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Young subjectivities and affective labour in the service economy
journal contributionposted on 2023-03-22, 05:40 authored by D Farrugia, S Threadgold, J Coffey
Post-Fordist employment is characterised by the demand for new forms of labour in which workers are expected to make personal investments in their work and to mobilise their embodied subjectivities in the practice of labour. Whilst employment insecurity is well documented in the sociology of youth, theoretical development in this area has yet to contend with the role of changes in the nature of labour itself in the production of youth. This paper draws on theories of labour under post-Fordism to explore the practice of ‘affective labour’ amongst young people performing ‘front of house’ bar work in a large metropolitan service economy. The paper theorises the role of youth subjectivities–including capacities for relationality and leisure, gendered embodiment, and tastes–in the practice of contemporary labour. The paper describes how young people doing bar work contribute to the production of affective atmospheres, or sensations of ease, pleasure and enjoyment that are offered to clientele of boutique bars. In this, we suggest that affective labour mobilises young subjectivities at work in ways that are currently unrecognised within youth studies. The paper concludes by suggesting a new research agenda that goes beyond the existing focus on youth transitions through employment to explore how youth is produced as part of the social dynamics of post-Fordist labour.