBERT BULMAN: Robert Courtney Smith wrote a remarkable book, “Mexican New York: Transnational Lives of New Immigrants” as an ambitious, methodologically meticulous analysis of
the lives of Mexican Immigrants, both in New York City, and in their regular visits back to their communities of origin. Based on fifteen years of ethnographic research in New York and Mexico, Mexican
New York is ethnographic research at its best. The book offers significant contributions to a dizzying number of areas within sociology. The book shows how migration decisions, assimilation patterns,
gender relations, adolescent identities, religious experiences, political participation, racialization, social mobility and the participation in gangs are all influenced by the transnational life, and
how transnational lives are influenced by the above social processes. Finally, not only is it an empirically rich and analytically precise book, it is also deeply humane. Smith treats the subjects of
his study with tremendous dignity and respect. Please join me in thanking and congratulating Robert Courtney Smith. ROBERT COURTNEY SMITH: Well, this is very humbling. It’s a big honor. I actually
got the news of this on my birthday, which was nice. One of the first things I thought of was hearing Randall Collins accept an award up here, because what he said was, and I can’t quite get the
gravitas that he has: “I love Sociology!” and it resonated with me because that’s what I thought of at the time. Where else do you have a job where you can write about things that matter to you
all the time, have a lot of fun, and get paid for it? I mean, in a sort of flexible notion of that last verb. So, I wanted to just make three brief observations and then do a couple of thank you’s.
One is, I am really delighted to get this award because it talks about the centrality and vitality of ethnography in sociology. I wanted to talk for a second to some graduate students. If you are
coming out and you are doing an ethnographic project, take time. Don’t take eighteen years, the way I did, but take time and concentrate on the relationships in your research with your informants,
with your data. And talk to everybody, especially other ethnographers, and especially non-ethnographers. Force yourself to be in a position where you have to answer the ‘so what’ question. Right,
that’s really interesting, but so what? What does it mean? Right? I think this is an important thing to help in developing your work. I also think that in our discipline — I am going to make a
quick plea for public sociology — we need to talk to people outside of our discipline, and we need to create institutional spaces that support that kind of talk. We need to factor this sort of
public sociology into tenure decisions, into fellowships and things like that. Helen Merrill spoke very movingly about immigration lately. We are in the meanest season on immigration that I have ever
seen in this country. We must object and we must offer alternatives. We are not going to be in a position to offer those suggestions unless we are already engaged. All right, finally, and most
importantly, the thank you’s: I first want to thank the committee for their most insightful choice this year. I want to thank whoever nominated me. No one has told me yet that they did that. I
appreciate that. I want to thank everyone that read my book, all three and a half times that I rewrote it, including the late Chuck Tilley who read it twice fully. I would like to thank my CUNY
colleagues. I would like to thank the fun, smart and wonderful Naomi Schneider, my editor at University of California, who became a member of the family for about five years, because she was so
present in our lives. And most importantly I would like to thank my family: My wife Mora, and my sons Owen and Liam who are sitting over there, who make my life full. I always love getting up to make
breakfast for your guys, and there is nothing that makes me happier than sitting down and eating with you. So thanks for being here. I thank all of you as well. MICHELE LAMONT: Last but not least, it
feels a bit like the Oscars here, the W.E.B. DuBois Career Award of Distinguished Scholarship honors scholars who have shown a standing commitment to the profession of sociology, and whose cumulative
work has contributed in important ways, to the advancement of the discipline. Please welcome Naomi Gersil as she presents this year’s recipient. NAOMI GERSIL: Barbara Reskin’s theoretical and
empirical writings have reoriented research on gender and racial inequalities, particularly in employment, and serve as a model for sociological scholarship that is theoretically rich and politically
relevant. Through her path-breaking publications on gender segregation and affirmative action, her membership on, and directorship of influential National Academy of Science Committees, her service as
Vice President and President of the American Sociological Association, and her applied work on issues related to employment inequalities. She has contributed to the advancement of our discipline in
the academy and clearly beyond. For those signal achievements we honor her with the 2008 W.E.B. DuBois Career of Distinguished Scholarship Award. Unfortunately Barbara Reskin couldn’t be here today,
but she wanted to say thank you and she is busily doing very important work instead of attending a conference she very much wanted to come to. Thank you. DOUGLAS MCADAM: Let me thank Michele for
