content of work, whereas economics, industrial relations, and organizational studies concentrate on its context. Sociologists tend to conduct studies in both areas.
Anthropologists (and ethnographically oriented sociologists) are primarily concerned with describing the practices associated with specific types of work and the meaning that those practices have for the individuals who perform them. Most anthropologists argue that work and its meaning are culturally and socially constituted and, for this reason, are likely to vary across contexts. Ergonomists share with anthropologists an overriding concern for the specifics of work practice, but ignore meaning and study instead the physical and cognitive interactions that occur between humans and machines. For anthropologists, work is a social and interpretive activity; for ergonomists, it is a biophysical or an information-processing activity. Industrial and organizational psychologists also study individuals and the jobs they perform. However, unlike either anthropologists or ergonomists, they are relatively unconcerned with the unique aspects of machines or tasks and instead seek to identify and measure individual abilities and task requirements using constructs that generalize across situations. More than those in any other discipline, industrial and organizational psychologists have developed extensive and rigorous methodologies for analyzing jobs for purposes of specifying the skill, knowledge, and ability requirements associated with selection, performance management, and training program development.
The most relevant features of work for an economist are the wages that employers pay, the hours that workers spend, the skills workers bring to the workplace, and the incentives created by employers. Broadly speaking, issues pertaining to work, such as changes in skill requirements, the conditions of work, and the organization of the workplace, can be treated in terms of their implications for wages, skill levels, and the structure of incentives. For instance, if the changing nature of work demands a more skilled workforce, then those who have more skill should garner more pay and returns to skill should increase over time, as workers respond by acquiring more skills. By imposing a market framework on work and work structures, economics provides both a starting point for the analysis of work and an important