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on 28 December 2012
Work is in everything we do. We work for money, we work for love, we work for pleasure. But work, as Fineman tells us, takes many different forms - it can be physical or intellectual, but it is often emotional and aesthetic. Sounding right and looking right is as important a part of the work that many of us do as clicking the right slots with our mice or saying the right words to a customer. This book is the perfect place from where to start exploring the many complexities of work in today's societies, not only in workplaces but also in homes and public spaces. Why are some types of work (speculating in world markets with few risks to one's own money) highly valued while others (mopping up, cleaning and caring for needy patients)consistently devalued and underappreciated? Why are some people 'killing themselves' through overwork while others fill many hours uneable to get work? And what are the future forms that work will take? This book stands up with the very best in OUP rightly celebrated "Very Short Introduction" series - it asks the right questions and offers valuable keys to answers.
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on 2 January 2013
I do love the VSI series. I am always amazed at how such broad subjects can be covered in such tiny books. Also (and 'Work' is an excellent example of this), seemingly dry subjects become uniquely fascinating in this distilled format.

Throughout 'Work', the points are robustly but succinctly made with lucid prose, compelling statistics and revealing anecdotal asides. I particularly enjoyed the sections on 'presenteeism' and 'tweeting while you work' which were surprisingly timely and relevant to me. Recommended (whether you work or you don't!)
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on 4 June 2013
From the start this book engages the reader on the subject of work. It begins by challenging our taken for granted assumptions of what work actually is and then clearly illustrates the historical and dynamic nature of how work and career is regarded. The gender chapter is provocative, especially for those who may believe that the equal opportunities act has solved any inequalities in the workplace (I am ordering a copy for my father-in-law).

Fineman then neatly, gently and always persuasively draws out different ideas about the types of work we carry out, the feelings we may have about them, and how virtual' work is changing the landscape of what 'doing' work really means; for many it does not necessarily have to mean leaving the house. The subject of unemployment, underemployment and NEETS (a new one on me) is also explored, as are other sociological changes in patterns of work.

The book is a compelling read, an easy page turner, but it is far from superficial. It is a definite for anyone studying management, business, sociology or psychology. It is also highly accessible for those who just want to know a bit more about a subject that consumes so much of our time. Fineman really delivers on his claim 'to reveal some of the curiosities and complexities of work' and so the book leaves you with a more nuanced understanding of the difficulties and delights associated with this activity. What you get from this is a detailed and extremely palatable understanding of how what constitutes work in society is dynamic, value laden, and culturally specific.

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on 7 May 2013
Its often very difficult in todays busy world to find time to sit and read anything for either pleasure or simply to extend ones knowledge about the worl we live in. It is even rarer that having found this time, one feels that your eyes have been opened as never before. Stephen Fineman has written such a book. Beautifully written, accessible to all, Stephen introduces readers to the dynamic nature of work, how it evolves over time both historically and personally. It identifies the huge pressures within today's working environment, highlighting the critical importance of emotion at work. This is a must read for anyone interested in today's working environment.
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on 25 April 2013
As a non-academic but inquisitive reader, I found this book fascinating. It opened my eyes to thinking about work from totally different perspectives; how work evolves and constantly changes and adapts. Rather than work being an objective process that we all fit into and accept at face value, it illustrates how we're all implicated in seeing and shaping it. I think work is messy, multi-faceted - often oppressive but also a huge source of satisfaction, and this book seemed to capture and articulate many of these features.
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Work seems to be one of the most important aspects of most of our lives, and we spend many years preparing for it, doing it, and stressing over it. However, most of us don't get to reflect on what is the nature of work in its own right, and it may be surprising to realize that the regimented work and work schedule that we take for granted today is quite an exceptional and recent historical development.

This short introduction tries to put the notion of work in a broader historical and social context. The book covers several aspects of modern work environment, and shows how we've gotten to this point in the long history of work. It also covers some recent changes in the nature of work (telecommuting for instance), and it anticipates a few further developments in the upcoming years.

Unfortunately, this book is written from a very academic standpoint, and most of it is not even presented from the "soft" social science perspective. It is mostly based on pseudo-humanistic analysis that is so prevalent in the modern academia. It relies too much on neo-Marxism and cultural Marxism for the analysis and interpretation. Most of it is implicit, but there are a few very explicit invocation of Marxist terms and rhetoric. Aside from being very ideologically skewed, this approach has a concomitant problem of not being very useful. It approaches work and the work environment from the perspective of an ever-increasing field of complaints grievances, and victimhoods. Essentially you are being exploited, abused, or alienated if you are looking for work, not looking for work, not being able to find work, working, being underworked, being overworked, being under qualified, being overqualified, working in the office, working form home, working full time, working part time, if you are a woman, if you are a minority, and if you are retired. The 99% of us are victims (something that is stated quite explicitly in the closing pages of the book), work sucks, and it's only probably going to get worse. I couldn't have thought of a more depressing book and message on work. I would discourage anyone from reading this book, lest your whole attitude to work becomes irrevocably gloom and desperate. It's not a good read, and it's not even all that scholarly. I would have expected much better form the Oxford University Press.
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on 6 January 2014
I enjoyed reading this book. It is written well. Although it is entitled "A Very Short Introduction", it discusses many interesting aspects of work life.
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