doing such a spectacular job facilitating the awards ceremony. And let me congratulate all of the winners, in fact why don’t we all give all of the winners one last round of applause. I also want to
just commend the eloquence of all of you. These are short little snippets, and to borrow Carol Jenkin’s phrase, or the phrase of her students: You all gave us stuff to think about. When we convene,
I am going to introduce Arne Kalleberg to give his Presidential Address, but I want to mention that immediately following his address, there is a reception in Grand Salon G for all the award winners,
and for President Kalleberg. I hope many of you will join us to greet the award winners and to congratulate them personally. So again, that will happen immediately after Arne’s address. It is a
great pleasure to introduce Arne Kalleberg, President Arne Kalleberg, whose talk tonight, address tonight, is entitled, “Precarious Work: Insecure Workers, Rethinking the Sociology of Work, Workers
and the Workplace.” But first a bit of background. I think it is altogether fitting that Arne picked Worlds of Work as the theme for this year’s meeting. Fitting I suppose for three reasons: First
and most obviously the subfield of work is the one with which Arne is most closely identified and to which he has made so many important contributions over thirty five years or so now. They range all
the way from his very first published article which was in 1973 with Owa Sorrenson, that looked at the effect of overtraining on worker attitudes, all the way to his 2007 book: “The Mismatched
Worker.” So again, Arne’s work is closely identified obviously with the subfield of work. Even to a nonspecialist like me, I knew many of Arne’s very important contributions to this area long
before I met him personally. What I didn’t’ know is how closely his interest in the topic of work, and especially his longstanding focus on overtraining and mismatches, reflects his own
experiences growing up. This is the second reason why I think it is fitting that he picked the theme of work for this year’s meeting. And here I am indebted to Peter Marsden who wrote a really
wonderful biographical profile of Arne that appeared in Footnotes some months back, and I am cribbing heavily from that, so Peter if you’re out there, thank you. Another thing I didn’t know about
Arne is he was born in Norway and moved to the United States when he was five. And in at least one respect, work, it appears as if he and his family had a fairly typical immigrant experience on
arriving in the United States. His father and mother were very much overtrained for the clerical jobs that they held in various grocery stores and delis in the New York City area while Arne was
growing up. Arne himself, his first full-time job was a clerical job in an insurance firm for which he was also grossly overtrained it seems like. And like many other immigrant kids, he held many,
many jobs while growing up, including newspaper vendor, warehouse worker, etc. You name it, there was a long list of jobs that was included in this piece that Peter Marsden wrote. So that’s the
second reason again for thinking this is an appropriate theme. It actually resonates with Arne’s early childhood experiences. But there is one final reason I associate Arne with work, and that is
his extensive history of work for, and on behalf of, the Association, and that means on behalf of all of us. The modal ASA President discharges his or her duties superbly during their term in office.
But not many I suspect can boast the history of continuous service to the Association that Arne can. I first saw Arne in action when he was secretary from 2001 to 2004, and as only ASA insiders know,
if James Brown was the hardest working man in show business, the hardest working nonpaid staff member in the association is the secretary. Arne was incredibly effective in his stint as secretary. I
got to observe him at close range for the three years he served in that position. But even before that, he was a member of the publication committee, and a two time chair of the section on
organizations, occupation and work. Having seen him in action in all of these various positions, I knew that Arne would be a superb President. Needless to say, he has not disappointed. It has been a
great privilege working with and observing Arne on the program committee for the last two years. Please join me in welcoming and thanking Arne for his superb service to the association both this year
and throughout his career. Arne. ARNE KALLEBERG: Doug, thanks very much for that nice introduction, and thanks so much for your service as Vice President this year. You’ve done a terrific job and it
has been a great pleasure working with you. I also want to thank the membership, at the least the majority of you, for giving me the opportunity to serve as your President this past year. It’s been
a great year in many ways. I have been able to travel around the country and the world representing the association on various things and talking about various issues, and that’s been a great
thrill. The association has done well. We’ve bought a building, a condominium in Washington, so we are now homeowners, and we have a permanent home in Washington. And we got a good deal on it, so
that’s good. I am happy to report that the ASA is vibrant, as vibrant as ever. Membership is high. Attendance at this meeting is one of the top attendance records of all time, and Boston is great.
It’s the first time we’ve been here since 1979, and we’re really happy to be here. Hope we can come back soon. One of the nice things about being President is you get to work with the ASA staff.
