Collection Introduction: The ‘New Normal’ of Working Lives
Lauren Berlant (2011) has written of the need to understand the problem of living contemporary lives, including the ‘new normal’ and ‘new ordinary’ (p. 261). This collection investigates the new normal of work and employment through international, interdisciplinary research into contemporary worker experience. The introductory chapter sets out the themes of the collection and introduces individual chapters. It argues that the most significant feature to emerge in the studies is the affective weighting attached to personalised and increasingly individualised work, and the shift this provides around how people want to work and organise their lives. Within different employment arrangements, this ambition promotes the intensification of labour and therefore becomes an ‘obstacle to flourishing’ (p. 1) and an example of the ‘cruel optimism’ discussed by Berlant.
This collection originated in the conference streams that the editors led at the New Meanings of Work Conference WORK2015, University of Turku, Finland, 19–21 August 2015. We would like to thank all the stream participants and the conference organisers. Our thanks also to Professor Lisa Adkins, consultant for the conference, for her assistance with setting up the streams, and the Hawke EU Centre for Mobilities, Migrations and Cultural Transformations at the University of South Australia, for editorial funding. We are grateful to Miranda Roccisano for her editing work and Louis Everuss for his initial copy checking of the chapters. Finally, we thank the editors of the Dynamics of Virtual Work series in which this collection is published.
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