OOW Members Receive the International Institute’s Best Book Award

International Institute’s Best Book Award for 2021 goes to Thomas Janoski and Darina Lepadatu 

The Cambridge International Handbook of Lean Production by Thomas Janoski and Darina Lepadatu is the culmination of almost 20 years of work, an NSF grant, and the author’s fourth book on lean production in organizational and industrial Sociology.  Darina Lepadatu said that: 

“It was close to a miracle that we have accomplished this project working with 40 authors from all over the world in the middle of the worst pandemic of the century. The co-editor’s collaborators were on lockdowns, got divorces, received cancer diagnoses, retired or moved to other countries, but they still worked with us until it was finished.” 

The Handbook recently won “The 2021 ILSSI Best Book Award” presented by John Dennis and Constantin Stan of the International Lean Six Sigma Institute in Cambridge, UK. They said the book “will help new generations to develop a greater understanding of the power and importance of lean principles and techniques.” The award committee also commented on the quality of the chapter authors including James Womack and Daniel Jones of early bestseller The Machine that Changed the World fame. We will make a presentation on May 20th to the Institute and its members in a webinar.

The International Handbook has three parts. Part I is unique in that it presents the very diverse theoretical viewpoints on lean production from five disciplines: management, industrial engineering, industrial relations, the social sciences, and labor process theory. As we indicate in the social science chapter, sociology is split between conventional work on the sociology of work who have a negative view toward lean production, and specialists in the areas of Toyotism and Japan who have a more positive view. Surprising to sociologists is that industrial engineering is the discipline most involved with lean production. In many ways “lean production” is an unfortunate description of this division of labor, and Toyotism is the better term. Part II is about lean production across industries: automobiles, product innovation, telecommunications, healthcare, public services, mass merchandizing, finance, and software. Part II also incudes an essay from the practitioner approach in industrial engineering with the True Lean Toyota Production System approach.  Part III is about the implementation of lean in different countries: Korea, the US, UK, Germany, France, China, India, Australia, Mexico and Russia. There are major differences with successes and failures in these countries with very different cultures, capitalisms, and labor relations. Part III starts out with an analysis of survey data showing that lean production has become the dominant form of the division of labor in Europe and the United States. There are many unsuspected surprises: the encounter of lean and the Chinese Communist Party; Toyota’s difficulties in India, and Russian worker suspicions and resistance. Based on massive surveys in the West, Toyotism is three times more frequent than Taylorist methods, but a close relative called ‘learning methods’ (i.e., socio-technical theory) also has a large presence. 

The larger purpose of the International Handbook and the authors’ recent book Framing and Managing Lean Organizations (Routledge, 2020) is to bring lean production and Toyotism to sociology as the dominant division of labor in the capitalist production system. We emphasize many of the positive aspects of lean production including participation in teamwork and higher product quality, but also the negative aspects like temporary employment, outsourcing, and offshoring. In our three chapters in the handbook and previous books, we emphasize that there are three forms of lean production: Toyotism as the fullest form of lean production; Nikeification with its split between Toyotist innovation and Fordist production (e.g., Apple in the US versus Apple subcontractors in China); and Waltonism (from Matt Vidal) with Walmart’s use of only just-in-time inventory and little attention paid to worker participation. More broadly, we point out that Toyotism — like Fordism before it with unionism, Keynesianism, and the welfare state — also has political implications that often converge with neoliberalism, anti-unionism and some high-tech tax avoidance. But Thomas Janoski, who was a piston-shooter on an automotive engine line in the late 1960s, said: 

“The involvement of workers in quality control, design processes, and job rotation gives many workers a sense of respect and participation that they did not have under Fordism. Also, consumers no longer have to fear the dreaded “lemon” that would haunt their driving for years.”

Member Publication: Normalized Financial Wrongdoing

Please check out the recent publication by OOW member Harland Prechel:

Prechel, Harland. 2020. Normalized Financial Wrongdoing: How Re-Regulating Markets Created Risks and Fostered Inequality. Stanford: Stanford University Press.

