Resolving the 'jobs-environment-dilemma'? The case for critiques of work in sustainability research

Maja Hoffmann, Roland Paulsen

Publication: Scientific journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review


Modern-day work is a central reason for unsustainability, and its transformation is therefore key for sustainability. A recurring manifestation of this issue is the ‘jobs-environment-dilemma’, a trade-off arising due to severe ecological impacts caused by work on the one hand, and the structural constitution of modern industrial society as work-centred and work-dependent on the other. We draw on interdisciplinary literature from environmental sociology and related fields to analyse both aspects: distinct factors of ecological problems associated with modern work, and various dimensions of structural dependence on work in modern society. We find that this conflict, and the fundamental role that work plays for unsustainability, are not sufficiently addressed and remain unresolved issues in sustainability research. To change this, we propose the conceptual approach of ‘postwork’ or critiques of work to open up a new perspective on the work-environment problem. We introduce postwork theory and discuss different ways in which ecological postwork perspectives and arguments can contri-bute to understanding and resolving entrenched sustainability issues. Finally, we briefly illustrate existing postwork politics and practices. While clearly contested, there is renewed momentum for social change towards a sustainable society which would benefit from addres-sing work and critiques of work.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)343-354
JournalEnvironmental Sociology
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2020
Externally publishedYes

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