Please join us for the first Form/Huber colloquium of Autumn 2019, featuring Dr. Erin Cech, Assistant Professor of Sociology at the University of Michigan. Talk title and abstract are below, all are welcome and encouraged to attend. A light lunch will be served, no RSVP required.
Title: “The Passion Principle: Self-Expressive Career Decisions and the Reproduction of Occupational Inequality”
Abstract: “Follow your passion” is a popular mantra for career decision-making in the United States. In this talk, I discuss my in-progress book on this “passion principle”-- the morally-laden cultural schema that elevates self-expression and personal fulfillment as a central guiding principle in career decision-making. Drawing on a combination of qualitative, quantitative, and experimental data, I ground this cultural schema in tensions between postindustrial capitalism and cultural norms of self expression, describe its pervasiveness among the college educated and beyond, and explain why passion is such a seductive basis for career decision-making. Although passion-seeking may seem like a promising option for individuals who hope to avoid the potential drudgery and self-estrangement of a life in the white collar labor force, I argue that the passion principle has a dark side: it reinforces socioeconomic disadvantages and occupational segregation in the aggregate. It also helps reproduce an exploitative, overworked white collar labor force. These findings have implications for cultural notions of “good work” and “good workers” that are popular in higher education and in the US broadly.