On leaving work as a calling: retirement as an existential imperative

Main Article Content

Mattias Bengtsson
Marita Flisbäck

Abstract

In this article, we argue that we will reach a deepened understanding of what the retirement process means for individuals if existential meaning is the centre of attention. The data consist of qualitative interviews conducted in Sweden. A selected type of employee - whose work we define as a ‘‘calling’’ is examined to analyse the existential meaning of work and how it is formed and challenged in relation to the retirement process. Before their retirement, the interviewees had developed three main strategies for handling the process of de-calling: developing a ‘‘calling on standby,’’ - exploring self-improvement activities and listening to callings from other social spheres. After their retirement, three main strategies arose for dealing with being de-called: conserving the calling, learning to become a self-oriented subject and redefining the calling. In the case of conserving the calling, we show how this may result in experiences of economic exploitation and existential frustration.

Metrics

Metrics Loading ...

Article Details

Section
Articles

References

Alwin, D. F. (2012). Integrating varieties of life course concepts. The  Journals of Gerontology, Series B: Psychological Sciences and Social Sciences 67(2): 206–220. DOI: 10.1093/geronb/gbr146


Andersson, L. & O ¨ berg, P. (2012). Äldre i arbetslivet – delaktiga eller marginaliserade? [Older people in working life – Involved or marginalized?]. In L. Andersson & P. Öberg (eds.), Jämlik ålderdom? I samtiden och framtiden [Equal Old Age? Current and Future Perspectives] (pp. 39–63). Malmö: Liber.


Atchley, R. C. (1976). The Sociology of Retirement. Cambridge, MA:
Schenkman.
Atchley, R. C. (1993). Critical perspectives on retirement. In T. R. Cole, W. A. Achenbaum, P. L. Jakobi & R. Kastenbaum (eds.), Voices and Visions of Aging: Toward a Critical Gerontology (pp. 3–19). New York: Springer.


Beck, U. & Beck-Gernsheim, E. (2002). Individualization: Institutionalized Individualism and Its Social and Political Consequences. London: Sage.


Bellah, R. N., Madsen, R., Sullivan, W. M., Swidler, A. & Tipton, S. M. (1985). Habits of the Heart: Individualism and Commitment in American Life. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press.


Bengtsson, M. & Flisbäck, M. (2016). När kallet ställs på sin spets. Pensionering ur ett existenssociologiskt perspektiv [When the calling is brought to a head: Retirement from an existential sociology perspective]. Sociologisk Forskning 53(2): 127–150.


Bertaux, D. (1981). Biography and Society: The Life History Approach in the Social Sciences. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press.


Biggs, S. (2014). The promise of a long life? Cultural adaptation to productive aging, spiritual empathy, and a sustainable future. Journal of Religion, Spirituality & Aging 26(2–3): 96–108. DOI: 10.1080/15528030.2013.855964


Biggs, S. (2015). Theorising ageing and the question of a long life: Eye openings. International Journal of Ageing and Later Life 10(1): 9–20. DOI: 10.3384/ijal.1652-8670.15279


Bunderson, J. S. & Thompson, J. A. (2009). The call of the wild: Zookeepers, callings, and the double-edged sword of deeply meaningful work. Administrative Science Quarterly 54: 32–57. DOI: 10.2189/asqu.2009.54.1.32


Burgess, E. (1960). Aging in western culture. In E. Burgess (ed.), Aging in Western Societies (pp. 3–28). Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.


Charmaz, K. (2014). Constructing Grounded Theory. London: Sage.


De Lange, F. (2011). Inventing yourself: How older adults deal with the pressure of late-modernity identity construction. In G. Kenyon, E. Bohlmeijer & W. L. Randall (eds.), Storying Later Life: Issues, Investigations, and Interventions in Narrative Gerontology (pp. 51–65). Oxford: Oxford University Press.


Douglas, J. D. (1977/2010). Existential sociology. In J. D. Douglas & J. M. Johnson (eds.), Existential Sociology (pp. 3–73). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.


Duffy, R. D. & Dik, B. J. (2013). Research on calling: What have we learned and where are we going? Journal of Vocational Behavior 83: 428–436. DOI: 10.1016/j.jvb.2013.06.006


Ekerdt, D. J. (1986). The busy ethic: Moral continuity between work and retirement. The Gerontologist 26(3): 239–244. DOI: 10.1093/geront/26.3.239


Ekerdt, D. J. (2001). Retirement. In G. L. Maddox (ed.), The Encyclopedia of Aging (pp. 885–890). New York: Springer.


Elder, G. H., Jr., Kirkpatrick Johnson, M. & Crosnoe, R. (2003). The emergence and development of life course theory. In J. T. Mortimer & M. J. Shanahan (eds.), Handbook of the Life Course (pp. 3–19). New York: Kluwer Academic/Plenum. DOI: 10.1007/978-0-306-48247-2_1


Elliott, P. (1972). The Sociology of Professions. London: Macmillan. Flisbäck, M. (2014). När livet går bort, när livet kommer till. Existenssociologiska betraktelser av konstnärligt arbete, familjebildning och anhörigförlust [When Life Passes Away, When Life Arises: Contemplations of Artistic Work, Family Formation and Losses of Relatives from an Existential Sociology Perspective]. Lund: Studentlitteratur. DOI: 10.1007/978-1-349-00711-0


Frankl, V. E. (1969/1988). The Will to Meaning: Foundations and Applications of Logotherapy. New York: Plume.


