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Blustein's Psychology of Working: A Very Short Introduction This prĂŠcis introduces Blustein (2006) and its new perspective for career development, counseling, and public policy. Olivier Serrat 07/03/2019


1 Abstract and Setting In 2006, Lawrence Erlbaum Associates Inc. published Blustein's Psychology of Working (2006) and offered the following abstract: In this original and major new work, David Blustein places working at the same level of attention for social and behavioral scientists and psychotherapists as other major life concerns, such as intimate relationships, physical and mental health, and socioeconomic inequities. He also provides readers with an expanded conceptual framework within which to think about working in human development and human experience. As a result, this creative new synthesis enriches the discourse on working across the broad spectrum of psychology's concerns and agendas, and especially for those readers in career development, counseling, and policy-related fields. This textbook is ideal for use in graduate courses on counseling and work or vocational counseling. (Blustein, 2006) There is no doubt that work is a deeply important part of life and Blustein (2006) has achieved notoriety in relation to the psychological aspects of it. So, what limitations did Blustein detect in previous approaches to the study of work and career, and what new perspectives did he shine? Intent Noting that "Most American adults spend a third to a half of their waking hours at work (p. ix)" the foreword to Blustein (2006)—and we can assume its author speaks for Blustein—aims to elevate work to the position of primary factor in the well-being of people. This is because "Ours is a consumer society, and that fact has distorted our perception of work to an extraordinary degree. We measure our success as a society in terms of what we consume, and we give surprisingly little attention to how what we consume was produced (Blustein, 2006, pp. ix–x)". Subsequently, Blustein (2006) both confirms and amplifies this statement of intent in his preface: I seek to place working [emphasis in original] at the same level of attention for social and behavioral scientists as other major life concerns, like intimate relationships, physical and mental health, and socioeconomic inequities. I also seek to provide … an expanded conceptual framework within which to think about working in human development and human experience. Furthermore, I seek to construct a coherent metaperspective about working that will enrich the discourse across the broad spectrum of psychology's concerns and agendas. (p. xii–xiii) Limitations of Previous Psychology-of-Working Perspectives Psychologists have not neglected the study of work and working, Blustein recognizes; but, pace the pioneering work of such as Marx, Heidegger, and Gini and Sullivan, Blustein (2006) wishes to confront such mindsets as O'Brien's (1986), which well into the 20th century defined work as "the expenditure of effort in the performance of a task (p. 1)". To begin, Blustein (2006) articulates his critique of historical studies of the psychological experience of working (and the poverty of related models) with reference to pre-industrial and industrial trends. The range of the first period is too broad to condense, but the gist of it is that the development of agriculture fixed people in man-made environments, an outcome of which being the increasingly hierarchical nature of increasingly undesirable work, with paroxysms of fatigue and suffering later being endured, in the United States, by sweatshop workers of the urban centers and sharecroppers in the southern part of the country. Next, the Industrial Revolution shook the entire structure of working with the pressganging of workers into factories.


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As industrialization became more pervasive, the number and diversity of occupational categories grew. The vocational guidance movement emerged to make sense of working, but "the major focus of attention was on helping individuals to find the best match between their interests and abilities and the requirements of a given position or job (Blustein, 2006, pp. 10– 11)". Thus, vocational counselors and applied psychologists did little more than assume a fixed environment and (endeavor to) help individuals fit within it. Blustein (2006), it seems, finds the first glimmers of hope in the work of Super (1957), who made substantial contributions to psychology and working by introducing the notion of selfconcept, by which he implied that ideas of the self—constructed from the beliefs one holds about oneself and the responses of others—change over time and develop as a result of experience; consequently, career development must be lifelong. Not surprisingly, self-concept is integral to Super's (1957) definition of career development as "a lifelong, continuous process of developing and implementing a self-concept, testing it against reality, with satisfaction to self and benefit to society" (p. 282). Life span and life space, it follows, are thus also integral to Super's compelling and creative inputs, which "embedded the role of work into a more coherent and expansive set of assumptions about human development (Blustein, 2006, p. 11)".1 Much as vocational psychology (slowly) did, Blustein (2006) sees that industrial/organizational psychology "made significant and long-standing contributions to the lives of many workers and to the productivity of many corporations (p. 15)" (even if he refers the reader to other authors for examples and does not make enough of its close linkages with the corporate world, from which a Marxist critique—for instance—could be sprung). But, Blustein's criticism of Super's accent on career—not work—extends there too: paraphrasing, much of industrial/organizational psychology has (with implications for social justice) ignored the experiences of the working class and poor individuals, as well as persons of color, and has therefore underrepresented the vast diversity of work roles in contemporary society. Industrial/organizational psychology, both in theory and in practice, is guilty of segregating work and nonwork roles, the lines between continue to fade. Occupational health psychology is spared this criticism because of the work/home interface, which in Blustein's opinion bodes well for an inclusive of psychology of working (2006, p. 17). Notwithstanding the limitations of earlier approaches to the study of work and career, Blustein makes out four important perspectives of the psychological attributes of working, viz., psychological perspectives, self-concept perspectives, contextual perspectives, and integrative perspectives. Freud and Axelrod are singled out for, respectively, first placing the psychology of work into a psychological framework (albeit from a rigid drive theory perspective) and positing that the fructification of talents and skills at work can be a source of pleasure and self-esteem. Super (1957), mentioned earlier, is credited with advancing the self-concept perspective, the ambition of which is ideal manifestation of intrinsic interests, talents, and values in the world of work. Marx is deemed the original contributor of contextual views, but with near-exclusive focus on the resultant alienation among workers performing routine functions in rote fashion (even though Marx entertained the thought that work might in its purest form potentially connect 1