And I got to know many of these folks when I was secretary, but I got to renew old acquaintances. They are great professionals. This is a very professional staff led by the fabulous Sally Hillsman,
the Executive Officer, and her extremely able Deputy, Janet Asner. The list of the people on staff are listed on page thirty-five of your program so I can’t name all of them, but I want to mention a
few people that I have really enjoyed working with especially during the past year: Les Briggs, he runs the numbers and he really guessed right on this building. He really bought a building at a great
price for us, and saved us all a lot of money. Karen Edwards who does publication and membership. She has been working hard trying to break new membership records. Lee Herring in communications is
getting the word out about sociology. Mike Murphy does sections governance, and he can find anything in the archives. Jean Shin, the Minority Affairs Officer, was my traveling companion throughout
various parts of America, spreading the word. Bobby (Roberta) Spalter-Roth Research Department, has been cranking things out. Margaret Vitullo has really made important steps in the academic and
professional affairs area. I also want to thank the Program Committee. They are listed on page one of the program, as they should be. I think this is a great program. I did hear a complaint today. One
guy complained to me and said, “The problem with this program is there are too many great sessions.” That’s too bad! I have had that problem too, because one my regret about this meeting is that
I haven’t been able to go to as many sessions as I wanted to. I want to thank Tom Paning from Northeastern for taking on the responsibility of chairing the Local Arrangements Committee. And I also
want to thank you for participating. This meeting wouldn’t be possible without the amazing efforts of all of you, and I appreciate that. I also want to give a big shout out to the ASA meeting staff,
led by Kareem Jenkins, who has taken over for Janet Astner as she has moved on to other duties, to take charge of the meeting arrangement. He is the go-to guy for all of these problems that we have,
if we have any. We really appreciate that. He is ably assisted by Kendra Eastman and Norcia Bailey (sp) and I thank both of those. Finally, let me thank my family. My children: Kathryn, Jonathan and
Karri. The two new additions to our family: My son-in-law Tim who married Kathryn, and our granddaughter Elise, our first granddaughter. She is probably the cutest baby I’ve ever seen, but I am
probably being a little prejudiced. And she has made a big difference in our lives. I want to give a special thanks to my wife Judy, who has supported me and stuck with me since graduate school days,
and is attending her first ASA meeting as well, and I hope it’s not going to be her last. Thank you. Now, let me turn to my talk, which I have titled “Precarious Work, Insecure Workers: Employee
Relations in Transition.” As Doug mentioned, it is focusing on work, which is what I’ve studied my entire career. The reason I have done that is because work is a core activity in society. It is
an essential life interest for many individuals, links persons to each other, and locates them within the stratification system. Perhaps only kin relationships are as central and influential in
people’s everyday lives. Work reveals much about the social order, how it is changing, and the kinds of problems and issues that people and their governments must address. Accordingly, the study of
work has long been a central field in the sociology. Let me show you three pictures of three different kinds of workers: First are a pair of manual workers, a man and a woman. It looks like they are
busy fixing a machine of some sort. They appear to be relatively happy with their work, although they are concentrating pretty hard. The second is an office worker sitting at her desk with her
computer, looking away, probably posing for the photographer, and that’s her work space there. Finally, here are a bunch of day laborers working in an agricultural setting picking fruit in the
fields. Now, what all of these groups of workers have in common is that social, economic and political forces that have been operating for several decades in the United States and the rest of the
world have made their work more precarious. By precarious work I mean employment that is uncertain, unpredictable and risky from the point of view of the worker. Newspaper headlines bring daily
reminders of the precarity of work. Over 160,000 workers were laid off this past June, a month which saw the largest number of layoffs in manufacturing since August 2003. American Airlines, the
nation’s largest airline, announced in late July that it will cut nearly 7,000 jobs, about eight percent of it’s workforce. Wachovia, the nation’s fourth largest bank, announced in late July
that it will cut over 6,500 jobs, about five percent of its workforce. Such examples have become commonplace. All you got to do is pick up a newspaper. The growth of precarious work since the 1970’s
has emerged as a core contemporary concern. Pierre Bourdieu saw precarity as the root of problematic social issues in the twenty first century. Urlich Beck describes the creation of a new political
economy of insecurity. Precarious work has far-reaching consequences that cut across many areas of concern to sociologists. Hence, it is important that we understand the new workplace arrangements
that generate precarious work and insecurity. I will first summarize some of the reasons for, and evidence of, the growth of precarious work in the United States since the mid 1970s. For simplicity, I
will focus mainly on the U.S. case, though I argue that precarious work constitutes a global challenge. Next, I describe some of the consequence of precarious work. I then suggest the need for a
unified study of work centered on the concept of the employment relationship that addresses more forcefully and clearly precarious work, its emerging character, and its consequences. Finally, I
discuss some of the imperatives for social policy of the growth of precarious work and insecurity. I concentrate here on employment, which is work that produces earnings or profit if one is
self-employed. Equating work with pay or profit is of course a limited view, as there are many activities that create value but are unpaid. I also focus on work precarity in industrial countries, so I
