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Swedish Employees’ Referent Selection in Individualised Work Situations

Konferensbidrag (offentliggjort, men ej förlagsutgivet)
Författare Mattias Bengtsson
Tomas Berglund
Publicerad i Europeiska Sociologförbundets 6:e konferens Ageing Societies, New Sociology i Murcia, Spanien, 23-26 september 2003
Publiceringsår 2003
Publicerad vid Sociologiska institutionen
Språk en
Ämnesord individualisation, social comparisons, referent selection
Ämneskategorier Sociologi, Arbetslivsstudier


The intensification of individualisation processes in Western societies is a recurrent theme of contemporary sociology. Institutions like the family and class are said to be loosing their grip on the individual, who is consequently forced to create a biography and identity for himself. Several sociologists propose that the “motor” behind these processes of individualisation is to be found in the labour market and in the organisations of working life. In organisational research, discussions are held about the increase of functionally and numerically flexible organisations, technological developments, revised management-discourses and the consequences these changes have for employees’ working conditions. Our first purpose is to examine empirically (with a statistically representative sample of approximately 3500 employees) the range of individualised working conditions in the Swedish labour market. We will also discuss possible consequences of individualised working conditions for the employee’s work-experience. Although we could expect an employee with individualised working conditions to experience relative autonomy in his work, he is still situated in a social context of workmates, customers/patients/clients and a non-work world of family and friends. This means that social referents can affect the employee’s experiences and opinions concerning his working conditions. However, it is not evident which social referents are significant in an individualised work situation. The second purpose in this paper is, therefore, to empirically test if social comparisons vary when working conditions are more or less individualised.

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