We live in a tumbleweed society, where job insecurity is rampant and widely seen as inevitable. Companies are transforming the way they organize work. While new working conditions offer gains for some workers, others lose out. Home life offers little respite: while diverse types of families are more accepted than ever before, stability is increasingly lacking in our intimate lives.
In The Tumbleweed Society, sociologist Allison Pugh examines the ways we navigate questions of commitment and flexibility at work and at home in a society where insecurity has become the norm. Drawing on 80 in-depth interviews with three groups of parents who vary in their experiences of job insecurity and family structure, Pugh explores how people are adapting to the new culture of insecurity and how these adaptations themselves affect what we can expect from each other.
Faced with perpetual insecurity both at work and at home, people construct stronger walls between the two, expecting little or nothing from their jobs and placing nearly all of their expectations for fulfilling connections on their intimate relationships. This trend, Pugh argues, often has the effect of making intimate lives even more fraught, reproducing the very tumbleweed dynamics they seek to check. Pugh shows that our experiences of insecurity shape the way we talk about obligations, how we interpret them as commitments we will or will not shoulder, how we conceive of what we owe each other—indeed, how we are able to weave the fabric of our connected lives.