Class and the Service Encounter: New Approaches to Inequality in the Service Work-place



In recent decades, scholars of service work have generated many new insights about the organization of work, but in the process one of the traditional concerns of industrial sociology – class – became relatively marginal. However, recent studies of interactive service work have begun to reconceptualize the service encounter as an important site where class-based entitlements and interactive expectations are created. These analyses attempt to make linkages between the “status” encounters in service interactions and the larger, socio-economic inequalities associated with class. The renewed interest in class in the (service) workplace may be attributable in part to the growing influence of Bourdieu in North American sociology as well as a burgeoning literature on consumers and consumption, allowing for new approaches that consider service worker-customer interactions as integral to the construction of classed cultures of consumption and entitlement.