Essay on Invisible Connotations and Legitimacy Formation

Published: 2021/11/24
Number of words: 2816

Introduction: Work beyond its boundaries

A sociological pedagogy of the various functional and constitutional embodiments of work has extensively examined the latter to be an assimilation of processes vectored in a particular direction and meant for a particular purpose. That is to say that irrespective of its manifestations, work in itself has been thoroughly identified in most cases as a figuration representative of some form of engagement, endorsed and institutionalized through a particular activity(s), in the prospect of achieving a pre-determined objective. This however, only elementarily captures the essence and operation of work, since the deeper structures of it are not without the aspects of power, hierarchy, subordination and the likes of the same which in certain cases are translated as the composition of its social fabric. In this discussion, although work would be considered in its most elementary form by making reference to the conceptual understanding as highlighted above, the interests of it do not lie in re-examining the same across another novel alignment that which has not been hitherto considered or explored. In understanding work as something which is social, not just in terms of its characteristic orientation or constructive articulation, there is an inherent necessity to move ahead from the indubitability of asserting the ontologies that make it ‘not economical’, and it is the primary concern of this discussion to make effective strides to that extent in so far as to create an understanding of work in terms of some of its own constituents which do not have a definite or apparent locus.

While it could be hence concluded that this particular discussion intends to develop a sociological understanding of work that is derived from its substantiations which are embedded away from any manner of social visibility (in the sense that their foundational and operational complexes are not implicated across any kind of social structure or institution in such a way that they are strikingly observable), it should also be noted that a significant concern of this paper is to put forward a trajectory of the unfolding of work as a social element across certain specific entailments of its embedded social character, through which this discussion expects to formulate the symbolic articulations of work not precluding the likes of ‘occupations’ and ‘professions’ as to being vested in the proposed trajectory, in such a manner that as the idea about work as a social element unfolds in terms of its deeper connotations with ‘occupation’ (as a systematically explicable arrangement of work) as a congruent entity of the same, attached intrinsically to the contextuality of such a trajectory. The subject matter of this research therefore wishes to foray into aspects that have not extensively featured in sociological paradigms, and at the base of its construction desires to consider the implicitness of legitimacy and its contextual underpinnings in the substantiation of work through its embedded entailments in order to provide a new perspective on its social order and character. A question that could be posed at this stage is the relatability of legitimacy and its functional importance in the disposition that the paper seeks to establish. While that might be a justified enquiry in this regard it is only suffice to say that in considering the entire embodiment of work as a strictly social arrangement, the undertaking of legitimacy is only too crucial. Since the elementary definition of work that has been conceived for the purpose of this research includes only three distinct aspects, all of which have relational and positional ties with each other, an expression of commonality that binds them on a continuum of enforcement (both as a concept as well as a positivist enterprise) argumentatively necessitates a focus on what induces and ensures their respective functional commitments so that ‘work’ in effect is realized. To examine such a situation and develop an understanding about the same it is therefore necessary to be concerned with the discourse of legitimacy, not in the capacity of the concept as being a jurisdictional apparatus which enumerates the distinction between right and wrong or for that matter that which is justified and that which is not, but in the instrumental capacity of the concept that illustrates a shared subjectivity between the work in and for itself and the individual undertaking the same. The rationale therefore in perceiving legitimacy is to showcase the procedure by which occupation as a conceptual attachment evolves into its orientation as and when work is socially absorbed and put into perspective.

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Understanding work: An assessment of Michels, Piketty and Mackenzie

