Notes from the fringe of the modern economy
Just a Temp
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Kevin D. Henson
"So this is where the brain starts to shut down and that which we treasure most, our personal identities, begins to slip away....I suppose I should be thankful; it's a paycheck." With this disturbing sentiment, Kevin Henson begins a voyage into the world of "the temp." For several years while a graduate student, Henson logged in thousands of hours as a temporary worker in offices throughout Chicago's Loop. Those experiences, and numerous interviews with other temps and temporary counselors, create a vivid and often disheartening picture of working 9 to 5 behind the receptionist's desk, telephone console, or data-entry terminal.
In their own voices, the temps in this book lament the frequently demeaning and mundane nature of many assignments:
Where the temporary service industry is quick to extol the virtues of temp workmainly its flexibilityHenson and his cast of temps reveal the tacit pressure to persevere through an unpleasant assignment, to accept every assignment offered, and to readjust personal lives to do so. Outsiders to the established office culture and hierarchy, most temps are asked to do low-skill work and leave more detailed or complicated tasks for the return of the permanent employee.
Whether temp life is a preferred choice or grudgingly accepted as the last option when "real" or permanent work is unavailable, all temps must confront issues of gender, identity, and self-esteem. Henson examines these issues, documenting the concerns and interpretations of temp workers about their own work lives.
"Henson presents a descriptive study of 'temp' work that highlights the dehumanizing aspects of both clerical work and contingent work. This book adds to the substantial and growing literature on office work with the important focus on employment that is assigned on a temporary basis."
"Given the objective of chronicling the machinations surrounding temporary work, Just a Temp is a constructive contribution to the sociology of work literature."
In the series
Women in the Political Economy, edited by Ronnie J. Steinberg.
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Women in the Political Economy, edited by Ronnie J. Steinberg, includes books on women and issues of work, family, social movements, politics, feminism, and empowerment. It emphasizes women's roles in society and the social construction of gender and also explores current policy issues like comparable worth, international development, job training, and parental leave.