Here is a short description of the book:

In Normalized Financial Wrongdoing, Harland Prechel examines how social structural arrangements that extended corporate property rights and increased managerial control opened the door for misconduct that contributed to the 2008 financial crisis and historically high levels of inequality. Beginning his analysis with the financialization of the home-mortgage market in the 1930s, Prechel shows how pervasive these arrangements had become by the end of the century, when the banks created political coalition with other economic sectors and developed strategies to participate in financial markets. The book examines political and legal landscapes in which corporations are embedded to answer two questions: First, how did banks and financial firms transition from being providers of capital to financial market actors in their own right? Second, how did new organizational structures cause market participants to engage in high-risk activities?

You can find more about the book and buy it on the Stanford University Press website.

Member Publication: Wealth

Please check out the recent publication by OOW member Yuval Elmelech:

Elmelech, Yuval. 2021. Wealth. Cambridge: Polity.

Here is a short description of the book:

The pursuit of wealth has captivated people’s attention for centuries. Yet, as a topic of social research, the way in which wealth is accumulated and unequally distributed has largely been neglected, remaining hidden beneath data on income inequality. Wealth aims to address this blind spot in the academic discourse.

In accessible prose, Yuval Elmelech explains how personal wealth differs fundamentally from other conventional measures of socioeconomic status and why it has become increasingly important to our understanding of social mobility and stratification. Crucially, Elmelech presents a dynamic sociological framework of wealth attainment that illuminates the effects of cumulative advantages and disadvantages over the course of an individual’s life, and across generations. He describes how these advantages and disadvantages are in turn shaped by a complex interplay of multiple markets, changing demographic landscapes, and persistent inter-group wealth disparities.

Blending theoretical approaches with empirical evidence and macro-level contexts with micro-level processes, this book is an astute guide for thinking about wealth as a key determinant of social and economic wellbeing and for interrogating the role of wealth accumulation in social inequality.

For 20% off the paperback version, go to www.politybooks.com and use code EL731 at checkout (valid from 3/30/2021 until 7/31/2021).

Member Publication: Choosing Bad Jobs: The Use of Nonstandard Work as a Commitment Device

Please check out the recent publication by OOW member Laura Adler:

Adler, Laura. 2020. “Choosing Bad Jobs: The Use of Nonstandard Work as a Commitment Device.” Work and Occupations, Online First.

Abstract

With nonstandard work on the rise, workers are increasingly forced into bad jobs—jobs that are low-paying, part-time, short-term, and dead-end. But some people, especially in cultural industries, embrace this kind of work. To understand why some might choose bad jobs when better options are available, this paper examines the job preferences of aspiring artists, who often rely on bad day jobs as they attempt to achieve economic success in the arts. Using interviews with 68 college-educated artists, I find that their preferences are informed not only by utility and identity considerations—two factors established in the literature—but also by the value of bad jobs as commitment devices, which reinforce dedication to career aspirations. The case offers new insights into the connection between jobs and careers and enriches the concept of the commitment device with a sociological perspective, showing that these devices are not one-time contracts but ongoing practices.

Member Publication: Profiting on Crisis: How Predatory Financial Investors Have Worsened Inequality in the Coronavirus Crisis

Please check out the recent publication by OOW members Megan Tobias Neely and Donna Carmichael:

Neely, Megan Tobias, and Donna Carmichael. 2021. “Profiting on Crisis: How Predatory Financial Investors Have Worsened Inequality in the Coronavirus Crisis.” American Behavioral Scientist, March, Online First.

