Just Work: Narratives of Employment in the 21st Century

Document Type



Palgrave Macmillan


Faculty of Business and Law


Office of Associate Dean - Research and Higher Degrees (FBL) / Centre for Innovative Practice




Michelson, G. P., & Ryan, S. (2014). Just Work: Narratives of Employment in the 21st Century. England: Palgrave Macmillan.


Oral historian and prize-winning author Studs Terkel, was well known for his books which addressed the stories of 'ordinary' people. In 1974, he published the seminal book, Working: People Talk About What They Do All Day and How They Feel About What They Do. In contrast to research that treats workers as objects, it simply and yet powerfully gave 'voice' to the subjective experience of work and working. Terkel highlighted the meaning of and attitudes towards work skilfully capturing dreams and disappointments often in quite moving accounts. Working also provided renewed emphasis in sociology and employment relations for qualitatively-oriented studies which foregrounded voice and narrative, becoming a renowned text on work and employment issues. Just Work celebrates the significance of and traditions established by Working 40 years on. It draws on the lessons that have been learned on the 40th anniversary of Terkel's book and includes a strong focus on gathering verbatim interviews from workers in the 21st century. It pushes the boundaries of Terkel's work, providing detailed commentary and analysis by locating the 'voice' of workers against the backdrop of changes in the world of work that have occurred in the last forty years.Exploring major questions such as what people want from their work and why, the book discusses both new and enduring themes, examining to what extent this is accounted for by a changing environment of work since the 1970s.



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