What do human beings do when they work, how is work organized, and what are its multidimensional – economic, social, political, biographical, ecological – effects? We cannot answer these questions without drawing on the numerous categories that we use to describe work, such as "skilled" or "unskilled" work, "domestic work" or "wage labor," "gig work" or "platform work." Such categories are not merely theoretical labels as they also have practical effects. But where do these categories come from, what are their histories, how do they differ between countries, and how are they evolving? Shifting Categories of Work asks these questions, illuminating the many ways in which our societies categorize work. Written by sociologists, philosophers, historians and anthropologists as well as management and legal scholars, the contributions in this volume contrast different cultural practices and frameworks of categorizing work across different countries.

Organized around the three axes of (un)organized work, (in)visible work and (in)valuable work, this book shows how ways of categorizing work express, but also recreate, lines of privilege and disadvantage – challenging our preconceived notions of what work is and what it could be, as it invites us to rethink the categories we use for understanding the work we do, and hence, to some extent, ourselves.

chapter |13 pages


ByLisa Herzog, Bénédicte Zimmermann

part 1|87 pages

(Un)organized Work

chapter 1|15 pages

Subordinate Work

How Does the Law Categorize Modern Labor Relationships?
ByLinxin He

chapter 2|14 pages

Corporate Work

A Category That Has Lost Its Managerial Foundations?
ByBlanche Segrestin

chapter 3|13 pages

Remote Work

From Employee Telework to Self-Employed Home-Based Work?
ByFrédérique Letourneux, Gabrielle Schütz

chapter 4|14 pages

Platform Work

New Workers, New Rights?
BySophie Bernard, Josépha Dirringer

chapter 5|14 pages


From Self-Managed to Lean and Agile Teams
ByMartin Krzywdzinski, Maximilian Greb

chapter 6|15 pages

Democratized Work

Concepts and Practices
ByRoberto Frega, Martin Kuhlmann

part 2|86 pages

(In)visible Work

chapter 7|14 pages

Free Versus Unfree Labor

Challenging Their Boundaries
ByLéa Renard, Theresa Wobbe

chapter 8|15 pages

Informal Work

A Relational Category
ByNicola Schalkowski, Marianne Braig

chapter 9|12 pages

Migrants' Work

An Anthropological Perspective From West Africa
ByIsaie Dougnon

chapter 10|14 pages

Domestic Work

The Invention of a Gendered Relationship
ByMichel Lallement

chapter 11|15 pages

Unpaid Work

Expansion and Mobilization of a Feminist Category
ByMaud Simonet

chapter 12|14 pages

Emotional Labor

Concept and Practical Categorizations in Light of COVID Critical Care Nursing
ByRobert McMurray, Nicki Credland, Martyn Griffin, Peter Hamilton, Oonagh Harness, Kimberly Jamie

part 3|90 pages

(In)valuable Work

chapter 13|13 pages

Dirty Work

Physical, Social and Moral Taint
ByNatalia Slutskaya, Annilee M. Game

chapter 14|19 pages

Efficient Work

Exploring Algorithmic Approaches to Categorization
BySasha Disko, Bruce Kogut, Hanyu Li

chapter 15|16 pages

Skilled and Unskilled Work

From Theoretical Concepts to Social Practices
ByPhilipp Grollmann, Michael Tiemann

chapter 16|13 pages


Moral Categorizations Across Three Countries
ByConstance Perrin-Joly, Laure de Verdalle

chapter 17|13 pages

Essential Work

A Category in the Making?
ByLisa Herzog, Katrin Sold, Bénédicte Zimmermann

chapter 18|14 pages

Sustainable Work

Foundations and Challenges of a Contested Category
ByMaja Hoffmann