Work and Identity in Huws’s “Fixed and Footloose”

In her article Fixed and Footloose Ursula Huws focuses on the changing nature of work in the twenty-first century and the influence of these changes on people’s identities and their interactions with one another. On the whole, the author gives a very disturbing description of future because it is the world that is dominated by insecurity and lack of social cohesion. The ideas expressed by Ursula Huws are disputable, but they are thought-provoking.

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Thus, it is necessary the extent to which the writer’s opinions can be justified. On the whole, Ursula Huws is right in pointing out that the work conditions will become competitive, but this competitiveness has already become a part of modern life. Many people have already accustomed to it, and for them it is no longer associated with insecurity. Furthermore, one cannot say that the life in the twenty-first century will be deprived of cohesion and compassion. These are the main ideas that have to be discussed.

One of the key issues discussed by Huws is that a growing number of jobs have become “footloose” (Huws unpaged). In other words, they are moved or outsourced to the countries in which they can be done at a lesser price. Moreover, such relocations have become a continuous process. Thus, the economic life of many cities can be undermined, and the residents of these cities can feel increasingly anxious because they cannot always secure their employment. Furthermore, a great number of “fixed jobs” are done by “the most footloose people” (Huws unpaged). This means that a growing number of workers who were not born in a certain city or country. As a rule, they have a different linguistic and cultural background.

In Ursula Huws’ views, under such circumstances, people are not likely to support one another, because they will have different values and goals. Thus, one of the possible outcomes is lack of social cohesion in communities. On the whole, in her article Ursula Huws gives a very alarming portrayal of the future world. To some degree, this will be the world in which people will no longer feel unanimous or at least attached to one another.

The author believes that this trend can lead to the decline of many cities because they can be transformed either in rust belts or large service centers (Huws unpaged). Therefore, such cities are very likely to decline in the future, at least from an economic point of view. Overall, it is possible to dispute some ideas expressed by the author. First of all, the use of new technologies and even outsourcing do not always lead to the destruction of urban landscape. For example, the development of information technologies gave jobs to many people who work in such industry as consumer electronics.

Furthermore, those people, who come to advanced countries, should not be regarded as “footloose”. They are also interested in the welfare of the community because their own prosperity depends upon it. This is one of the reasons why the ideas of Ursula Huws seem to be unsubstantiated. Moreover, her views seem to be slightly biased because she regards immigrant workers as people who are completely alien to local culture.

Ursula Huws also points out that the very work boundaries may soon disappear. The thing is that a person will always have to acquire new skills and knowledge. Moreover, his or her work roles will be continuously shifting. The requirements that workers will have to meet will be changing and it is quite possible that many people will not be able to cope with them. Some of people will be unable to identify themselves with a certain occupation. Ursula Huws says that a person will be “always only as good as last week’s performance” (Huws unpaged).

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Thus, one can assume that the value of human individuality will decline, because a person, who has to work under such pressure, is less likely to think about the problems of other workers. This is the scenario that the author presents. However, it seems that Huws’ concerns are slightly exaggerated. First of all, learning is an attribute of every skilled professional. For instance, engineers have to learn more about new technologies and their use. Without acquiring new skills, an individual can hardly remain active in the workforce. Secondly, every person has to accept the idea that workplace is competitive.

One should be ready for this competiveness and it should not be viewed as a surprise. Finally, performance assessment is the only way in which one can evaluate the role of a person in the workplace. Certainly, the methods of performance assessment are far from perfect, but there is nothing dehumanizing in them. This is one of the way in one can critique the arguments of Ursula Huws. Admittedly, Ursula Huws suggests that increased competiveness in the workplace can be dehumanizing, because individuals will no longer be obliged to care about the needs of co-workers. Such a risk can exist, but such behavior is not typical of every individual, and it is not a common trend. Therefore, competiveness does not necessarily results into inhumanness.

The author believes that the identity of an individual is often defined by his or her occupation. In fact, occupation gives a person a place or status within the society (Huws, unpaged). In the author’s view, a person, who always has to meet different requirements, is less likely to feel a part of the community. This premise can be challenged. First, people usually have multiple identifies that can be defined by language, ethnicity, religion, or citizenship.

Thus, a person may steel feel attachment to the community. Secondly, one cannot assume that every occupational boundary will be erased. For instance, the work of teachers, engineers, or medical professionals may change in some way, but they will still identify themselves with a particular occupation. Admittedly, a growing number of people prefer to work online, and some of them do not feel attached to a particular group or organization, not every occupation can be transferred to the virtual space. Therefore, one cannot say that traditional workplace and its values will disappear entirely. This is one of the considerations that people should consider.

On the whole, the work environment in the twenty-first century will certainly change, and some of these changes are noticeable even nowadays. As it has been noted by Ursula Huws work may no longer be tied to a particular location. It is also possible that there will be no rigid work boundaries. However, one should not assume that such an environment will be full of anxiety and instability. It seems that people, who pursue life-long learning and try to develop their skills, can achieve success even under such circumstances.

Works Cited

Huws, Ursula. “Fixed and Footloose: Work and Identity in the twenty-first century.” Monthly Review, 2006. Web.

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StudyCorgi. 2020. "Work and Identity in Huws's “Fixed and Footloose”." October 28, 2020.


StudyCorgi. (2020) 'Work and Identity in Huws's “Fixed and Footloose”'. 28 October.

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