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Title: Age at work : the discursive construction of age and the older worker
Author: Whiting, Catherine Rebecca
Awarding Body: Birkbeck (University of London)
Current Institution: Birkbeck (University of London)
Date of Award: 2012
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This research uses discourse analysis to explore constructions of age and the older worker in job search websites. These were identified on a Government website, Age Positive, a central location of age policy. The seemingly objective and factual nature of age and the older worker is ideal for sceptical examination of taken-for-granted knowledge. The de-stabilization of chronology, with age an aspect of equality, makes these relevant topics for investigation. The discourse analytic methodology is located ontologically and epistemologically within theories of social constructionism and discourse, and examines age and the older worker not as essentialist research categories but as díscursively constructed phenomena. ln the context of job search, age (positioned as older age) is constructed as risk and organiser of work; as negative ontology; as difference; as enterprise; and as commodíty. Older workers are constructed as Dinosaurs, Wise Owls and Wrinklies; as having special needs; as different; a safe pair of hands and a good match for marginal and flexible work. The older worker as victim and 'has been' is back-grounded. A minority are 'successful'. Discursive struggle is examined as job search websites seek to accommodate a business rationale that promotes older workers and a legal requirement not to discriminate against younger candidates. The constructions do little to challenge prevailing age norms and organizational structures that marginalise and constrain employment opportunities for older workers. Responding to the under-theorisation of age in organizations (Riach, 2011; Trethewey, 2001), this thesis posits that organizations are 'aged' through discourse, similar to being 'gendered' (Acker, 1990) and 'raced' (Ashcraft & Allen, 2003). This allows examination of the 'aged' claims to nature of organizations, making visible the hidden structures that are not age-neutral but described and conceived in terms of a discourse of older age as decline and of hegemonically defined differences between young and old.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available