emphasize precarious employment in the formal economy. Let me first turn to some reasons for why precarious growth has increased in the United States. The years 1974-1975 marked the start of
macroeconomic changes, such as the oil shock, that helped lead to an increase in global price competition. Globalization increased the amount of competition faced by companies, provided greater
opportunities for them to outsource work to lower wage countries, and opened up new sources of workers through immigration. Technological advances both forced companies to become more competitive
globally, and made it possible for them to do so. Changes in legal and other institutions mediated the impacts of globalization and technology on work and employment relations. Unions continued to
decline, weakening a traditional source of institutional protections for workers, and severing the post-war business labor social contract. Government regulations that set minimum acceptable standards
in the labor market, such as minimum wage laws, eroded, as did rules that governed competition product markets. The pervasive political changes associated with Ronald Regan’s election in 1980
accelerated business ascendency and labor decline, and unleashed the freedom of firms and capitalists to pursue their unbridled interests. Deregulation and reorganization of employment relations
allowed for the massive accumulation of capital. Ideological changes toward greater individualism and personal responsibility for work and life supported these structural changes. The slogan
“You’re on your own” replaced the notion of “We’re all in this together” as the economist Jared Bernstein has put it. The neoliberal revolution spread throughout the world, emphasizing the
centrality of markets and market driven solutions, privatization of government resources and removal of government protections in many countries. Work also changed during this period. Increases in
knowledge intensive work accompanied the accelerated pace of technological innovation. Service industries continued to expand as the principal sources of jobs. These macro level changes that began in
the mid 1970’s led employers to seek greater flexibility in their relations with workers. The neoliberal idea at the societal level was mirrored by the greater role played by market forces within
the workplace. Employers sought to adapt their workforces to meet the growing competition and rapid change, either by creating more highly skilled and flexible jobs, the high road, or more often took
the low road by hiring workers whose employment was contingent upon their needs. Managements attempt to achieve flexibility led to various types of corporate restructuring which in turn led to a
growth in precarious work and transformation in the nature of the employment relationship, and this had certain consequences that I will talk about. However, precarious work is not new. Until the end
of the great depression in the United States, most jobs were precarious, and most wages were unstable. Pensions and Health Insurance were almost unheard of among the working classes before the
1930’s, and benefits depended on workers docility, rather than represented entitlements. The creation of a market based economy in the early twentieth century exacerbated precarity during this
period. Karl Polanyi in the Great Transformation, describes the organizing principles of industrial society in the nineteenth and twentieth century’s in terms of a double movement struggle. One side
of that movement was guided by the principles of economic liberalism and Laissez Faire that supported the establishment and maintenance of free and flexible markets. The other side was dominated by
moves toward social protections that were reactions to the disruptions markets imposed on people’s lives. The long historical struggle over employment security that emerged as a reaction to the
negative consequences of precarity, was one by the victories of the New Deal and other protections in the 1930’s. The three decades following World War II were marked by sustained growth and
prosperity. During this post-war boom period, economic compensation generally increased for most people, leading to a growth in equality described by economist Claudia Golden as the Great Compression.
Job security and opportunities for advancement were generally good for many workers. The attainment of a basic level of material satisfaction freed workers to emphasize other concerns in defining
whether their jobs were good, such as meaning, challenge and other intrinsic awards. Laws enacted during the 1930’s dramatically increased the number of workers whose jobs provided employment
security along with living wages and benefits. Employer’s power over the terms of employment was restricted by the right of workers to bargain collectively, granted by the passage of the Wagner Act
in 1935, along with increased government control over working conditions and employment practices. The establishment of the social contract between business and labor beginning in the 1930’s
solidified the growing security and economic gains of this period. Huge sustained economic growth was made possible by the full blooming of Fordest production techniques and America’s dominance in
world markets. The post-war period, up until the mid-70s was unusual for its sustained growth and stability. Precarious work today differs in several fundamental ways from that which characterized
precarity in the pre-World War II period. First, there has been a spacial restructuring of work on a global scale. Greater connectivity among people, organizations and countries, made possible by
advances in technologies, have made it relatively easy to move goods, capital and people within and across borders at and ever accelerating pace. Second, the service sector has become much more
central in the economy and changed the mix of occupations. It has also enhanced the potential of consumer-producer coalitions for influencing work and its consequences among other things. Third,
precarious work was often described in the past in terms of a dual labor market, with unstable and uncertain jobs concentrated in a secondary labor market. Now precarious work has spread to all
