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Pragmatism and the challenge of work life transitions
Linköping University, Department of Behavioural Sciences. Linköping University, HELIX Vinn Excellence Centre. Linköping University, Department of Behavioural Sciences and Learning, Work and Working Life. Linköping University, Department of Behavioural Sciences and Learning, Education and Sociology. Linköping University, Faculty of Arts and Sciences.
2007 (English)In: 5th ESREA European Research Conference, 2007, 2007Conference paper (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

The aim of this study is to outline how to make use of a number of perspectives in the tradition of pragmatism1 to understand agency in work-life transitions. It will focus on the interplay of cultural conditions, educational praxis in the field of career development and human action. The intention is also to develop theoretical resources that will be used in a forthcoming empirical study. The research question to be examined is how agency arises or emerges in occupational transitions; the main proposal is that pragmatism holds valuable insights that may be harnessed in this particular field of research.

The paper begins by introducing the tradition of pragmatism. This is viewed in relation to the basic cultural and philosophical conditions known as modernity and enlightenment; it is characterized as modern but at the same time a departure from the rationalist-modernist era. Although this discussion will be preoccupied to some extent with the epistemological question, I will keep in mind the issue of human action and put forward  some arguments about the relationship between modernity, pragmatism and action theory. The content draws largely from analyses by the German sociologist Hans Joas.

In the second part of the paper, I will make explicit use of Joas’ view of action to understand how agency emerges in work-life transitions. Three action-related phenomena are examined. The first is goal setting. The dynamic and elastic character of human intentionality as well as the ‘pre-reflective’ sources of agency will be emphasized. Consequently, career planning as some kind of instrumental, rationalist endeavour will be investigated. Secondly, the power of the situation will be examined and highlighted as a force that may produce reflection and creativity in work-life transitions. However, agency presupposes an ability to take different perspectives of the actual situation in order to find an appropriate line of action. Third, I will explore the importance of imagination further, in relation to goal setting. Emotional power and creative imagination are supposed to be latent in our wishes, but they need to be cultivated in imaginative interplay with the current conditions and in moments of ‘reality testing’. Creative imagination, however, presupposes confidence and ‘the capacity to be alone’. For that very reason, it is argued, insecurity and risk in work-life transitions need to be balanced by trust in order to release the crucial imaginative processes.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
National Category
Social Sciences
URN: urn:nbn:se:liu:diva-38414Local ID: 44253OAI: diva2:259263
5th ESREA European research conference, Seville, Spain September 20-23
Available from: 2009-10-10 Created: 2009-10-10 Last updated: 2012-09-06Bibliographically approved

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Hallqvist, Anders
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Department of Behavioural SciencesHELIX Vinn Excellence CentreWork and Working LifeEducation and SociologyFaculty of Arts and Sciences
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