The Tumbleweed Society: Working and Caring in an Age of Insecurity

Oxford Univ. Feb. 2015. 304p. notes. bibliog. ISBN 9780199957712. $27.95. SOC SCI
Pugh (sociology, Univ. of Virginia) examines the effect of contemporary workplace insecurity on other aspects of one's personal life. Based upon 80 interviews, primarily with white mothers at various levels of economic security, Pugh finds that some regard frequent changes in employment and relocation as positive—promoting flexibility in both opportunities and experience. Overall, however, the author asserts that unstable employment leads to family dysfunction. The idea of "flexibility" can disable traditional ways of caring for the young, the disabled, and the elderly; and Pugh argues that insecure employment works against the new norm of intensive child rearing. She also notes that men who lose jobs are particularly vulnerable to depression. To prevent work instability from affecting intimate relationships, Pugh finds that many create a "moral wall" that excuses employers who show no loyalty to their workers but places a heavy responsibility on bread winners to maintain stable family lives and to meet family needs. The author follows other students of modern family and work life in urging stronger public policies to undergird stable employment.
VERDICT A defined study aimed at scholars in the field of sociology.
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