Sociological Forum

, Volume 21, Issue 1, pp 31–54 | Cite as

“It’s the Job that I Love”: Bike Messengers and Edgework


Bike messengers work in a dirty and dangerous occupation with low pay and no benefits. At the same time, many messengers consider their occupation to be their primary source of identity. In contrast to “dirty work” studies, which focus on organizational structures and workgroup ideologies, this paper explores how the creativity and spontaneity of courier labor allows messengers to become emotionally attached to their job. Bike messengering brings the thrill-seeking of leisure pursuits into the workplace, which creates an authentic self intimately tied to the occupation—an exceedingly difficult feat in an increasingly rationalized system of labor.

Key Words

alienation bike messengers edgework dirty work meaning self-identity 



I would like to thank Jim Dowd, Joe Hermanowicz, Nicole Pallotta, and the anonymous reviewers for their comments. An earlier version of this paper was presented at the annual meetings of the Eastern Sociological Society, New York City, February 2004.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, Inc 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Sociology DepartmentUniversity of CaliforniaSan DiegoUSA

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