sectors of the economy and has become much more pervasive. Professional and managerial jobs are also precarious now. There is widespread agreement that work and employment relations have changed in
important ways since the 1970’s. Still, there is some disagreement as to the specifics of these changes. Studies of individual organizations, occupations and industries often yield different
conclusions from analysis of the economy as a whole Peter Cappelli observes that, “Well I have yet to meet a manager who believes that this change has not stood his or her world on its head, I meet
plenty of labor economists studying the aggregate workforce who are not sure exactly what has changed.” The lack of availability of systematic longitudinal data on the nature of employment relations
and organizational practices makes it difficult to evaluate just how much change has actually occurred. The U.S. government and other agencies such as the International Labor Organization, often
collect data on phenomena only after they are deemed to be problematic. For example, the Bureau of Labor Statistics did not begin collecting information on nonstandard work arrangement and contingent
work until 1995. Nevertheless we can glean several pieces of evidence that precarious work has indeed increased in the United States. First, there has been a general decline in the length of
people’s attachment to their employers. The average length of time a person spends with his or her employer has generally decreased. This varies by specific subgroups. Women’s employer tenure has
increased, men’s has decreased. The decline in employer tenure is especially true for older white men, the group protected most by internal labor markets. There has been an increase in job
displacement. Layoffs or involuntary terminations from employment have always taken place and have fluctuated with the business cycle, as you can see. The difference now is that layoffs have become a
basic component of the employer strategy of downsizing. A way of increasing short-term profits by reducing labor costs, even in good economic times. The figure I have up now shows that despite the
cyclical nature of job displacement, there has been an increase in the share of workers who lost their jobs involuntarily due to layoffs in the United States from the early 1980s to 2001. The
displacement rate increased, especially for white collar workers. There has been an increase in long-term unemployment. Not having a job at all, of course, is the ultimate form of work precarity.
Long-term unemployed workers, defined as jobless for 6 months or more, are more likely to suffer economic and psychological hardships. The share of long-term unemployed relative to all unemployed has
increased in recent years. Fourth, precarity is intimately related to job insecurity. Though there are individual differences in perceptions of insecurity and risk, people in general are increasingly
worried about losing their jobs and less confident about getting comparable new jobs. The figure I have up now, derived from Andrew Fullerton and Mike Wallace’s analysis of the general social survey
data, shows the trend in responses to the question, “How likely do you think it is that you will lose your job or be laid off?” The blue line represents overall assessments of job security with
high values connoting greater perceived security. And you can see it’s sort of cyclical. The recessions are marked by the gray areas. The orange line shows the trend controlling for the unemployment
rate and other determinants of insecurity. The orange line indicates that perceived job security declined in the United States from 1977 to 2002. Fifth, data from a representative sample of U.S.
establishments collected in the mid-1990s showed that over half used other organizations to perform at least some functions. Examples of out-sourcing in specific sectors illustrate the pervasiveness
of this phenomenon. It occurs in food and janitorial services, accounting, routine legal work, and military activities. One example is Blackwater, the out-sourcing of the U.S. military. You can take
off the…thanks. In this figure, the yellow and orange bars show the decline in full-time tenured and full-time tenure-track faculty in academia, respectively, from 1973 to 2005, while the green and
blue bars show the increase in full-time, non-tenure track and part-time faculty, respectively, during this period. The occupation that Stanley Aronowitz called the last great job in America is
becoming precarious, too. Finally, there has been an increase in risk shifting from employers to employees. This is reflected in the increase of defined contribution plans for pensions and health
insurance. Defined contribution plans are those in which the employees pay more of the premium and absorb more of the risk than employers. There has been an increase in those and a decline in defined
benefit plans in which the employers bear most of the risk. The growth of precarious work has had widespread effects. The first is the increase in greater economic inequality, insecurity, and
instability. The growth of economic inequality in the United States since the 1980s has been well documented. Earnings have also become more volatile and unstable with greater fluctuations from year
to year. The University of Michigan’s Consumer Sentiment Index released in April 2008 shows that Americans are more pessimistic about their economic situation than they have been for more than a
quarter century, and I don’t think it has gone up since then. People have had to spend more of their income on necessities, such as insurance and housing, and there’s been a rise in debt and
bankruptcies, as Teresa Sullivan and her colleagues have demonstrated. This economic insecurity threatens the very foundation of our middle class society. Precarious work has also had a range of other
consequences for individuals. The impact of uncertainty and insecurity on individuals’ health and stress is well documented. The experience of precarity also corrodes one’s identity and promotes
anomie, as Richard Sennett has argued. Precarious work also affects families. Uncertainty about the future may affect couples’ decision making on such key things as the timing of marriage and
children, as well as the number of children to have. Parents whose economic situation is precarious may be less comfortable investing in their children’s education. Children may thus need to provide
