Re-Thinking the Future of Work: Beyond Binary Hierarchies

Futures, Vol. 40, No. 7, pp. 653-663, 2008

11 Pages Posted: 13 Dec 2015

See all articles by Colin Williams

Colin Williams

University of Sheffield - School of Management

Date Written: December 12, 2008

Abstract

How will work be organized in the future? This paper reveals that although there are multiple stories about the future of work, a similar storyline is adopted across many of the competing visions. Most visions firstly squeeze all forms of work into one side or the other or some dichotomy and then proceed to temporally and/or normatively sequence the two sides of the dualism and finally label the resultant one-dimensional and linear trajectory as some -ism, -ation or post-something-or-other. This paper evaluates critically such hierarchical binary narratives (e.g., the shift from informal to formal work, non-commodified to commodified work, localisation to globalisation, Fordism to post-Fordism, bureaucracy to post-bureaucracy) and displays how these dominant narratives, as well as the counter narratives that simply invert the temporal and/or hierarchical sequencing of these dichotomies, over-simplify lived practice. The paper concludes by offering a way forward that transcends these one-dimensional linear tales and recognises the heterogeneous and multiple directions of work in order to provide a more kaleidoscope-like understanding of the direction of work and open up the future of work to new possibilities.

Keywords: future of work, economic development, work organization, binary hierarchy.

Suggested Citation

Williams, Colin, Re-Thinking the Future of Work: Beyond Binary Hierarchies (December 12, 2008). Futures, Vol. 40, No. 7, pp. 653-663, 2008, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2702754

Colin Williams (Contact Author)

University of Sheffield - School of Management ( email )

15 Conduit Road
Sheffield, S10 1FL
United Kingdom

HOME PAGE: http://https://www.sheffield.ac.uk/management/staff/williams/index

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