Sub-theme 56: Reflections on New Worlds of Work

Michel Anteby
Harvard Business School, USA
Issy Drori
College of Management Academic Studies & Tel Aviv University, Israel
Amy Wrzesniewski
Yale School of Management, USA

Call for Papers

Work can be described by any number of terms: painful, joyful, boring, fun, easy, hard, meaningful, and a host of others. As Stanley Udy (1970) noted in his world survey of work, "Most people think of work as some activity that entails physical and mental effort. Beyond this point of agreement one encounters a wide variety of notably contradictory ideas about what work is" (p. 2). Work allows for participants to project a variety of ideas and meanings upon it, acting as both a reflection of and a vessel for who they are or want to be. In that sense, our reflections on our work provide insightful windows into ourselves and the kind of lives we aspire to pursue.

This sub-theme aims to convene a group of scholars examining "reflections on new worlds of work" from a range of theoretical viewpoints and methodological perspectives. By reflections on new worlds of work, we mean in-depth studies that rely primarily on data collected from or produced by participants in various new or emerging worlds of work. In doing so, our hope is to capture and better understand the shifting worlds of work that are re-shaping our society.

We are particularly interested in scholarship that examines shifts in the nature of work and the tensions and opportunities that mark a variety of emergent work forms. Whether the decreasing stability of work in the EU, the rise of temporary and contract work in a variety of developed economies, the growth of work performed remotely, the increased remote-monitoring of work, the growing automation and computerization of work or other forces, a variety of developments in recent years has introduced rich opportunities to revisit work itself.

The set of forces reshaping forms of work sets the stage for any number of "social dramas" to unfold in the workplace. Victor Turner developed the notion of social drama to denote a mechanism that provides an interpretation and meaning for a host of rituals, ceremonies, narratives, events, or plots that contest social contexts (Turner, 1968; 1974). In effect, social dramas are "devices" which use symbolic, stylistic and aesthetic behavior to expose the sources of social and cultural assumptions as well as interpret and use these assumptions as a springboard for action. Whenever individuals reflect on their work, they enact – at a micro-level – a social drama. This drama can provide meaning, insight, and guidance to why and how work gets performed.

Recent scholarship has investigated a variety of unfolding social dramas in a wide range of work contexts. Whether in manufacturing plants, home offices, hospitals, and more, work meanings are constantly being reimagined, challenged, and redefined. What can be learned from recent inquiries into those meanings? What new directions do they suggest? And how might they reflect and echo broader societal dynamics? Our sub-theme aims to look at micro workplace dynamics to illuminate more macro trends. Our hope is to build on reflections on new worlds of work to better understand these broader shifts.




  • Turner, V. (1968): The Drums of Affliction: A Study of Religious Processes among the Ndembu of Zambia. Oxford: Clarendon Press.
  • Turner, V. (1974): Dramas, Fields and Metaphors: Symbolic Action in Human Society. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press.
  • Udy, S.H. (1970): Work in Traditional and Modern Society. Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall.


Michel Anteby is an Associate Professor in the organizational behavior unit at Harvard Business School, USA. His research mainly examines occupational and organizational cultures. More specifically, Michel tries to understand how meaning is built at work and how moral orders are sustained. He earned a joint PhD in management from New York University and in sociology from the École des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales. He is the author of 'Moral Gray Zones: Side-Productions, Identity, and Regulation in an Aeronautic Plant" (2008) and "Manufacturing Morals: The Values of Silence in Business School Education" (2013).
Issy Drori is a Professor of Management at the School of Business, College of Management Academic Studies, Israel. He is also visiting professor at the Faculty of Management, Tel Aviv University. He received his PhD in Anthropology from UCLA. Israel's writing examines the work cultures in different industries and of migrant workers in care giving as well as the high-tech, construction, and agricultural sectors. He is the author of the "Seamline: Arab Women and Israeli Managers in the Israeli Textile Industry" (2000); "Foreign Workers in Israel, A Global Perspective" (2009); "The Evolution of a New industry: A Genealogical Approach" (2013).
Amy Wrzesniewski is an Associate Professor at the Yale School of Management, USA. Her research interests focus on how people make meaning of their work in difficult contexts (e.g., stigmatized occupations, virtual work, absence of work), and the experience of work as a job, career, or calling. Her current research involves studying how employees shape their interactions and relationships with others in the workplace to change both their work identity and the meaning of the job. Amy earned a PhD in Organizational Psychology from the University of Michigan. She is an editor of "Identity and the Modern Organization" (2007).