more of their educational costs, leading them to graduate from college with more debt and preventing others from going to college at all. Precarious work may also lead to a lack of social engagement,
reflected in declines in membership in community organizations, trust, and social capital. This may lead to changes in the structure of communities, as people who lose their jobs due to plant closings
or downsizing may no longer be able to afford to live in the community. Newcomers may not be able to set down roots. Immigrants today are less likely to see the promise of America the way that their
predecessors did and may be less willing to settle permanently. Let my quickly note that, though, that people differ in their vulnerability with regard to precarious work, depending on their
personality dynamics, levels and kinds of education, family responsibilities, and type of occupation and industry. For example, minorities are more likely to be unemployed and displaced from their
jobs than whites. And, older workers are more likely to suffer from the effects of out-sourcing and industrial restructuring and be forced to put off retirement due to inadequate performance of their
defined contribution plans. I will now turn to a discussion of some of the challenges for the sociology of workers in the workplace that are generated by the growth of precarious work. The growth of
precarious work creates new challenges and opportunities for sociologists seeking to explain this phenomenon and to help frame effective policies to assess its consequences. To meet these challenges
we need to revisit, reorient, and reconsider the core theoretical and analytic tools we use to get at contemporary realities of work, workers, and the workplace. The first heyday of the sociology of
work, under the label Industrial Sociology, in the United States was during the 1940s, 50s, and part of the 1960s. Industrial sociology integrated the study of work, occupations and organizations,
labor unions and industrial relations, industrial psychology and careers, and the community and society, as illustrated by the path-breaking work of Everett C. Hughes, William Form, and Ivar Berg,
among others. It addressed society’s major challenges and problems, many of which focused on industrial organizations, productivity, unions, and labor management relations. The sociological study of
work became increasingly fragmented in the 1960s and 1970s. Topics previously subsumed under the rubric of industrial sociology were spread among sociologists of work, occupations, organizations,
economy and society, labor and labor markets, gender, labor force demography, social stratification, and so on. Boundary changes created divides in the study of work between sociology and disciplines
such as anthropology, industrial psychology, and social work. Much of the research on these topics, especially on organizations, was taken over by professional schools of business and industrial
relations, and separate associations and journals were founded. Moreover, social scientists’ interest in studying issues associated with industrial sociology waned as unions declined in power, and
many of these workplace issues were no longer a problem for employers who could hire whoever they needed and could push workers for more and get it. The growing availability and use of large scale
surveys diverted attention away from qualitative studies of work and workers and from difficult to measure concepts such as the informal sector. The growing popularity of economic sociology tended to
neglect workers through its focus on markets and institutions, as Ida Harper Simpson has pointed out. Of course, there have been many valuable sociological studies of work since the 1970s. These
include the contribution to the labor process debate initiated by Harry Braverman in the mid-1970s, investigations of the impacts of technology, and important studies of gender in work by Rosabeth
Moss Kanter, Cynthia Epstein, Barbara Reskin, and Patricia Ruze, Jerry Jacobs, and many others. Nevertheless, the study of issues such as precarious work and insecurity and their links to social
stratification, organizations, labor markets, and gender, race, and age have fallen through the cracks. We need to return to a unified and holistic study of work in order to tackle the problems, such
as precarious work and insecurity. Such an approach would integrate studies of work, occupations and organizations, along with labor markets, political sociology, and insights from psychology and
labor and behavioral economics. For example, the organizations, occupations, and work section of ASA realized, again, the importance of the sociological study of work to theory and research on
organizations and occupations in the mid-1990s when it changed its name from Organizations and Occupations. But, work is studied. Indeed it is central to sociology in its many specialties, including
ASA sections devoted to labor, economic sociology, gender, medical sociology, sociology of education, social psychology, aging in the life course, international migration, among many others. My
comments tonight are thus directed at the discipline of sociology as a whole, not to a particular specialty. A unified study of work should build on the concept of employment relations. These
represent the social, economic, psychological, and political linkages between individual workers and their employers. Employment relations are the bases for defining class positions. They also differ
in the relative power of employers and employees to control tasks and the conditions of employment and the ability to terminate the job. The employment contract is a valuable concept for theorizing
dimensions of employment relations in the formal economy. Employment contracts vary between transactional short-term market based and relational long-term organizational contracts. There are
psychological contracts developed between employers and employees, and social contracts between groups, such as business and labor. Employment relations are useful for studying the connections between
macro and micro levels of analysis because they explicitly link individuals to workplaces and employment regimes. Employment relations are embedded in other social institutions, such as the family,
