For Work / Against Work
Debates on the centrality of work

"What is skill?"

by Attewell, Paul (1990)


The concept of skill plays an important role in sociological research, from studies of the labor process to debates over equal worth. This article provides a theoretical analysis of the ambiguities and difficulties involved in current sociological conceptions of skill, contrasting four distinct approaches to skill: positivist, ethnomethodological, Weberian, and Marxist. Some of the impasses in industrial sociology arguably stem from the fact that opposed traditions are using very different notions of skill or are blind to their own preconceptions regarding skill. The article draws out the implications of this for empirical research.


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