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The Laws of CoolKnowledge Work and the Culture of Information$
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Alan Liu

Print publication date: 2004

Print ISBN-13: 9780226486987

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: February 2013

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226487007.001.0001

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The Idea of Knowledge Work

The Idea of Knowledge Work

(p.23) Chapter 1 The Idea of Knowledge Work
The Laws of Cool

Alan Liu

University of Chicago Press

To understand knowledge work from the perspective of the humanities, this chapter reviews three explanations of the concept that arose independently and largely in ignorance of each other: subject work, New Class work, and teamwork. The first two are academic approaches characteristic of the humanities in their now prevailing cultural critical personality. The third is the neo-corporate business thesis that seems destined to buy out the others. Where there was “identity group” and “cultural class,” there will now be only that elementary unit of corporate knowledge work, the team. Since about 1980, the dominant, if unwitting, explanation of knowledge work in the humanities, especially in literature departments, has been the cultural criticism of identity and subject. Knowledge work was a subject or identity work as vast as all culture. New Class work also arose in the academy, but from the direction of sociology rather than literary cultural studies. This chapter analyzes the general sociology of culture-based class distinctions proposed by Pierre Bourdieu as well as the more specific sociology of the New Class.

Keywords:   knowledge work, humanities, subject work, teamwork, New Class work, cultural class, identity group, cultural criticism, sociology, Pierre Bourdieu

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