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employmentany 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.