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Changing Contours of Work

Changing Contours of Work
Jobs and Opportunities in the New Economy

Third Edition
  • Stephen Sweet - Ithaca College, Boston College, Cornell University, State University of New York at Potsdam
  • Peter Meiksins - Cleveland State University, Cleveland, Ohio

January 2016 | 328 pages | SAGE Publications, Inc
Proud sponsor of the 2019 SAGE Keith Roberts Teaching Innovations Award—enabling graduate students and early career faculty to attend the annual ASA pre-conference teaching and learning workshop.

In the Third Edition of Changing Contours of Work: Jobs and Opportunities in the New Economy, Sweet and Meiksins once again provide a rich analysis of the American workplace in the larger context of an integrated global economy. Through engaging vignettes and rich data, this text frames the development of jobs and employment opportunities in an international comparative perspective, revealing the historical transformations of work (the “old economy” and the “new economy”) and identifying the profound effects that these changes have had on lives, jobs, and life chances. The text examines the many complexities of race, class, and gender inequalities in the modern-day workplace, and details the consequences of job insecurity and work schedules mismatched to family needs. Throughout the text, strategic recommendations are offered to improve the new economy.

List of Exhibits
About the Authors
Chapter 1: Mapping the Contours of Work
Scenes From the New Economy

Culture and Work

Structure and Work

Agency and Careers

Chapter 2: New Products, New Ways of Working, and the New Economy
A Postindustrial Society?

The End of Mass Production?

New Skills?

New Cultures of Control?

The End of Organized Labor?

A New Global Economy?

Chapter 3: Economic Inequality, Social Mobility, and the New Economy
Are Economic Divides Narrowing or Widening in the United States?

Are Career Pathways Opening or Closing?

Is the Global Economy Becoming More Flat or Bumpy?

Chapter 4: Whose Jobs Are Secure
Risk and Work: Historical and Comparative Views

How Insecure Are Workers in the New Economy?

The Costs of Job Loss and Insecurity

Responding to Insecurity: Old and New Careers

Chapter 5: A Fair Day's Work? The Intensity and Scheduling of Jobs in the New Economy
Time, Intensity, and Work

How Much Should We Work? Comparative Frameworks

Why Are Americans Working So Much?

Nonstandard Schedules: Jobs in a 24/7 Economy

How Americans Deal With Overwork

Chapter 6: Gender Chasms in the New Economy
When Did Home Work Become Nonwork?

Women’s Participation in the Paid Labor Force in America

Gender Inequalities in Compensation

Socialization, Career Selection, and Career Paths

Interpersonal Discrimination in the Workplace

Structural Dimensions of Gender Discrimination

Strategies to Bridge the Care Gaps: International

Chapter 7: Race, Ethnicity, and Work: Legacies of the Past, Problems in the Present
Histories of Race, Ethnicity, and Work

Magnitude of Racial Inequality in the New Economy

Intergenerational Transmission of Resources

Geographic Distribution of Race and Work Opportunity

Racial Prejudice and Discrimination

Racialized Jobs

Race, Ethnicity, and Work: Social Policy

Chapter 8: Reshaping the Contours of the New Economy
Opportunity Chasms

Agents of Change

Appendix: Legislative and Regulatory Time Line of Worker Rights and Protections in the United States

Changing Contours of Work: Jobs and Opportunities in the New Economy provides numerous insights into the new world of work and is a prolific source of material for class discussion, further research, and written assignments.”

Teaching Sociology

Changing Contours of Work is an engaging text that is of significant value in courses on the sociology of work.”

Journal of Family Theory & Review

“With a captivating dose of realism and critical inquiry, the authors have done an excellent job of introducing some of the most troubling labour market issues of our time. It is an excellent source for upper level undergraduate students and those trying to make sense of recent transformations in the world of work and beyond.”

Work, Employment and Society

Changing Contours of Work inspires students to acquire a sociological imagination in the way they view the labor force, understanding the way that personal troubles with income or employment are linked to public issues. 

Changing Contours of Work provides a thorough overview of the structure of the new economy and the way opportunities and rewards are unequally divided across the lines of class, gender, and race.Perhaps one of the greatest attributes of the book,however, is the ease by which Sweet and Meiksins integrate classical sociology with contemporary studies of stratification in a way that is extremely accessible to undergraduate students.”

William J. Scarborough
university of Illinois at Chicago
American Sociological Association
Key features


  • Includes most recent research from leading journals on work and inequality
  • 5 new vignettes illustrate the challenges confronting workers
  • New or expanded coverage of inequality in the wake of the recession, the economic recovery and its reach, and gender, race, and class divides in the workplace
  • 30 new or updated tables, graphs, and diagrams


  • Provides international comparative perspectives on work and work prospects throughout the text, such as specific policies already in place in Europe that can lead to improved conditions for workers and their families
  • Considers the structure of today’s work environment and its implications for fulfillment on and off the job
  • Highlights the impact of socialization, social networks, and structural forms of discrimination
  • Addresses inequalities and divides, based on race, ethnicity, gender, and class, that inhibit opportunities for some workers

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Sample Materials & Chapters

Chapter 4

Chapter 6

For instructors

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