The introduction sets forth the key questions this book will address concerning the causes and effects of different job-search strategies and unemployment experiences. It begins with a brief review of the recent rise of white-collar job insecurity in the U.S. Despite striking similarities in the objective conditions of white-collar unemployment in Israel, American and Israeli job search strategies and subjective unemployment experiences are very different. To make sense of these variations a new theoretical framework is developed. Existing theories tend to focus on universal and generic features of unemployment that cannot explain variations, or on cultural arguments, which are challenged by findings that national cultures are not coherent systems but complex and contradictory. An institutional approach to understanding variations in the experience of unemployment is introduced which links labor market institutions to the daily practices of job searching, and in turn, these daily practices to subjective responses. Discussing and drawing on several theories—including Bourdieu’s symbolic violence, Burawoy’s social games, and Hochschild’s emotional labor—the framework developed in this chapter examines how different institutional structures generate different unemployment experiences.
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