Gurus, Hired Guns and Warm Bodies
Over the last several decades, employers have increasingly replaced permanent employees with temporary workers and independent contractors to cut labor costs and enhance flexibility. Although commentators have focused largely on low-wage temporary work, the use of skilled contractors has also grown exponentially, especially in high-technology areas. Yet, almost nothing is known about technical contracting or about the people who do it. Drawing on his newly published ethnography of contract labor markets, Gurus, Hired Guns and Warm Bodies: Itinerant Experts in a Knowledge Economy (co-authored with Gideon Kunda and published by Princeton University Press), Barley will discuss how the market for temporary professionals operates from the perspective of the contractors who do the work, the managers who employ them, the permanent employees who work beside them, and the staffing agencies who broker deals. In this talk Barley will pay specific attention to the ambiguities and contradictions that arise when firms employ contractors and how managers and employees deal with those contradictions in practice. The study provides a window onto the changing nature of work and employment.
Stephen R. Barley is the Charles M. Pigott Professor of Management Science and Engineering and the Co-Director of the Center for Work, Technology and Organization at Stanford's School of Engineering. Barley was a member of the Board of Senior Scholars of the National Center for the Educational Quality of the Workforce and co-chaired National Research Council and the National Academy of Science's committee on the changing occupational structure in the United States. The committee's report, The Changing Nature of Work, was published in 1999. Barley teaches courses on the management of R&D, the organizational implications of technological change, organizational behavior, social network analysis and ethnographic field methods. He severed as the editor of the Administrative Science Quarterly from 1993 to 1997 and is currently the academic editor of the Stanford Social Innovation Review. He has written extensively on the impact of new technologies on work, the organization of technical work and organizational culture. He and Julian Orr edited a volume on technical work entitled Between Craft and Science: Technical Work in the United States published in 1997 by the Cornell University Press. In collaboration with Gideon Kunda of Tel Aviv University, Barley has recently published a book on contingent work among engineers and software developers, entitled Gurus, Hired Guns and Warm Bodies: Itinerant Experts in the Knowledge Economy, with the Princeton University Press.
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