Inequalities, Work Alienation and Appropriation in the Digital World of Work

New book chapter

We are happy to present our project’s first publication. Friedericke Hardering, Mirela Ivanova, Felix Nickel and Helene Thaa have written a book chapter for the edited volume titled “Work Appropriation and Social Inequality” that was recently published at Vernon Press. Thanks also to our editor Antonia Kupfer!


Despite rich bodies of literature focusing on both alienation and digital change at work, the two have rarely been engaged in a fruitful theoretical and empirical dialogue. Yet, the digital world of work invites us to revise our sociological toolbox in search of concepts that can provide a grounded and in-depth understanding of the new ways in which work is being structured, performed and experienced. This chapter shows the explanatory power of the concept of alienation to analyse these changes by asking to what extent new sources of alienation can be identified in the context of digital service work, and how these sources differ among different qualification levels. In a first step, we adopt an understanding of alienation as a deficient appropriation of work, which relates both to subjective experiences and to working conditions and structures. Then we introduce a differentiation between digitalised and digital work, and discuss how different skill levels can help us tackle the relationship between alienation and technological change. By reviewing existing literature, this chapter digs into sources and experiences of alienation in high-skilled, medium-skilled and low-skilled work in times of digital transformation. The analysis shows that different forms of alienation can be found across the whole spectrum of qualification levels.

Full bibliographic information:

Hardering, Friedericke/ Mirela Ivanova/ Felix Nickel/ Helene Thaa (2021). Inequalities, Work Alienation and Appropriation in the Digital World of Work. In: Kupfer, Antonia (ed.), Work Appropriation and Social Inequality, Wilmington: Vernon Press, S. 71-92. Preview @ Google Books.