Roberto Michels in his classical analytical piece on the nature and substance of oligarchy in political parties highlights significantly the arrangement and order of legitimacy in the social systems of such kind of organizations where according to him, even in the most democratic setup, the element of work, is legitimized ‘in the absence of any manner of incentive and through an overwhelming deliberation of bureaucratic constellations’ (Michels, 1911). While Michels argument mostly rests on the transformation of such ‘bureaucratic constellations’, if carefully considered he argues to a considerable extent on how the microcosmic aspects of compulsion that are instigated through the inherent complexity of the organization, aids in the conformity of the ‘bureaucratic constellations to an oligarchical setup, in so far to emanate a culture of systematic adherence and reverence from all manners of individuals who are occupationally associated with the organization of politics. For Michels and his empirical consideration it should be carefully noted that the unfolding of the poetics of work, within the spatial dimensions of a political party can only be seen in an occupational color without having any as such materialistic compensatory expectation. This is to denote that in such a case where the legitimization of work is fundamentally garnered through the specifics of compulsion that is embedded in the complex social system of the organization through the elucidation of bureaucratic overwhelmingness, work can be understood not only to be strictly a product of such compulsions and conformities but a complicated discourse arising out of the cleavage between the adopting of voluntary participation on one hand, and the obligatory indices on another, signifying the transformation of individual contributions towards the sustainment of such an organization into an occupational form, traversing through the embeddedness of rigidity of complexity and the elaborative lexicons of compulsion and conformity. Thus, in understanding work on a social sense, Michels theoretical-empirical bindings provide a completely different angle, especially by highlighting the fact how work in the process of achieving its social sense, is contended through the prism of compulsion and conformity, especially with regards to an organization that according to him ‘has prima-facie no actual incentive value that can be kept in mind at the moment of participation’.

While Michels work underlines the importance of compulsion and conformity as being important aspects in the identification of work as a social element and generating the narrative of occupation to be tied with an obligatory responsibility that is curated through bureaucratic overwhelmingness, Thomas Piketty in understanding of the dimensions of inequality that have plagued Europe and the United States since the eighteenth century brings forward an analytical perspective concerning work with regards to a social sense of time. While it might appear to be unmeaningful and unnecessary in considering Piketty’s contribution towards the present discussion, it is important to consider that as much as ‘time’ is an illustration of the difference between the static and the dynamic, it is also an apparatus of social adjustments that have implications of their own. That is to say that although in the course of physical sciences where time acts as a medium of distribution of alignments into various segments, mapping the stream of any particular item or element at the instances and levels of quantitative exactness, social expressions of time, according to Piketty are ‘encapsulated in formations of different dimensions of inequality by virtue of the capitalist mode of production in the twenty first century’. Piketty’s argument, as it might be understood, solely rests on how the mode of production is guided into a league of prospective excess, especially with an instrumental use of time, since according to him the same can be ‘used as means of eroding the substance of work as to being only an ensemble of activities that are required to perpetuate and grow at a greater level at each successive stage’. Through his research, especially in terms of its historicity, Piketty demonstrates that it is the nuances of time that articulate a sense of boundary in the limitless disposition of production, and such nuances, through their concerted efforts legitimize work as to being a wholly intrinsic process of the corruptibility of production. Therefore, for Piketty, work is not simply an engagement that is instituted through an activity for a particular purpose but it is mostly an instantaneous output of the corollaries of restriction brought about by time in its social sense that enforces collective histories of de-limitation of the advances of production in a manner where time itself is bounded in certain spatial alliances but at the same moment creates a sense of necessity for occurrences to be chalked and performed in accordance with preset deliberations, so that the ultimate aim of maximization on all accounts is completely optimized and the histories of actionable work, can attain a reiterative form. It might be then argued that such a trajectory, although very implicit paves the way for understanding occupation on a broader note, especially as a component of the delimitation process of the mode of production that is engendered through the social constructions of time, reflected through and represented by the spatial adjustments brought about by the social sense of time in the embodiment of work on an overall basis.

It is inherent of both Piketty’s and Michel’s theoretical construct that both of them do not necessarily look at work from the perspective of an organizational basis or for that matter as an embodiment of homogenously coordinated activity. In fact, the reason as to why these particular sections from their texts have been deliberated upon and put into a different analytical schema is because the disposition of both the authors towards work although are not fundamentally same but minutely similar since, they both argue the conceptual underpinnings of work on a colossally broad field of the same, notwithstanding the different conclusions they arrive at. However, the most interesting commonality that they share is that both of them resort to putting forward an idea of work as not typical of being an activity or engagement but as to being a socially constructed edifice of elements which are embedded in the operational matrix of work itself (if considered as an embodiment of its own) and that too in such a manner that they are hidden from any organ of perception. To therefore further consolidate on such primarily ‘hidden arrangements’ the next of elements that is being focused on are precision and accuracy as theorized by Donald Mackenzie.