Abstract

A once-in-a-century pandemic has sparked an unprecedented health and economic crisis. Less examined is how predatory financial investors have shaped the crisis and profited from it. We examine how U.S. shadow banks, such as private equity, venture capital, and hedge fund firms, have affected hardship and inequality during the crisis. First, we identify how these investors helped to hollow out the health care industry and disenfranchise the low-wage service sector, putting frontline workers at risk. We then outline how, as the downturn unfolds, shadow banks are shifting their investments in ways that profit on the misfortunes of frontline workers, vulnerable populations, and distressed industries. After the pandemic subsides and governments withdraw stimulus support, employment will likely remain insecure, many renters will face evictions, and entire economic sectors will need to rebuild. Shadow banks are planning accordingly to profit from the fallout of the crisis. We argue that this case reveals how financial investors accumulate capital through private and speculative investments that exploit vulnerabilities in the economic system during a time of crisis. To conclude, we consider the prospects for change and inequality over time.

Member Publication: The Gendered Politics of Pandemic Relief: Labor and Family Policies in Denmark, Germany, and the United States During COVID-19

Please check out the recent publication by OOW members Nino Bariola and Caitlyn Collins:

Bariola, Nino, and Caitlyn Collins. 2021. “The Gendered Politics of Pandemic Relief: Labor and Family Policies in Denmark, Germany, and the United States During COVID-19.” American Behavioral Scientist, Online First.

Abstract

The COVID-19 pandemic has magnified families’ struggles to reconcile caregiving and employment, especially for working mothers. How have different countries reacted to these troubling circumstances? What policies have been implemented to alleviate the pernicious effects of the pandemic on gender and labor inequalities? We examine the policies offered in Denmark, Germany, and the United States, three countries that represent distinct welfare regimes. We find important differences among the policy solutions provided, but also in the “cultural infrastructures” that allow policies to work as intended, or not. In Denmark, a social-democratic welfare state, robust federal salary guarantee programs supplemented an already strong social safety net. The country was among the first to lock down and reorganize health care—and also among the first to reopen schools and child care facilities, acknowledging that parents’ employment depends on child care provisioning, especially for mothers. Germany, a corporatist regime, substantially expanded existing programs and provided generous subsidies. However, despite an ongoing official commitment to reduce gender inequality, the cultural legacy of a father breadwinner/mother caregiver family model meant that reopening child care facilities was not a first priority, which pushed many mothers out of paid work. In the U.S. liberal regime, private organizations—particularly in privileged economic sectors—are the ones primarily offering supports to working parents. Patchwork efforts at lockdown and reopening have meant a lengthy period of limbo for working families, with disastrous consequences for women, especially the most vulnerable. Among such varied “solutions” to the consequences of the pandemic, those of liberal regimes seem to be worsening inequalities. The unprecedented nature of the current pandemic recession suggests a need for scholars to gender the study of economic crises. 

Member Publication: Unemployment Experts: Governing the Job Search in the New Economy

Please check out the recent publication by OOW member Patrick Sheehan:

Sheehan, Patrick. 2021. “Unemployment Experts: Governing the Job Search in the New Economy.” Work and Occupations, Online First.

Abstract

In recent years, sociologists have examined unemployment and job searching as important arenas in which workers are socialized to accept the terms of an increasingly precarious economy. While noting the importance of expert knowledge in manufacturing the consent of workers, research has largely overlooked the experts themselves that produce such knowledge. Who are these experts and what kinds of advice do they give? Drawing on interviews and ethnographic fieldwork conducted at three job search clubs, the author develops a three-fold typology of “unemployment experts”: Job Coaches present a technical diagnosis that centers mastery of job-hunting techniques; Self-help Gurus present a moral diagnosis focused on the job seeker’s attitude; and Skill-certifiers present a human capital diagnosis revolving around the job seeker’s productive capacities. By offering alternative diagnoses and remedies for unemployment, these experts give job seekers a sense of choice in interpreting their situation and acting in the labor market. However, the multiple discourses ultimately help to secure consent to precarious labor markets by drawing attention to a range of individual deficiencies within workers while obfuscating structural and relational explanations of unemployment. The author also finds that many unemployment experts themselves faced dislocations from professional careers and are making creative claims to expertise. By focusing on experts and their varied messages, this paper reveals how the victims of precarious work inadvertently help to legitimate the new employment regime.

