Work and the Precarisation of Existence
AbstractThis article aims to present a new perspective on contemporary debates about the transformations of work and employment, and their impacts on individuals and communities, by focusing on the writings of Christophe Dejours. Basically, the article attempts to show that Dejours' writings make a significant contribution to contemporary social theory. This might seem like an odd claim to make, since Dejours' main training was in psychoanalysis and his main activity is the clinical, psychiatric study of pathologies linked to work. However, in the course of his career, Dejours has greatly extended this initial clinical interest, and by integrating insights from philosophy and other social sciences, has developed a highly sophisticated and consistent theoretical model of work. Starting from a narrow psychopathological focus, Dejours has gradually developed a full-blown theoretical defence of the centrality of work. The article outlines the main features of Dejours' metapsychological model, and the structuring role played by work in his theory of subjective identity. This allows us to outline the originality of his approach by comparison with some of the most significant current accounts of the impact of transformations of work and employment conditions upon individuals and societies, notably Honneth, Castel and Sennett.