Archaeology, Ethnology, Greek & L
Karen Blixensvej 4
2300 Copenhagen S
The career life-mode: a bailout for the Welfare State?
My PhD-project is part of a joint research program that investigates the different cultural life-modes that make out contemporary Danish society. 35 years ago a similar investigation was conducted. It resulted in a description of three different life-modes that each had opposing everyday practices and ideas of what a good life was. One life-mode valued the leisure time that a regular wage earning job made possible, while another spent, comparatively, a lot of time and energy securing an interesting career path. Consequently, these life-modes required very different things from the organization of the Welfare State. E.g. with regards to the State’s ability to support labor unions and secure attractive working conditions for the wage earners – in comparison to the resent trends of individual negotiation of pay.
Since 1980 – when the first investigation took place – the role of the State has changed fundamentally. Likewise, the market – where all the different life-modes go to secure their income – seems to demand new things. And most certainly, the relation between the two – market and state – is altered significantly.
Today, our investigation asks which forms of everyday life that is thriving under the present conditions – and which forms are struggling to cope. For instance, the recent Danish school reform which favored longer days for both teachers and pupils. This was to the advantage of both the State as employer and parents with long working hours, but at the expense – it would seem – of the teachers, whose idea of a good life, did not entail long hours and strong regulation.
My PhD-project considers how a career-striving approach to everyday life has become a normative goal in our part of the world. Increasingly, there is a focus on promoting a higher level of education and a stronger dedication towards the workplace. The Welfare State, we are told, needs highly productive, highly skilled labor in order to survive the competition from China etc. My project asks how that type of labor needs to be understood in terms of everyday practices. How do people actually work? What do businesses require? And, what do the career professionals get in return? What kind of reasoning goes into the organization of everyday life? What strategies map out their career dispositions? How do they construct a family life allowing them to fulfill their idea of a good life? And what about those who might be highly skilled, but still do not fit? Those, who do not necessarily favor the idea of striving for a time consuming career? How do they fit into the picture?
With these questions in hand, I aim to understand why this highly productive and highly skilled labor has become a focal point of the Welfare State’s competition strategy. But equally, and inextricably linked, also, why businesses need this type of labor. And maybe it is not even one type of labor, but several different forms of practice, each demanding different conditions in order to thrive?
Supervisors: Ass. Prof. Nils Jul Nielsen & Prof. Dr. Thomas Højrup