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any activity engaged in for wages or salary In sociology, there has always been a healthy scepticism about the simple equating of paid employment with work, yet in the wider society the prevailing meaning of the word is just that – so, ‘an active woman, running a house and bringing up children, is distinguished from a woman who works: that is to say, takes paid employment’ (R. Williams, 1976).

Sociologists have long been aware that WAGE LABOUR, to give its technical name, is only a particular form of work, gaining its centrality and definition from the specific set of productive relations which occurs within capitalist, market-exchange economies. Work, in such societies, is identified with employment, which involves ‘the sale and purchase of labour power as a commodity in a market, resulting in the direction of activity during “working hours” by persons who have acquired the right to do so by virtue of the labour contract’ (Purcell, 1986). See also PRODUCTIVE AND UNPRODUCTIVE LABOUR, LABOUR THEORY OF VALUE, SOCIOLOGY OF WORK, PRIVATE AND PUBLIC SPHERES, DOMESTIC LABOUR.

Collins Dictionary of Sociology, 3rd ed. © HarperCollins Publishers 2000
References in classic literature ?
They were thoroughly organized and well armed, and they were held in readiness to be hurled in special trains to any part of the country where labor went on strike or was locked out by the employers. Only those curious times could have given rise to the amazing spectacle of one, Farley, a notorious commander of strike- breakers, who, in 1906, swept across the United States in special trains from New York to San Francisco with an army of twenty-five hundred men, fully armed and equipped, to break a strike of the San Francisco street-car men.
He was your creature--or the creature of all the trusts and employers' associations, which is the same thing.
His employers (acting under a sense of their obligation to the gentleman by whom Frank had been recommended) had considered the question carefully, and had decided that the one promising use to which they could put Mr.
By this time I had been encouraged to such faith in myself in the matter of girls that I was quite certain I would marry my employer's daughter.
I had accepted the position as part of my calling in life; I had trained myself to leave all the sympathies natural to my age in my employer's outer hall, as coolly as I left my umbrella there before I went upstairs.
During that period,--being much trusted and favored by his employer,--he had free liberty to come and go at discretion.
He had now cast from him the last vestige of his loyalty for his employer, and thus freed had determined to use every means within his power to win Professor Maxon's daughter, and with her the heritage of wealth which he knew would be hers should her father, through some unforeseen mishap, meet death before he could return to civilization and alter his will, a contingency which von Horn knew he might have to consider should he marry the girl against her father's wishes, and thus thwart the crazed man's mad, but no less dear project.
He ventured most respectfully to break in upon the reflections of his employer.
Micawber, bursting into a state of much excitement, and turning pale, 'if you ask after my employer as your friend, I am sorry for it; if you ask after him as MY friend, I sardonically smile at it.
At the appointed hour the prince, powdered and shaven, entered the dining room where his daughter-in-law, Princess Mary, and Mademoiselle Bourienne were already awaiting him together with his architect, who by a strange caprice of his employer's was admitted to table though the position of that insignificant individual was such as could certainly not have caused him to expect that honor.
Early in the new week, Emily had accepted Sir Jervis's proposal, and had so interested the bookseller to whom she had been directed to apply, that he took it on himself to modify the arbitrary instructions of his employer.
Nor would her employer consent to let her work by the piece, at which the dear child might have earned at least thirty sous, for she discovered that she had to deal with a person of conscience, and that in no mode could as much be possibly extracted from the assistant, as by confiding to her own honor.

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