The sociology of work and the workplace has been central to sociology and industrial relations theory since the birth of sociology. It find its roots in the works of classical sociologists Emile Durkheim in his work 'The Division of Labour,' Karl Marx is his theorization of the labour process and production alienation, and Max Weber in his research on bureaucracy. The birth of the market economy in the nineteenth century brought forth a major preoccupation on the study of labour and work through an economist's lens by classical sociologists.
The study of industry, work and the workplace is an interdisciplinary field that integrates research on "work, occupations and organisations, along with industrial psychology and industrial relations".¹ The field itself has changed significantly since its emergence, with North America's workplace relations constantly evolving. For example, post-war United States saw a focus on research on "industrial organisations, productivity and morale, labour unions and labour relations".¹ This was a large shift from the economical framework used previously because at the time, market mechanisms were not as relevant to work related issues.
The post-war shift from a market model to an organisation model of employment relations is considered outdated by many contemporary sociologists. In the 1960s and 70s, the focus on the blue-collar model declined with the power of unions. There has been a spatial restructuring of work globally with the increase of globalisation.
"Geography and space have become increasingly important dimensions of labour markets, labour relations and work."¹ With strong connections being between people, companies and countries, spatialization has freed both employers and those who study labour from the conventional constraints of space and time. Another distinguishing factor from post-war labour studies and contemporary labour studies is the higher influence of market forces in the service sector and vice versa.
1. Kalleberg, Arne. (2009). Rethinking the Sociology of Work, Workers and the Workplace.