The Ambiguous Attractiveness of Mobility: A View from the Sociology of Critique

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Abstract

This article examines the forms of mobility that characterize contemporary work life. In doing so, it applies the theoretical framework associated with Luc Boltanski’s sociology of critique (Boltanski, 2012 [1990]; Boltanski and Thévenot, 2006 [1991]) and argues that this framework offers a fruitful and important perspective in conceptualizing and understanding the forms of mobility that are becoming increasingly prevalent in today’s knowledge work. The sociology of critique allows one to chart the economic and historical conditions of mobility critically, while its sociology of morals also allows us to explore the distinctly normative side of new forms of mobility without succumbing to a celebratory picture of work-related mobility. More specifically and in the context of the ‘kinetic elite’, the article explores how Boltanski and Chiapello’s (2005) analysis of a ‘projective order of worth’ can help us understand the attractiveness of constantly being ‘on the move’. Qualitative data from three exemplars of this elite group of workers is used to illustrate how the ideal of being mobile is perceived as an often problematic imperative, but also as one which is nevertheless rewarding and worth living up to.
Original languageEnglish
JournalEphemera: Theory & politics in organization
Volume15
Issue number4
Pages (from-to)725-753
ISSN1473-2866
Publication statusPublished - 2015

Keywords

  • Kinetic elite
  • Mobility
  • Morality
  • Sociology of critique
  • Spirit of capitalism

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