Work cultures

Authored by: Robin Leidner

Routledge Handbook of Cultural Sociology

Print publication date:  October  2018
Online publication date:  November  2018

Print ISBN: 9781138288621
eBook ISBN: 9781315267784
Adobe ISBN:


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Work cultures, broadly defined, are sets of values, beliefs, norms, and sentiments about work and the symbols and rituals that express them. These frameworks of meaning shape work experiences as surely as do organizational structures, technology, and patterns of ownership. Work cultures operate at a variety of levels, from specific workplaces and occupations to organizations to nations and supranational systems, but they are neither static nor uncontested. This chapter argues that cultural frameworks always guide economic activity, even as changes in the structures and practices of work shape consciousness, identities, and ideologies. It goes on to outline change over time in the significance of occupational cultures, workplace cultures, and organizational cultures. The chapter concludes with a discussion of how changing conditions of work – currently driven by globalization – transform elements of culture at all levels, providing ongoing challenges to sociologists seeking to understand the complex interplay of economic structures, everyday work experiences, and surrounding cultures.

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