Skip to main content


Myths at Work

Harriet Bradley, Mark Erickson, Carol Stephenson, Steve Williams

ISBN: 978-0-745-62271-2 January 2001 Polity 248 Pages


During the last two decades there have been profound changes in the organization of work. Myths at Work explores these changes, critically examining and challenging some of the central frameworks that have been used to explain them.

Global economic restructuring has brought about changes in the jobs we do, our labour market opportunities, and the shape of our individual career paths. These changes have been explained through a number of potent 'myths' (in the sense of widely-held bodies of ideas) including globalization, post-fordist production methods, and a new consumer-based form of capitalism. The authors examine these myths, explain how they have come about, and question their accuracy. While doing so they provide a more accurate picture of employment and the modern workplace. They also look at the 'myths' of the feminisation of the labour force, the skills revolution, lean production, non-standard employment, the death of class, the end of trade unionism, and the 'economic worker'.

The result is an illuminating and accessible teaching and research text that will appeal to students and academics in the sociology of work, organizational behaviour, business studies, and related areas.


Introduction: Myths at Work.

Chapter 1: The Myth of Globalization.

Chapter 2: The Myth of Lean Production.

Chapter 3: The Myths Of Non-Standard Employment.

Chapter 4: The Myth of the Female Takeover.

Chapter 5: The Myth of Technology and Science as the Solution to Workplace Problems.

Chapter 6: The Myth of the Skills Revolution.

Chapter 7: The Myth of the Death of Class.

Chapter 8: The Myth of the End of Trade Unionism.

Chapter 9: The Myth of the 'Economic Worker'.

Conclusion: Beyond the Myths?.




"This book marks a welcome return to one of sociology's fundamental tasks - a critical and radical analysis of current work practices and processes. It provides both excellent reviews of the literature on work and effectively questions many of the myths at work." Keith Grint, Reader in Organizational Behaviour at the Said Business School and Fellow of Templeton College, Oxford

"There is no better or more accessible guide to the debates about work and employment than this volume. The strong emphasis on well-grounded empirical studies - some carried out by the authors - will help to keep students' feet on the ground and provide them with the evidence to demolish some of the more egregious of fashionable theories. This will surely be the best text in the field for many years to come. This book brilliantly explodes the fallacy that work and employment need not be a central component of any sociology programme."Ray Pahl , Institute of Social and Economic Research, University of Essex

"The authors examine changes at work and in industrial relations in the light of some of the principal myths that have been used to explain the changes ... The book deals very effectively with the myth that trade unions are in permanent decline, concluding that the UK continues to be typified by adversarial industrial relations, giving the unions hope for recovery." Labour Research

"The overall selection covers the most prevalent and seductive myths in an accessible and stimulating style. Consequently, I would expect this book to appear on numerous undergraduate reading lists ... Myths at Work may signal the launch of a new genre in the sociology of work in which academics willingly engage with the claims advanced by contemporary management gurus and business philosophers. If this makes it easier to capture student attention and stimulate classroom discussion, then books like this will serve an important ... function." British Journal of Industrial Relations

"This is a useful text: it puts 'politics' and 'class' at the centre of the analysis of contemporary work and many of the individual chapters provide useful correctives to some of the more unthinking claims advanced on behalf of such phenomena as lean production, non-standard employment and the feminisation of work"Tom Keenoy, Labour and Industry

A A provocative and intelligent look at the 'myths' used to explain recent changes in the nature of work.

A The authors unravel these myths, explain how they have come about, and question their accuracy. In doing so they provide a more accurate picture of employment and the modern workplace.

A An invaluable teaching text for students, offering a lively and accessible approach.