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On leaving work as a calling: retirement as an existential imperative

Journal article
Authors Mattias Bengtsson
Marita Flisbäck
Published in International Journal of Ageing and Later Life
Volume 11
Issue 1
Pages 37-67
ISSN 1652-8670
Publication year 2017
Published at Department of Sociology and Work Science
Pages 37-67
Language en
Links www.ep.liu.se/ej/ijal/2017/v11/i1/a...
Keywords Calling; economic exploitation; existential imperative; existential vacuum; individualisation; retirement; Sweden
Subject categories Sociology

Abstract

In this article, we argue that we will reach a deepened understanding of what the retirement process means for individuals if existential meaning is the centre of attention. The data consist of qualitative interviews conducted in Sweden. A selected type of employee #2; whose work we define as a ‘‘calling’’ #2; is examined to analyse the existential meaning of work and how it is formed and challenged in relation to the retirement process. Before their retirement, the interviewees had developed threemain strategies for handling the process of de-calling: developing a ‘‘calling on standby,’’ exploring self-improvement activities and listening to callings from other social spheres. After their retirement, three main strategies arose for dealing with being de-called: conserving the calling, learning to become a self-oriented subject and redefining the calling. In the case of conserving the calling, we show how this may result in experiences of economic exploitation and existential frustration.

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