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Age at Work

Age at Work
Ambiguous Boundaries of Organizations, Organizing and Ageing

November 2020 | 240 pages | SAGE Publications Ltd

Age at Work explores the myriad ways in which ‘age’ is at ‘work’ across society, organizations and workplaces, with special focus on organizations, their boundaries, and marginalizing processes around age and ageism in and across these spaces.

 The book examines:

  • How society operates in and through age, and how this informs the very existence of organizations
  • Age-organization regimes, age-organization boundaries, and the relationship between organizations and death, and post-death
  • The importance of memory, forgetting and rememorizing in re-thinking the authors’ and others’ earlier work
  • Tensions between seeing age in terms of later life and seeing age as pervasive social relations.

Enriched with insights from the authors’ lived experiences, Age at Work is a major and timely intervention in studies of age, work, care and organizations. Ideal for students of Sociology, Organizations and Management, Social Policy, Gerontology, Health and Social Care, and Social Work.


Part 1: Setting the Scene
1. Forgetting and Remembering Age: From Invisibility to Recognition
Part 2: Society, Age and Organizations
2. Age in Society: Hegemony, Contingency and Intersectionality with Richard Howson
3. Society in Age: Hegemony, Historicity and Knowledge with Richard Howson
Part 3: Age-Organization Regimes
4. The Making of Organizations: Contexts, Forms and Aims with Charlotta Niemistö
5. The Doing of Organizations: Structures, Processes and Talk with Charlotta Niemistö
Part 4: Age-Organization Boundaries
6. Age, Organizations and Boundaries: An Overview
7. Age at Work: Autobiographical Reflections on Age-Organization Boundaries and Ambiguities
8. Living Afterlife: Age-Organization Boundaries in Practice
9. The Final Boundary?: Organization(s) and Organizing of Death
10. The Power of Absence: The Organization(s) and Organizing of Post-Death
11. Concluding: Another Ambiguous Boundary

With this volume, Hearn and Parkin offer a truly novel approach to the relationships between age, organizations and organizing. It is particularly heartening to see the breadth of disciplinary scope and inclusion of stages of life normally beyond the boundaries of organization studies. The personal voices and experiences of the authors are woven throughout their insightful reflections on what it means to be an ageing subject. This is a refreshing counterpoint to much of the literature that treats ageing as inherently problematic and reproduces, rather than challenges, the trope of intergenerational conflict.

Associate Professor Susan Ainsworth
Professor in Organizational Studies, Management and Marketing, University of Melbourne, Australia

Age at Work brings age and organizations together in truly innovative ways. ‘Age’ intersects with organization as each constructs the other across time. Through a creative conceptual approach using data ranging from biographical to comparative sources, the book uses the prism of age to detail how we interact with organizations as workers, consumers, clients, patients or citizens in all our complexities. It brings new conceptualizations such as age/organizations regimes to bear in analyzing how age works inside and outside organizations.

It is at once a rich review of previous work on the issues of ageing for both organizations and individuals and a theoretical and analytical contribution to considering in an ever more complex way how new insights from the intersectional issues of gender, class, race and ability interact with the unique category of age. The book will change how we consider organizations. It is an impressive enrichment to organizational studies and intersectional sociology. Using recent empirical case studies and interviews as well as biographical reflections based on their careers in organizational and gender research, Hearn and Parkin provide an immensely readable investigation of how age is actively at work in our organizations and how to better understand this. Highly topical, the book looks at age and organizations from youth to death, and concludes with considering the implications of pandemics.

Alison Woodward
Emerita Research Professor at the Free University of Brussels

Innovative, timely and insightful. Essential reading for anyone who wants a deeper understanding of the complex and so often neglected relationship between age and work. The book raises questions that could not be more important at the present moment in the context of the current pandemic. This is interdisciplinary work at its best.

Richard Collier
Professor of Law and Social Theory, Newcastle University

Age at Work is a good reminder from the authors of a number of simplifications and stereotypes that are wrapped up in the making of age and organizations and it's a great and exciting read. 

Readable and easy to understand, it remains accessible to a wide range of professional readers not only in the field of studies of inequality, organizational culture, stratification, intersectionality, ageing or gender, but also for those for whom the study of the life cycle with a critical sociological perspective is just beginning to open.

Iva Šmídová
Associate Professor, Department of Sociology, Masaryk University, Czech Republic, in the journal Gender and Research

Hearn and Parkin’s work tries to untangle some if not most of these essentialist stances by recognizing that age(ing) can be, and is, mediated by not only individuals involved in social relations in organizations but also by the organizations themselves.

Read full review

Stephanie Ruel
Lecturer in Organisational Behaviour, The Open University Business School
Qualitative Research in Organizations and Management: An International Journal

The authors of this book, Jeff Hearn and Wendy Parkin, bring to bear many decades of scholarship into gender relations, gendering, sexuality and violence in organization studies. This paves the way for an approach to ageing and organization that is contingent (provisional and relational) and intersectional. Age and ageing are thereby shown to be related to gender, race, ethnicity and class, showing how these characteristics work together to privilege some and disadvantage others. Through this, Hearn and Parkin, together with co-authors Richard Howson and Charlotta Niemistö, explore how meanings of age are culturally gendered, while also acknowledging the corporeal and material-discursive reality of the ageing body which, they emphasize, goes beyond social constructions.

Full revie:

Emma Bell and Stefanie Ruel
The Open University
Organization Studies Journal

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ISBN: 9781526427731
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