Work occupies a central part of our lives and has multiple meanings for those engaged in it. For many, it provides a purposeful and fulfilling activity to fill time and a focus to one’s life, a vehicle to express oneself, a method of earning a living and, in many cases, supporting a family. It can be a source of lasting social relationships, of politicization, of joy and stress as well as numbing alienation. It provides ‘intrinsic’ and ‘extrinsic’ rewards, whilst it can both enhance health and destroy it. Work has been profoundly important in people’s lives in the past and continues to be so in the present. This book explores the mutating nature and meaning of work in Britain since the Second World War, engaging with key (and often contested) debates, setting contemporary issues within their historical context and examining policy responses. Continuity and change in employment since 1945 is the core theme. However, my approach to the subject matter is somewhat unconventional. My aim here is to provide a refocused history pivoting on the personal narratives of workers themselves and how work identities and the meaning of work are articulated, perceived and signified by those who experienced it directly.
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