Agency and Work: The Personification of Vocational Practice
Agency conceptualises the enactment of the self-in-action and the control and influence over activity such enactment accomplishes. At work this enactment is always a collective practice, always bound in negotiations between i) the vocational norms and expectations of a situated practice that defines specific work, ii) the colleagues, tools and systems that support that work and iii) the person of the worker who activates that work in their unique and particular ways. Drawing on research into the personal work practices of three restaurant workers (an owner, a chef and a waitress), this paper focuses on the latter of these elements of work participation to suggest that personal agency is the enactment and assertion of personal value as personal practice. Such a suggestion privileges the primacy of the person over the status of their position to advance a conception of agency as the personification of vocational practice. Conceptualising personal agency in this way enables a comprehensive account of individuals contributions to the negotiations that constitute their work and grounds those contributions in persons of purpose not simply structures or positions.
Proceedings of 7th International Conference on Researching Work and Learning (RWL7 2011)
Education not elsewhere classified