Call for Papers for an ephemera Special Issue on:
Giving notice to employability
Issue Editors: Ekaterina Chertkovskaya, Peter Watt, Stefan Tramer and Sverre Spoelstra
For this special issue of ephemera, we are looking for conceptual and empirical papers which critically discuss today’s increasing concern with employability.
Employability has become a conceptual hallmark of the past 20 years, having gained remarkable traction in policy-making, organisational life, and in society more generally. Popularised as an antipode to the policy goal of ‘full employment’ (Finn, 2000) and as the lynchpin of a new career covenant suggested to supplant long-term organisational career bargains (e.g. Kanter, 1994), ‘employability’ has produced a new horizon: the state and employers are no longer readily deemed to be committed to nor responsible for providing citizens and/or employees with lasting and secure jobs. Instead, individuals’ capacity to take the initiative, to relentlessly update and improve their knowledge and skills, and to be flexible and adaptable – i.e. their employability – has been casted as the crux of national, organisational, and individual prosperity.
With employability gaining steam, ‘protean’ and ‘boundaryless career’ models (Arthur and Rousseau, 1996; Hall, 2002) have been promoted, which, in turn, put a high premium on individuals’ revamping their seamless shifting from one job or organisation to another. At the same time, demand-side labour market policies were discharged as outdated (Peck and Theodore, 2000), rubber-stamping the ephemerality and precariousness of work in an era which keenly acclaims employability as the answer to much of society’s ills. It is against this background that Hawkins (1999: 8) maintains that, now, ‘to be employed is to be at risk [and] to be employable is to be secure’. However, this is a ‘security’ in terms of employability, i.e. a condition which, Cremin (2010) argues, can never be fulfilled; when developments in late capitalism have put onus on individual’s never being employable enough.
Resonating with this, individuals’ responsibility for their ‘marketability’ in the labour market is posited to outshine earlier arrangements, which, in the light of employability, figure as having seriously hampered individuals’ self-realisation and economic progress. Perhaps, one could even say that ‘work’, too, has then begun to be outshone, by ‘self-work’: not only are individuals invited to realise themselves by way of becoming more employable, their realisation as selves has turned into a prerequisite for their concern with employability per se. That is, the invocation of a ‘self’ which takes care of its employability has become subject to (self-)management itself (Andersen, 2007; Heelas, 2002). Part of this may explain the rise of coaching services and concomitant ‘self-help’ and ‘help-to-self-help’ discourses.
To all appearances, the rise of employability has put the unleashing and harnessing of human resources at centre stage: individuals, no matter if employed or unemployed, arenow called upon to outstrip others, but primarily their own (perpetually unrealisable) employable ‘selves’ (Southwood, 2011). Morever, ‘employability’ has been invoked as a path towards social integration, with inter alia ‘immigrants’, ‘women’, ‘the elderly’ and people with various disabilities being invited to self-determinedly step out of their ‘marginalisation-cum-idleness’ (Peralta Prieto, 2006). As such, employability speaks of an ‘infinite human resourcefulness’ (Costea et al., 2007: 245), which sees the draw of increasing numbers of people into wage labour and proposing glitzy management careers as part of a growing number of individuals’ prospects (Brown and Hesketh, 2004).
In all these contexts, employability continues to hold largely positive connotations. It is widely considered to be the key for success in the labour market. It is seen as something that individuals inevitably strive for and manage throughout their (working) lives. However, this attractive picture of employability, as used by employers, recruitment agents, policy-makers, mainstream research, universities, and the media, does not say much about how the concern for employability is entangled with broader societal changes or the ways in which individual subjectivities are affected by the concept of employability. In this special issue of ephemera, we are therefore looking for papers that critically assess the social, political, economic, cultural, and managerial undertakings, and understanding of ‘employability’: from critical understandings of what is mobilised in the name of employability, to what the realisation of this concept means in terms of work, joblessness, and notions of selfhood.
Possible topics include, but are not limited to the following:
• Notions of employability for high-/low-skilled workers
• Regulation of employability
• The boundaries and limits of employment potential
• Employability and subjectivity
• Voluntary work (or the mobilisation of unpaid labour)
• Transferable skills
• Managing employability
• Employability as ideology
• Employment guiding and counseling
• Imaginings, fantasies, dreams and realities of employment
• Employability versus employment
• History of employability
• Employability in policy-making
• Teaching employability (at university, employment agencies etc.)
•Universities and employability
•Employability and recruitment
•Employability among the unemployed
•Employability and social entrepreneurship
•Social networking for employability
•Employability as a route to social inclusion/exclusion
Deadline for submissions: 30 June 2012
Andersen, N. Å. (2007) ‘Creating the client who can create himself and his own fate: The tragedy of the citizens’ contract’, Qualitative Sociology Review, 3(2): 119-143.
Arthur, M. B. and D. M. Rousseau (2001) The boundaryless career: A new employment principle for a new organizational era. New York: Oxford University Press.
Brown, P. and A. Hesketh (2004) The mismanagement of talent: employability and jobs in the knowledge economy. New York: Oxford.
Costea, B., N. Crump and K. Amiridis (2007) ‘Managerialism and “infinite human resourcefulness”: A commentary upon the “therapeutic habitus”, “derecognition of finitude” and the modern sense of self’, Journal of Cultural Research, 11(3): 245-264.
Cremin, C. (2010) ‘Never employable enough: The (im)possibility of satisfying the boss’s desire’, Organization, 17(2): 131-149.
Finn, D. (2000) ‘From full employment to employability: A new deal for Britain’s unemployed?’, International Journal of Manpower, 21(5): 384-99.
Hall, D.T. (2002) Careers in and out of organizations. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.
Hawkins, P. (1999) The art of building windmills: Career tactics for the 21st Century. Liverpool: Graduate Into Employment Unit, University of Liverpool.
Heelas, P. (2002) ‘Work ethics, soft capitalism and the turn to life’, in P. du Gay and M. Pryke (eds.) Cultural economy: Cultural analysis and commercial life. London: Sage.
Kanter, M.R. (1994) ‘Employability and job security in the 21st century’, in Demos 1/1994, London (Special Employment Issue).
Peck, J. and N. Theodore (2000) ‘Beyond employability’, Cambridge Journal of Economics, 24(6): 729- 749.
Peralta Prieto, J. (2006) Den sjuka arbetslösheten: Svensk arbetsmarknadspolitik och dess praxis 1978- 2004. Acta Universitatis Upsaliensis.
Southwood, I. (2011) Non-stop inertia. Washington: Zero Books.