education, politics, and the healthcare sector, and they are intimately related to gender, race, and age, and other demographic characteristics of the labor force. I will illustrate the utility of the
focus on employment relations for addressing several key challenges raised by the growth of precarious work. First, we need to understand better the changing organizational context of employment
relations and the new managerial regimes and control systems that underpin them. The growth of precarious work has eroded the relevance of the bureaucratic organizational model of the standard
employment relationship in which workers resume to work full time for a particular employer at the employer’s place of work often progressing upwards on job ladders within internal labor markets. In
this figure, organization A represents the standard organizational model. Now, the workplace is, of course, still important, but the form of the workplace has changed. Organizational research,
however, began to shift away from studies of work in the mid-1960s, as organizational theorists started to direct their attention to the interactions of organizations with their environments. Studies
of employment relations can help us to appreciate emergent organizational forms of work, such as new types of networks. The growing importance of independent and other forms of contracting creates
opportunities for skilled workers to benefit from the growth of contingent work. As Steve Barley and Gideon Kunda, and Vicki Smith have demonstrated in their case studies. Indeed, one can profitably
analyze the firm as a nexus of contracts, as Oliver Williamson and his colleagues have done. The next figure – the next part of the figure illustrates some of these emergent employment relations.
Fixed term and on-call temporary workers are hired directly by organization A. Temporary help agency employees and contract company employees work at organization A, but are employees of organization
B and C, respectively. The growth of temporary help agencies and contract companies has created triadic relations among organizations such as those between organization A and organization B and C, and
their workers that also need to be explicated. Explaining changes in employment relations requires the use of multilevel data that include information on organizations and their employees. Such
multilevel data sets and methods for analyzing them are disseminating quickly among sociologists. Second, we also need to understand better the forms and mechanisms of worker agency, which have
generally received less attention than studies of social structure. The actions of workers did not play a major role in my story of the growth of precarious work in the United States in recent years.
I emphasize primarily the actions of employers in response to macro economic pressures produced by such things as globalization and price competition. The decline in power of unions during this period
left workers without a strong collective voice in confronting the actions of employers and politicians. Nevertheless, as Randy Hodson has argued in his book Dignity at Work, workers are not passive
victims of social structure. They are active agents in their own lives. Workers resist management strategies of control and act autonomously to give meaning to their work. Studying the employment
relationship forces us to think about the interplay between structure and agency. We need to understand how workers exercise agency both individually and collectively. Personal agency involves
learning new skills and identifying career paths. Workers now must often pack their own parachute with little guidance as they seek to navigate the uncertainties of a constantly changing labor market.
The uncertainty and unpredictability of future work opportunities makes it hard for students to plan rationally for their education, such as what subjects to major in, and otherwise to prepare for
work. We also need to appreciate new models of organizing and strategies of mobilization that are likely to be effective in light of the increased precarity of employment relations. Research on labor
revitalization is one scholarly expression of the growing emphasis on collective agency. Dan Cornfield and his colleagues, for example, have shown that labor unions are strategic institutional actors
that advance workers’ life chances by organizing them, engaging in collective bargaining, and shaping the welfare and regulatory state through legislative lobbying and political campaigns. Moreover,
as Dan Clausen argues, models of fusion that tied labor movements and labor organizing to social movements, such as the women’s movement, immigrant groups, and other community-based organizations
are likely to be more effectual than those based solely on work. Consumer producer coalitions, often defined in the local area, illustrate the kinds of interdependent power that Frances Fox Piven
theorized about in her ASA presidential address last year. The figure that I’ve just put up is a travel advisory put out for this convention by the striking workers at Aramark. The potential of such
coalitions for enhancing workers’ collective agency is illustrated by this experience of Aramark employees outside the Hines Center combining with consumers like the ASA. In addition, occupations
are becoming increasingly useful concepts for describing the institutional pathways by which workers can exercise their collective agency across multiple employers. A consideration of employment
relations helps to clarify the processes of social closure by which occupational incumbents seek to obtain greater control over their activities, as suggested by theories of stratification such as
disaggregate structuration advanced by David Grusky and his colleagues, that take occupations as the basic units of class structures. Precarity and precarious work, however, is a global, worldwide
phenomenon. The trends I have discussed for the United States are generally mirrored throughout the world. What is most problematic about precarious work differs among countries depending on their
stage of development, social institutions, cultures, and other national differences. In transitional and less developed countries, including many countries in Asia, Africa, and Latin America, for
example, precarious work is linked more to employment in the informal than formal economy and whether jobs pay above poverty wages. All industrial countries are faced with the basic problem of