An aside is warranted: Blustein (2006) argues that by emphasizing career as "a sequence of positions held during the course of a lifetime (Super, 1980)", "Super (1957) inadvertently placed the notion of work in the context of relatively well-educated and often affluent people within Western countries (Blustein, 2006, p. 12)". Given's Super's influence, Blustein reckons that focusing on careers—not work—has encouraged concern for the work lives of people of status and achievement.


3 people with nature). Integrative perspectives are ascribed largely to Neff (1985) and his Maslovian, some would say, discussion of material needs, self-esteem, activity, respect by others, and need for creativity. Blustein's Psychology of Working Building on psychological, self-concept, contextual, and integrative perspectives, Blustein (2006) theorizes an inclusive,2 comprehensive, humanistic, and serviceable taxonomy of three core functions that working can hypothetically fulfill: (i) working as a means for survival and power—"The first function of work is the role that work plays in providing people with a means of accessing survival and power (Blustein, 2006, p. 22)"; (ii) working as a means of social connection—"The second major function of work is the way in which working connects people to their social context and to interpersonal relationships (Blustein, 2006, p. 22)"; and (iii) working as a means of self-determination—"The third major function of work … is the potential offered by work in fostering self-determination (Blustein, 2006, p. 22)". And so, to all intents and purposes, Blustein, 2006 means to depart from vocational psychology and industrial/organizational psychology with inputs from other social science disciplines and theoretical paradigms and perspectives:3 this is because "We … developed our previous psychologies of work from vastly different social conditions, at a time when the need s of society were very much rooted in an industrial ear that fostered a great deal of regularity and constancy in work loves (Blustein, 2006, p. 25)"; because ''much of the literature that has been developed [around these psychologies] has not relied upon the inner lives of individuals who are coping with their work lives (Blustein, 2006, p. 225)"; and because, with a new trajectory, "a psychology of working [must] place work at the central place that it ought to occupy in contemporary psychological discourse (Blustein, 2006, p. 25). References Blustein, D. (2006). The psychology of working: A new perspective for career development, counseling, and public policy. New York, NY: Routledge. Blustein, D. (2013). The psychology of working: A new perspective for a new era. In D. Blustein (Ed.), Oxford handbooks online. Retrieved from http://www.oxfordhandbooks.com/view/10.1093/oxfordhb/9780199758791.001.0001/oxfo rdhb-9780199758791-e-001 Neff, W. (1985). Work and human behavior (3rd Ed.). New York: Aldine Publishing Company. O'Brien, G. (1986). Psychology of work and employment. New York: Wiley. Super, D. (1957). The psychology of careers. New York: Harper & Row. Super, D. (1980). A life-span, life-space, approach to career development. Journal of Vocational Behavior (13), 282–298.

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Inclusiveness means giving voice to the modal worker across the globe; accepting that there is work outside the labor market; paying attention to the psychology of working for nonworkers (e.g., adults in training programs, students, young people); and promoting intellectual diversity in research and development (Blustein, 2006, p. 303–305). 3 Blustein (2013) underscores that "Diverse epistemologies, including logical positivism, postpositivism, as well as social constructionism, are viable strategies to use in understanding the nature of working (p. 6)" and chooses not to reify one vantage point over another.

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Blustein's Psychology of Working: A Very Short Introduction  

This précis introduces Blustein (2006) and its new perspective for career development, counseling, and public policy. The précis signifies i...

Blustein's Psychology of Working: A Very Short Introduction  

This précis introduces Blustein (2006) and its new perspective for career development, counseling, and public policy. The précis signifies i...

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