Life at work: vulnerability, creativity, normativity

This new file was conducted by a multidisciplinary group of researchers around a common project: questioning the relationships between health and work from a viewpoint well beyond the usual frames of reference. The current work context marked by flexibility, intensification or individualization has led to the rise of concerns relating to health. New organizations and forms of labour management sometimes make it unlivable. Although the problem is the subject of much media, political and scientific attention by researchers, it is too frequently seen only in terms of the deterioration of health by work: stress, suffering, harassment and psychosocial risks.


Illness: social and moral vulnerability

Based on a dialectic approach, these query in this case the conditions and methods of work as a cause of vulnerability and operator of health through different articles. One of them, Maladies chroniques et travail [Chronic illnesses and work], focuses on two studies focusing on life at work of 106 people afflicted with cancer or HIV. The authors have the opportunity to show that life with illness is presented as a modified life. The illness places the individual in a position of social and moral vulnerability considered as potentially responsible for reduction of productive energy, a source of unpredictability and disorder. This is also the case for aging, another theme discussed in the article Les relations entre l’âge et le travail comme problème temporel [Relations between age and work as a temporal problem] , which echoes through the time when adaptive and productive abilities are declining.


Live well, live better

This file on the other hand led the authors to redefine the concept of health itself. Felling “less good” equates to a slowing of physical and mental activity. Conversely, health allows for increasing activity, a diversification of skills or even a multiplication of experiences. In other words, living well and living better. This reference to the definitions of health as normativity or creativity where each is able to call on their own judgement is opposed to the ideology of risks that invites the individual to follow the recommendations of experts knowing what is best for the health of everyone. This is a utopian vision of health as is promised by the definition of the World Health Organization (WHO).


To each situation its own singularity

For the authors, life does not proceed in any pre-established pattern. Although external models tend to impose a standard, the models of working life mask the variety of situations that exist. Each contribution used by the researchers thus explores this singularity like the article Travail et santé chez les prostituées : entre imaginaire et réalité. This explores the relationship between health and work in this environment and the strategies of these women for living in good health. In the social norms that define health and illness, the human being guards the initiative of his point of view by the capacity of the gap that it creates within existing norms.


This reading of the relations between health and work in terms of vulnerability is a double project. That of re-examining a point of view which would only see in the health-work relationships a negative link and a single direction, the deterioration of health by work. But also, the models of health at work that arise from it. A plan undertaken through the article Le travail et la « vie psychotique » [Work and “psychotic life”], built on the basis of a discussion between health and psychic illness on the one hand, and pleasure and suffering at work elsewhere. Or finally, on the theme Normativité, grande santé et persévérance en son être [Normativity, great health and persevereince in being, which poses the following consideration: how to defend health and, beyond that, build it in the world of work?


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