Freelancing expertise: contract professionals in the new economy – by Debra Osnowitz; Intern nation: how to earn nothing and learn little in the brave new economy – by Ross Perlin [book reviews]

Peter Scott

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Freelancing Expertise: Contract Professionals in the New Economy. Debra Osnowitz. Cornell University Press, 2010, x + 260pp., $69.95. Intern Nation: How to Earn Nothing and Learn Little in the Brave New Economy. Ross Perlin. Verso, 2011, xviii + 258pp., $22.95. These two studies shed considerable light on different corners of the murky, expanding world of precarious labour forms. In many respects, the subjects of these volumes sit at opposite ends of the hierarchy of contingent workers. Osnowitz gives voice to independent contractors, normally freelance through choice and replete with several years' professional and technical expertise. Perlin maps for the first time the subterranean lot of the intern: predominantly young and graduate but seeking to stand out from contemporaries' curricula vitae (CV) by accumulating entry-level work experience that is paid poorly, or not at all. Yet, parallels abound. In both cases, we inhabit a place where flexible workers attempt relentlessly to prove themselves indispensable, market themselves as commodities, exploit their connections and flaunt their willingness or experience. Intermediary organisations supplying each form of labour to firms hungry to reap the potential rewards lurk in the middle distance. The majority of evidence is drawn from the respective authors' home nation, the United States, where each of the phenomena researched has progressed furthest. Consequently, both studies note the limited legal protections afforded to these two relatively atomised sections of the flexible workforce by US labour law because neither are routinely classified as 'employees', the restricted scope for collective resistance and resultant public policy dilemmas.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)192-194
Number of pages3
JournalIndustrial Relations Journal
Volume43
Issue number2
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2012

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