Making a Living, Making a Life: Work, Meaning and Self-Identity, 1st Edition (Paperback) book cover

Making a Living, Making a Life

Work, Meaning and Self-Identity, 1st Edition

By Sara James


140 pages

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In a world in which individuals will undergo multiple career changes, is it possible any longer to conceive of a job as a meaningful vocation? Against the background of fragmentation and rationalisation of work, this book explores the significance and meaning of work in contemporary life, raising the question of whether people continue to feel motivated to dedicate their lives to their work, or must now look to other areas of life for meaning. Based on rich, in-depth interviews conducted with workers of different ages and across a broad range of occupations in the major city of Melbourne, Making a Living, Making a Life reveals that work continues to be a source of pride, passion and purpose, the author shedding light on the ways in which cultural narratives, collective meanings and structural factors influence people’s feelings about work. An engaging and empirically grounded examination of the meaning and centrality of work to people’s lives in today’s 'liquid' modern world, this book will appeal to sociologists with interests in cultural sociology, social theory, ethics, the sociology of work and questions of identity.

Table of Contents

1. Introduction: The Significance of Work in Liquid Modernity

2. The Fate of the Work Ethic

3. Work and Self-Identity: Vocation, Authenticity and Passion

4. Seeking Sensation and Meaningful Work

5. Conclusion

Appendix 1: Research Methodology

Appendix 2: List of Participants and their Occupations

Appendix 3: Profiles of Research Participants


About the Author

Sara James is a Lecturer in the Department of Social Inquiry at La Trobe University in Melbourne, Australia. She was born in the United Kingdom and grew up in Melbourne. Her main research interests are in the sociology of work and cultural sociology, with a particular focus on meaning and self-identity. Sara also undertakes research in higher education pedagogy, focusing on the first-year experience. She is co-author of Sociology in Today’s World (3rd edition, 2014), an introductory text for sociology students.

About the Series

Morality, Society and Culture

Morality, Society and Culture

The Morality, Society and Culture series publishes rigorous scholarly work exploring how questions of what we should do and how we ought to live are expressed and practised in contemporary social relationships and culture. How do ideas about what is right and good shape action and identities? Can cultural texts such as films, television, literature and art be guides for living? What do often abstract moral values mean in daily life? This series explores how and to what effect questions of meaning, identity and action are inextricably entwined with contemporary social and cultural forms, texts and relationships. The books in this series offer new understandings of the connection of morality, society and culture.

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Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
SOCIAL SCIENCE / Sociology / General