In this essay, we return to a theme that began our semester: the relationship between work and self, and how it is shaped by social (i.e., cultural, economic, and organizational) conditions. Robert Merton, Everett Hughes, Howard Becker and others address this dynamic. But, their writings from some decades ago did not (and could not have) addressed the rise of the service economy, nor the routinization of service occupations that Robin Leidner documents in “Fast Food, Fast Talk.”
In your essay, draw on Leidners book, as well as on the chapter dealing with “Goffmans Dramaturgical Approach” by Kivisto & Pittman (in the instructors folder) to work/employment. Address the following questions:
1. What are among the distinctive demands and challenges, for workers, in highly routinized jobs such as fast food and insurance sales? Also, how and why are these demands and pressures different, in the two major empirical cases that Leidner analyzes (McDonalds and Combined Insurance)?
2. What do you see as the distinctive contributions–as well as limitations–of Goffmans dramaturgical approach, for understanding how workers experience and manage such demands? (Feel free also to draw on your own work experiences.) Be as specific as possible, in illustrating your argument with examples and/or discussions from Leidner.
3. Finally, in concluding your essays, re-read and refer back to Hughes essay on “work and self.” In a sense, this will require that you address changes in cultural and social conditions of work, over the past half century or so.
Sociological reflection and analysis is not primarily aimed at moral judgments. However, understand that, like Leidner in her conclusion, your writing is likely to involve some moral stance, regarding whether the increasing routinization of work is good or bad, on balance, for our work lives, and why you take the position you advocate.
I believe there needs to be a balance in the routinization. Yes some things need to be controlled, but people are not robots and shouldnt be 100% controlled.