Mackenzie argues accuracy and precision as two of the major dispositions of the embeddedness of work as an embodiment, and that occupation is something that achieves its nature and character as it nurtures itself through standards of the same, as and when it journeys through the discourse of work in the procedure of some manner of articulation. Mackenzie lays most of his concentration on tracking the transformation of work into any mode of occupation as he clearly lays out the importance of precision and accuracy as being a part of the social process of such a transformation, where the former is defined to be a mechanism that corresponds to the dynamics of the societal processes of production and the latter is representative of the general and distinguished order of the former. In other words, Mackenzie’s theorization of accuracy is rooted in the understanding of the necessities brought about by the societal processes of production (where production has been used as a term to signify the creation of any and every incidence and occurrence that happens only in the social realm and the processes of the same can be depicted to include cooperation, participation and the likes of the same), whereby work does not become an activity or engagement but a substantiation of the fulfillment of the adequacies of the societal processes as discussed at a particular level and standard, not involving the mechanics of ‘something being done’ but rather as a direct dictation and decorum of accuracy and precision-those which understandably respond to the societal processes. Occupation then, in so far as to correlate with the dimension of work is the proportion of substantive fulfilments of the designated societal processes, that which runs parallel to the schema of accuracy and precision but only as a methodological and systematic decoration of work after its metamorphosis. In this regard, legitimization of work for Mackenzie is only possible through precision and accuracy in the sense of the terms as they have been explored in this case due to the fact that their functionality requires them to demystify and absorb the sensibilities and subtleties of the social process of production, which in turn only makes scope for work to be ascertained by those who perform it as something having an inexplicable connection in terms of being and identity.

In whereas in the undertaking of this discussion there was an explicit objective to arrive at the disposition of the social character of work and the evolution of occupation as a part of its enclosed trajectories, the question of research would only be partially addressed if the inadequacies within the theorizations themselves are not laid out. In their analyses Michels, Piketty and Mackenzie seem to have understood work in its existence as a macrocosmic formulation arising out of multiple microcosmic establishments and while each one of them have argued to the extent of highlighting the process of legitimization of work in regard to the same being defined not simply on elementary terms, the ubiquity of considering legitimacy as being the ultimate arrangement about work which has a sense of achievability about it could be inimical to an enhanced progression of the considerations themselves. In an aggregated form, the extent of finality that is thought of in the conscience of legitimization of work as being a part of a novel articulation with regards to occupation, precludes the sense of power that the embeddedness of these elements is provided with by means of their conditionality of being explicitly invisible. In ignoring the question of how the social construction of work via such elements can also be an interplay of the alterations of power of such microcosmic enumerations, all the three theoretical positions therefore pose a salient inadequacy.

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However, no matter to what extent such inadequacies might erupt out of the subject matter of their respective analytical observations, what cannot go amiss is a completely different dimension and perspective on work, isolated from its ancillaries, juxtaposed to its integrational inducement through incentives, translated in terms of intrinsically exasperating elements. That work is social because of its inherent tendencies that are socially processed, articulated and expressed and that the legitimacy of it is not simply a matter of generating commitment through prospective avenues but a product of the complexities of certain elements that have the ability to nurture a sense of affiliation-leads to the creation of the understanding of work and occupation to be completely related but evolving out of their own compartments, primarily through trajectories that are laden with alternating structures and intercourses of dispensations of power and finally as a contextually aligned mechanism of signifying societal requisites and functionalities.


The understanding of work as completely social aspect in terms of that fact that it is sans-economical does not fully put forward a conceptual clarity about it. At the same time in elementarily considering work to be an engagement that is instituted for some form of activity due to predetermined purpose, often the deeper connotations of it go amiss and are therefore excluded from any analytical understanding. In therefore consulting the theorizations of Michels, Piketty and Mackenzie in order to develop a more refined understanding of the rudimentary premise of work and the expressional unfolding of occupation as an embodiment of its own, not only are both of the concepts unearthed in accordance to the substance of their embeddedness but also the configuration of both are realigned to novel elucidations, signifying the importance of aspects like compulsion, time and precision and accuracy as being integral part of the discourses related to it.


Piketty, T., & Goldhammer, A. (2014). Capital in the Twenty-First Century. Harvard University Press.

Mackenzie, D.A. (2010). Inventing Accuracy: A Historical Sociology of Nuclear Missile Guidance. MIT Press.

Michels, R. (1911). A Sociological Analysis of Oligarchical tendencies of Modern Democracy. Werner Klinkhardt

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