Dr. David Carlone
Associate Professor of Communication Studies
Consumption and Identity at Work by Paul du Gay
This book, Consumption and Identity at Work, arrived at a perfect time in my education. When the book was published in 1996, I had just moved from North Carolina to Colorado to begin work on my doctorate in organizational communication at the University of Colorado, Boulder. While working on my master’s in communication studies at UNC Chapel Hill, I had discovered cultural studies and critical social and cultural theory.
Before my master’s course work I had never heard of people like Stuart Hall, Angela McRobbie, or Raymond Williams, nor of ideas like hegemony, discourse, and power. These scholars and their ideas captivated me, and thoroughly re-oriented my intellectual interests.
However, I still remained drawn to organizational communication and its focus on the process of work and organizing. So, I wondered how I might combine organizational communication and cultural studies. Though both areas of scholarship were important to the discipline of communication, they did not often intersect one another.
Paul du Gay offered me a compelling vision. Du Gay, then and now, thinks of work, organizing, and management not as narrow pursuits, but as cultural endeavors with profound effects in and out of the workplace.
In this particular book he combines communication studies, sociology, cultural studies, and management theory to focus on the effects of popular management theory and practice on personal identity and social relations. As we change and redefine work, he argues, so, too, do we change and redefine crucial aspects of who we are and how we conceive of others and our world. In essence, du Gay argues that cultural theory, those ideas I had only just discovered, provides the best tools for understanding the implications of the changing world of work.
Du Gay’s book provided—and still provides—an important model for me. Topically, theoretically, and methodologically, this book continues to give answers and spark new questions.