Outstanding Academic Titles 2022: Work and Labor

This week we highlight 2022 Outstanding Academic Titles about work and labor

1. Passionate work: endurance after the good life
Hong, Renyi. Duke, 2022

Few people today can hope for a career with a single employer. Instead, workers are urged to draw on their passions and ever-evolving skill sets to navigate a precarious, all-consuming world of work. In this thoroughly researched book that draws on human relations and management texts, career guides, software protocols, and observation in workplaces and coworking spaces, Hong (communications, National Univ. of Singapore) examines the ways that passion promises to foster resilience and numb the boredom of routinized, heavily surveilled workplaces. Rich in examples, the book explores the gamification of routine tasks to make them more endurable, coworking spaces that enable freelancers and gig workers to reproduce the social networks and focus of traditional work environments, the pressure for constant reskilling, and the ways in which unemployment insurance blunts the edges of transitory work while disciplining those who do not quickly secure new positions. At the heart of the discourse of passion lies an assumption of necessity: people must be passionate about their work to have meaningful lives. Hong’s conclusion suggests an alternative strategy: people distancing themselves from work and seeking fulfillment in other spheres of their lives.View on Amazon

2. Democratize work: the case for reorganizing the economy
ed. by Isabelle Ferreras, Julie Battilana, and Dominique Méda; tr. by Miranda Richmond Mouillot Chicago, 2022

This terse and acerbic book argues for three urgent and critical changes to workplaces: democratize firms, decommodify work, and decarbonize the environment. These three D’s are presented first as a manifesto, modeled on a petition one might deliver to a politician in the hope of impelling immediate and relevant legislative action. In this case, the calls for action stem from both long-standing trends in a majority of workplaces and the inequalities the global COVID-19 pandemic revealed. The authors’ assessment of the status quo is not sugarcoated with easy-to-swallow challenges and uplifting signs of progress. Rather, the ideas presented are ambitious and bold. After the brief introduction and manifesto on work, the authors include 12 separate companion pieces, each making the case that dire consequences will result without changes to workplaces and society. The suggested workplace adaptations represent logical approaches to long-term economic success, yet the dramatic changes may be polarizing and difficult to undertake incrementally without widespread support. Bold and fascinating, this book offers an important perspective on the priorities of the workplace and society at large.View on Amazon

3. America’s game in the wild-card era: from strike to pandemic
Soderholm-Difatte, Bryan. Rowman & Littlefield, 2021

The partnership between Soderholm-Difatte and the publisher has already produced some of the best baseball history being written today. This latest volume covers the last 25 years, including the excitement of wildcards, playoffs, and more than a dozen World Series seasons that rank among the most dramatic sporting events in US history. Not since Leonard Koppett has baseball had a chronicler of such breadth, knowledge, historical acumen, and literary grace. This author understands the impact that expanded post-seasons have had on general managers, who must bring different skill sets and judgments to building a winning team, even for one season: no one has been able to repeat a World Series victory within this century. This book is for individuals who understand the subtleties of analytical baseball, clubhouse psychology, and the tools required to build a player roster for victory in a grinding six-month season. All 30 teams have their moments in the sun. The road to victory seems possible for any franchise, and the cursed ghosts of the White Sox, Red Sox, and Cubs teams past now rest in peace because of the strategies that gained the elusive golden ring in the 21st century. View on Amazon

4. Dying for an iPhone: Apple, Foxconn, and the lives of China’s workers
Chan, Jenny. by Jenny Chan, Mark Selden, and Pun Ngai Haymarket Books, 2020

This insiders’ story about industrial protest within the international tech sector makes for an insightful volume. Authors Chan (Hong Kong Polytechnic Univ.), Selden (Cornell Univ.), and Ngai (Univ. of Hong Kong) seek to assess the extent to which the Chinese state and global tech corporations have fulfilled their responsibilities to protect workers in the context of transnational production. The book comprises 12 chapters. Foxconn, the world’s largest electronics manufacturer, is the focus of chapters 1–4. The coverage of chapters 5–8 ranges over student interns, human costs of technology empire-building, unsettled lives, love, and desire for consumption. The current environmental crisis, work-related injuries, industrial protests, and labor rights are treated in chapters 9–12. The authors believe that “when workers, with support at home and abroad, unite to reclaim their dignity and right to fair labor,” there is a chance of improvement. The case of Foxconn, including both its present international profile (plants in 29 countries and territories) and its proposed extensions into the US, Europe, Asia, and the rest of the world, “could inspire a new round of global labor struggles.” View on Amazon

5Leading with values: strategies for making ethical decisions in business and life
Malhotra, Neil Ankur. by Neil Malhotra and Ken Shotts Cambridge, 2022

This book succinctly provides simple, straightforward advice for identifying ethical issues, making decisions, and establishing an organization’s ethical culture. The book guides readers through relevant ethical concepts and helps them identify their personal ethical values. Timely organizational examples—such as Amazon’s labor actions during COVID, fraud at HealthSouth and Theranos, and the rigging of the LIBOR rate—provide further organizational context. The authors avoid bogging down readers with the nuances of ethical concepts and present brief overviews of using stakeholder prioritization, weighing alternatives and consequences, and applying the Golden Rule. Those seeking greater detail will find the references to additional resources helpful. The target audience for this book, unique among books on business ethics and leadership, is anyone seeking practical guidance on setting ethical standards within an organization. The book also differs from others on business ethics by focusing on ways leaders can immediately implement ethical standards and helping them translate ethical ideas into actions. Leading with Values provides an effective roadmap for ethical leadership. View on Amazon

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