Member Publication: How Information about Inequality Impacts Belief in Meritocracy

Please check out the recent publication by OOW member Jonathan J.B. Mijs:

Mijs, Jonathan J.B. and Christopher Hoy. 2021. “How Information about Inequality Impacts Belief in Meritocracy: Evidence from a Randomized Survey Experiment in Australia, Indonesia and Mexico.” Social Problems, Online First.

Abstract

Most people misperceive economic inequality. Learning about actual levels of inequality and social mobility, research suggests, heightens concerns but may push people’s policy preferences in any number of directions. This mixed empirical record, we argue, reflects the omission of a more fundamental question: under what conditions do people change their understanding of the meritocratic or non-meritocratic causes of inequality? To explore mechanisms of belief change we field a unique randomized survey experiment with representative populations in Australia, Indonesia, and Mexico—societies with varying levels of popular beliefs about economic inequality. Our results highlight the importance of information, perceived social position, and self-interest. In Indonesia, information describing (high) income inequality and (low) social mobility rocked our participants’ belief in meritocracy. The same information made less of a splash in Mexico, where unequal outcomes are commonly understood as the result of corruption and other non-meritocratic processes. In Australia, the impact of our informational treatment was strongest when it provided justification for people’s income position or when it corrected their perception of relative affluence. Our findings reveal asymmetric beliefs about poverty and wealth and heterogeneous responses to information. They are a call to rethink effective informational and policy interventions.

Member Publication: Creative Control: The Ambivalence of Work in the Culture Industries

Please check out the recent publication by OOW member Michael Siciliano.

Siciliano, Michael L. 2021. Creative Control: The Ambivalence of Work in the Culture Industries. Columbia University Press. 

Here is a short description of the book:

Workers in cultural industries often say that the best part of their job is the opportunity for creativity. At the same time, profit-minded managers at both traditional firms and digital platforms exhort workers to “be creative.” Even as cultural fields hold out the prospect of meaningful employment, they are marked by heightened economic precarity. What does it mean to be creative under contemporary capitalism? And how does the ideology of creativity explain workers’ commitment to precarious jobs?

Michael L. Siciliano draws on nearly two years of ethnographic research as a participant-observer in a Los Angeles music studio and a multichannel YouTube network to explore the contradictions of creative work. He details how such workplaces feature engaging, dynamic processes that enlist workers in organizational projects and secure their affective investment in ideas of creativity and innovation. Siciliano argues that performing creative labor entails a profound ambivalence: workers experience excitement and aesthetic engagement alongside precarity and alienation. Through close comparative analysis, he presents a theory of creative labor that accounts for the roles of embodiment, power, alienation, and technology in the contemporary workplace.

Combining vivid ethnographic detail and keen sociological insight, Creative Control explains why “cool” jobs help us understand how workers can participate in their own exploitation.

You can find more about the book and buy it on the Columbia University Press website.

Member Publication: Unmasking work-family balance barriers and strategies among working fathers in the workplace

Please check out the recent publication by OOW members Sabrina Tanquerel and Marc Grau-Grau.

Tanquerel, Sabrina, and Marc Grau-Grau. 2020. “Unmasking Work-Family Balance Barriers and Strategies among Working Fathers in the Workplace.” Organization 27 (5): 680–700.

Abstract:

This article explores the barriers and strategies experienced by Spanish working fathers regarding work-family balance. Based on 29 in-depth interviews with Spanish working fathers in different types of organizations and sectors, the results of this study present different barriers that are divided into three groups: contextual barriers, organizational barriers and internalized barriers. The results also suggest that the study’s participants fall into three categories or patterns: hegemonic gender order conformers, borderers and deviants, who use three different strategies (no strategies, invisible strategies and visible strategies) to overcome the barriers detected in this research. The dynamics of reinforcing, being complicit and challenging hegemonic masculinities within the workplace are discussed in light of recent theories regarding gender and organizations, masculinities and fatherhood.