Social Science And Social Scientists Essay

1258 words - 5 pages

Shadow work can be described as the various forms of labour that exist outside of the formal economy or within the informal economy. Social Science plays a major part in bringing attention to the dangers, harms and hardships experienced by the individuals working in the informal economy. Social scientists have recognised that facts don’t speak for themselves and often require analysis and interpretation to produce meaning. This is especially true when dealing with shadow work and thus social scientists have developed concepts, theories and values to aid analysis and interpretation of facts. A number of different concepts have been identified to assist the interpretation of facts on shadow work some of these are power, risk, social structure and agency. Although these concepts all attempt to interpret the facts on shadow work, their approaches and the results generated differ significantly. In this essay I will be comparing and contrasting these concepts by looking at how they are used in the course case studies to interpret facts on shadow work. I will be using the block method of essay writing as outlined in week 13.5.1 “structuring your essay”
I will begin by looking at the concepts of Power, Agency and Risk. The concept of “Power” can be described as the capacity to act and can be understood in two related but distinct forms, as “power over” something exercised by one actor at the expense of another and as the “power to” or the capacity to act and take control over one’s own situation. Next “agency” is the capacity to act freely according to one’s own choices and desires. Whereas the concept of Risk or “Rational risk actors” are people who have the capacity to recognise and manage their own exposure to risk. (Mythen, G 2012, pp124-131)

When looking at the case studies to find examples to compare and contrast these concepts my choice would be Burnett and Whyte’s (Burnett and Whyte, 2011, pp16-21) attempt to interpret facts through the concepts of “Power and Powerlessness” and “agency” with shadow workers described as having little “power” to shape their own lives and having little or no “agency” over the conditions of work. According to this concept this lack of “power” exposes workers to numerous risks for which they have little or no scope for controlling or limiting. In other words interpreting facts in this way would lead us to believe that shadow workers have relatively little choice in their occupation and are pushed into particular parts of the informal economy and find themselves exposed to various risks as a result. Conversely in her book Sex Work: A Risky Business (2005) social scientist Tara Sanders interprets and explains shadow work through the concept of “Rational Risk Actors” with individuals making a conscious choice about their occupation and utilising elaborate strategies to reduce their own exposure to personal risks. Sanders (Sanders,T, 2005, p44) argues through her interpretation of the facts using the concept of...

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