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Venture Labor
Surviving the New Economy

Book Review: Venture Labor in American Journal of Sociology

Thank you to Vicki Smith for the scholarly review of Venture Labor in the American Journal of Sociology.

A great deal has been written about employment risk in the 21st century. Many agree that institutional bases of employment are shifting, jobs and careers have become more tenuous, and risks associated with employment increasingly have been transferred to individuals. Yet, to date we don’t have many in-depth, fine-grained studies of how individuals or groups experience these transformations. Venture Labor: Work and the Burden of Risk makes a significant contribution to this important and multifaceted topic. Gina Neff’s analysis of the mutually constitutive processes through which people’s cultural frames and understandings of the risks of employment fueled the growth of an industry, and how industry practices both rewarded and benefited from those frames, is nuanced, smart, and insightful.

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Book Review: Venture Labor in Forbes

Thank you Tom Watson and Forbes for reviewing Venture Labor.

They called it “Silicon Alley,” a clumsy play on words meant to evoke an East Coast urban version of the California place where microchips made fortunes grow and digital devices work. It was a marketing play really, designed to lure public funding and convince established business to locate in New York. But the term was always flawed. For one, few of the small-time entrepreneurs and dreamers who created the tiny and fragile Internet scene in mid-1990s New York ever touched silicon or worked on a chip. And for another, where were the alleys? Ancient tilting walk-ups, former garment center sweatshop floors, crumbling converted townhouses, semi-abandoned finance towers, nooks and crannies of the abundant and under-used spaces that created a buyer’s market for offices – these were the mis en scene for the happy band of under-achieving writers, editors, photographers, designers, artists, tramps and thieves who formed the core of “Silicon Alley.” But these places fronted on streets and avenues, the grid of lower midtown and Chelsea and the Flatiron District, and the crazy Dutch patchwork of lower Manhattan.

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Book Review: Venture Labor in Accounts

Thanks to William Finlay at the University of Georgia for his review in Accounts, the newsletter of the Economic Sociology section of the American Sociological Association.

As a sociologist who went to graduate school in the late 1970s to study work and organizations— back then the term “economic sociology” was not in widespread use as a label and it was well before an ASA section on Economic Sociology had been formed—it is hard to avoid the feeling that the ensuing thirty-plus years have largely upended much of what we thought we knew about economic behavior and institutions. In graduate school we learned about a world dominated by large, stable corporations who provided careers for their white-collar employees (the much-analyzed “internal labor markets”) and negotiated with their blue-collar employers who were organized into relatively powerful unions (although they were not quite as strong as their European counterparts). Of course, we also knew that not everyone enjoyed the benefits of a secure career, good wages, or a guaranteed pension—theliterature on the dual economy or dual labor markets pointed out that workers in the periphery sector of the economy, who were disproportionately female, minority, and immigrant, did not share equally in the long post- World War II boom. But today it makes little sense to speak of privileged workers in the core sector, when so many of their erstwhile privileges have apparently vanished along with the terms core and periphery.

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