Out with the new, and in with the old? Bourdieu, crisis, and the (in)equitable future of work

Research output: Contribution to conferenceAbstract


The COVID-19 pandemic, as a multi-dimensional crisis, is having profound impacts on the field of work. Despite a proliferation of claims that it will usher in a new and better normal in workplaces, the crisis has generated a range of adverse impacts for employees and work, and it remains unclear how enduring any positive impacts of the crisis will be. Drawing on Bourdieu’s conceptual architecture, we examine the impact of the pandemic on the field of work through 43 in-depth phone interviews with human resource (HR) managers conducted between April and September 2020. Our evidence illustrates that COVID-19 has surfaced competing orthodox and heterodox discourses, the former based on employee monitoring and a separation of work from home and the latter on trust, flexibility and the blended workplace. We find that the HR managers we interviewed make sense of their new environment based on their habitus and on their capacity to decipher the newly established social context. We draw on Bourdieu’s concept of hysteresis - a temporary state in which the opportunity of field-change sits at odds with actors’ habitus – to explain why the COVID-19 pandemic presents both the opportunity for a radical transformation towards a more inclusive future of work, and the risk of a regressive and exclusionary alternative. Our findings highlight the central role played by managers in their everyday work in determining how the current crisis will impact work as both a field and a lived reality.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 2021


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