Giddens, A. (1991). Modernity and Self-Identity: Self and Society in the Late Modern Age. Cambridge: Polity Press.


Greiff, M. (2006). Kall eller profession? Yrkeskulturer och skapandet av manligt och kvinnligt mellan klient och arbetsköpare [Calling or profession? Professional cultures and the creation of male and female between client and employer]. In H. Petersson, V. Leppänen, S. Jönsson & J. Tranquist (eds.) Villkor i arbete med människor - en antologi om human servicearbete [Conditions in the Work with People – An Anthology on Human Service Work] (pp. 111–136). Stockholm: Arbetslivsinstitutet.


Halleröd, B., .Örestig, J. & Stattin, M. (2013). Leaving the labour market: The impact of exit routes from employment to retirement on health and wellbeing in old age. European Journal of Ageing 10(1): 25–35. DOI: 10.1007/s10433-012-0250-8


Holm, U. (2012). Att gå i pension a¨r ingen barnlek [To Retire Is Not a Simple Matter]. Stockholm: Norstedts.


Hyde, M., Ferrie, J., Higgs, P., Mein, G. & Nazroo, J. (2004). The effects of pre-retirement factors and retirement route on circumstances in retirement: Findings from the Whitehall II study. Ageing & Society 24(2): 279–296. DOI: 10.1017/S0144686X03001624


Jackson, M. (2005). Existential Anthropology. New York: Berghahn Books.


Jackson, M. (2013). Lifeworlds: Essays in Existential Anthropology. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.


Jackson, M. (2015). Existential aporias and the precariousness of being. In M. Jackson & A. Piette (eds.), What is Existential Anthropology? (pp. 155–177). New York: Berghahn Books.


Johansson, P., Laun, L. & Palme, M. (2014). Pathways to Retirement and the Role of Financial Incentives in Sweden. Working Paper 2014:20. Uppsala: IFAU. DOI: 10.3386/w20123


Jonsson, H. (2000). Evolving narratives in the course of retirement: A longitudinal study. American Journal of Occupational Therapy 54: 463–470. DOI: 10.5014/ajot.54.5.463


Kohli, M. (1986). The world we forgot: A historical review of the life course. In V. W. Marshall (ed.), Later Life: The Social Psychology of Aging (pp. 271–303). Beverly Hills, CA: Sage.


Kohli, M. (1987). Retirement and the moral economy: An historical interpretation of the German case. Journal of Aging Studies 1(2): 125–144. DOI: 10.1016/0890-4065(87)90003-X


Luborsky, M. R. (1994). The retirement process: Making the person and cultural meanings malleable. Medical Anthropology Quarterly 8(4): 411–429. DOI: 10.1525/maq.1994.8.4.02a00050


Luborsky, M. R. & LeBlanc, I. M. (2003). Cross-cultural perspectives on the concept of retirement: An analytical redefinition. Journal of Cross-Cultural Gerontology 18(4): 251–271. DOI: 10.1023/B:JCCG.0000004898.24738.7b


Muratore, A. M. & Earl, J. K. (2015). Improving retirement outcomes: The role of resources, pre-retirement planning and transition characteristics. Ageing & Society 35(10): 2100–2140. DOI: 10.1017/S0144686X14000841


Rosso, B. D., Dekas, K. H. & Wrzesniewski, A. (2010). On the meaning of work: A theoretical integration and review. Research in Organizational Behavior 30: 91–127. DOI: 10.1016/j.riob.2010.09.001


Sargent, L. D., Lee, M. D., Martin, B. & Zikic, J. (2013). Reinventing retirement: New pathways, new arrangements, new meanings. Human Relations 66(1): 3–21. DOI: 10.1177/0018726712465658


Thompson, P. (1993). ‘‘I don’t feel old’’: The significance of the search for meaning in later life. International Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry 8(8): 685–692. DOI: 10.1002/gps.930080811


Tornstam, L. (2005). Gerotranscendence: A Developmental Theory of Positive Aging. New York: Springer.


Van Solinge, H. & Henkens, K. (2008). Adjustment to and satisfaction with retirement: Two of a kind? Psychology and Aging 23(2): 422–434. DOI: 10.1037/0882-7974.23.2.422


Weber, M. (1919/1994). The profession and vocation of politics. In P. Lassman & R. Speirs (eds.), Weber: Political Writings (pp. 309–369). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.


Wrzesniewski, A., Dekas, K. & Rosso, B. (2013). Calling. In S. J. Lopez (ed.), The Encyclopedia of Positive Psychology (pp. 115–118). Malden, MA: Wiley-Blackwell.