balancing security and flexibility. The question is what kinds of institutional arrangements are put in place to reduce employers’ risks and employees’ insecurity. As Duncan Gallie and his
colleagues have shown, different employment regimes lead to different solutions. The relationship between precarity and economic and other forms of insecurity will vary by country depending on its
welfare provisions, such as employment and social protections in addition to labor market conditions. In Denmark, for example, security on any one job is relatively low, but employment security is
fairly high since unemployed workers are given a great deal of protection and help to find new jobs. Thus, this famous flexi-security system combines flexible hiring and firing rules for employers and
a social security system for workers. Let me turn to the concluding part of my talk by making a few observations about the implications of all this for public policy. Industrial sociology was
committed to studying applied concerns such as worker morale, managerial leadership, and productivity. Similarly, a new sociology of work should focus on the challenges posed by central timely issues
such as how and why precarious employment relations are created and maintained. Economists currently dominate discussions on public policy. This contrasts with the first heyday of industrial sociology
when sociologists and their close cousins, the institutional economists, were the key policy advisors. Since the issues of precarious work and job insecurity are rooted in social and political forces,
sociologists today have a terrific opportunity to play a bigger role in shaping social policy by explaining how institutional and cultural forces generate inequalities in the quality of work and life.
The forces that led to the growth of precarious work that I have described are not likely to abate anytime soon, and so there is little likelihood that work will become less precarious in the future.
Hence, effective social policies should seek to alleviate problems produced by precarious work and its consequences. These policies should help people deal with the uncertainty and unpredictability of
their work and the resulting confusion and increasingly chaotic and insecure lives they have, while still preserving at least some of the flexibility that employers demand in order to compete in a
global marketplace. As the pendulum representing the second of Polanyi’s double movement again swings toward the need for social protections to alleviate the disruptions caused by the operation of
unfettered markets, we can draw lessons from the policies adopted by the New Deal to address problems of precarity in the 1920s and 1930s. One lesson is the need for social insurance to help
individuals cope with the risks associated with precarious work. The most pressing is health insurance for all citizens that is not tied to particular employers, but is portable. This would reduce
many negative consequences associated with unemployment and job changing. Another is portable pension coverage to supplement Social Security and help people to retire with dignity. And, we need better
insurance to offset risks of unemployment and income volatility. We must also make substantial new investments in education and training to enable workers to update and maintain their skills. The
growth of precarious work has made education more essential than ever. Yet, increased tuition, especially at state universities, is having a very depressing effect on attendance of lower income
students. Moreover, employers are reluctant to provide training to workers given the fragility of the employment relationship and the fear of losing their investments. Other policies that can offer
relief from precarity and insecurity include family support of policies leading to better parental leave and child care options and laws governing working time. A second lesson from the New Deal is
that a collective commitment is necessary to solve these problems. We need to reaffirm our belief that the government is necessary to create a good society. This idea has gotten lost in the past
quarter century and has been replaced by the ideology that individuals are responsible for managing their own risks and solving their own problems. The notion that the government should be an
instrument used in the public interest has been further eroded by its recent failures to cope with natural disasters, foreign policy challenges, and domestic economic turmoil, leading to what Robert
Kuttner has called the revolution of declining expectations. At this critical time we need leadership and big ideas to address the large problems of precarity and insecurity, in addition to other huge
critical problems we face such as energy shortages, infrastructure reform, and foreign relations, among many others. Bold political and economic initiatives are needed to restore our sense of security
and optimism for the future. Our democracy needs to have a vigorous debate on the policies and practices that will enhance the social good as well as our individual well-being. The ability of workers
to exercise collective agency through unions and other organizations is essential to this debate. The upcoming presidential election, which will result in a new administration, and undoubtedly a new
Congress, offers an opportunity (ok, next slide) to put issues related to precarious work and its consequences on the public agenda and begin rebuilding the social contract. There are many obstacles
to implementing the kinds of social investments and social protections I have outlined here, regardless of which political party is successful. The influence of big money, big business, and other
vested interests all weigh heavily against major social changes and encourage leaders of both parties to run toward the center in order to be elected. Nevertheless, the current political and social
climate is ripe for making strategic changes that may diffuse more widely. Opinion polls indicate that a majority of Americans believe that we are going in the wrong direction. They’re hurting from
the effects of precarity and insecurity. A clear understanding of the nature of the problem combined with leadership that is committed to addressing it offers the promise of progress. Thank you.