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Construction work Masculinity in the workplace

Breeze, Simon G (2009) Construction work Masculinity in the workplace. Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) thesis, University of Kent. (doi:10.22024/UniKent/01.02.94232) (KAR id:94232)


The decline of manufacturing and the increase in service sector jobs has led to an increase in ‘feminised’ service work and an attendant and notable decline in ‘traditional’ masculine labour. This shift has meant that there are now fewer work spaces in which ‘traditional’ working-class masculinities are valued, constructed and expressed. It has also been argued that due to this shift work is no longer the central source of identity and that other factors such as consumption now take precedence. As a result of the deference and ‘emotion work’ required of employees in many service sector jobs it is hypothesized that work in such areas challenges the construction and maintenance of masculine identities, and hence for men working in these sectors. This research draws on an ethnographic study and series of interviews undertaken in supermarkets where attention was focused on examining the occupational identities of men employed in this sector. It looks at the ways in which male supermarket employees construct and negotiate their masculine identities and examines how this process affects the workplace and interaction between male and female colleagues.

Furthermore, this research rejects the ‘end of work’ thesis and argues that work is still central to the formation of British masculine identities. Work tends to be an important reference point in the construction of masculinities and this research argues that this is also true where identity is constructed in opposition to work and as a rejection of the work role. This research maps this process of identity formation and boundary construction, and also captures the shifting relationship between masculinities, the work role and other roles in the private realm. It is in part an attempt to acknowledge the ‘everyday’ and at the same time to see men as more than just workers or economic actors. The research concludes that despite the changes in work and the increased flexibility possible in masculine roles; that ‘traditional’ forms of masculinity are performed and rewarded in this particular service sector. This process, while often unsubtle, is accomplished with relative ease and reinforced during interaction with management and female co-workers.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctor of Philosophy (PhD))
DOI/Identification number: 10.22024/UniKent/01.02.94232
Additional information: This thesis has been digitised by EThOS, the British Library digitisation service, for purposes of preservation and dissemination. It was uploaded to KAR on 25 April 2022 in order to hold its content and record within University of Kent systems. It is available Open Access using a Creative Commons Attribution, Non-commercial, No Derivatives ( licence so that the thesis and its author, can benefit from opportunities for increased readership and citation. This was done in line with University of Kent policies ( If you feel that your rights are compromised by open access to this thesis, or if you would like more information about its availability, please contact us at and we will seriously consider your claim under the terms of our Take-Down Policy (
Subjects: H Social Sciences > H Social Sciences (General)
Divisions: Divisions > Division for the Study of Law, Society and Social Justice > School of Social Policy, Sociology and Social Research
SWORD Depositor: SWORD Copy
Depositing User: SWORD Copy
Date Deposited: 13 Jan 2023 16:47 UTC
Last Modified: 13 Jan 2023 16:47 UTC
Resource URI: (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)

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