tail is quite small, and the number who concern themselves with how work practices are changing is even smaller. Most contemporary sociologists of work have focused on field studies of professional and blue-collar occupations and, as a result, there have been relatively few studies of the most rapidly growing occupational sectors—managers, salespeople, engineers, technicians, and service workers.
Among anthropologists there has been a long-standing taboo against studying work in industrial societies, especially the work of people who are not somehow underprivileged. Hence, anthropological studies of work are even rarer than sociological studies. Finally, despite the fact that industrial psychologists and ergonomists routinely study the details of work, their research often concerns specific skills and abilities at the individual level of analysis and focuses on purposive measurement for such applications as the design of workplaces, employee selection systems, training programs, and appraisal and compensation systems, rather than on attempts to characterize shifts in the nature of work more broadly. As a result, data on work in postindustrial settings are largely, though not exclusively, anecdotal.
The most significant roadblock to assessing whether and to what extent the nature of work is changing arises, however, from the fact that existing systems of occupational analysis and classification are outdated. Occupational analysis refers to the procedures that analysts (usually industrial psychologists) use to characterize the attributes of a specific job and the knowledge, skills, and abilities that are required to perform the job. Occupational classification systems are taxonomies for naming and grouping occupations into ever larger subsets (see Box 1.1 for definitions).
All systems of occupational classification and analysis reflect the historical and cultural milieu in which they were devised. Conk (1978), for example, has shown that, from 1870 to 1940, the Bureau of the Census specifically designed its system of occupational categories to chart the rise of industrialism and its associated problems, especially the effects of immigration on urban demography and the social structure. To the degree that occupational classifications reflect the social and cultural conditions of an era, the conceptions of work they encode will inevitably be-