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24/7 Nation: A Study of Night Labor in the United States
Unformatted Document Text:  5 social organizations (Melbin 1987: 114). The effects of night and shift work on family life have also become a major area of study in previous analysis of work schedules. For example, heterosexual couples with children where one partner works nights have divorce rates of up to six times higher than other couples (Presser 1999: 5). The main grievance felt by both workers and family members of night workers alike is the lack of synchronization in family life, especially towards everyday activities such as mealtimes and sleep. Regarding sexual intimacy, Melbin succinctly states the problem between couples: “Night is for lovers, except for shift workers” (1987: 113). Although some people prefer to be active during the nighttime, night work does have the potential to cause physiological problems, as well as damage to social relationships. To better understand the implications of these consequences, it is important to analyze the socioeconomic factors that have justified the need and use of night work. Analysis: The Rise of Night Work As noted earlier, the development of night work has been aided in no small part by the advancement and growth of technology, specifically round-the-clock machinery and artificial lighting. However, a socioeconomic component parallels technological ingenuity in the drive towards nighttime activity, and this must be considered to gain a better comprehension of the existence of night work. There are two aspects of this socioeconomic progression. The first is that the United States has made a transition during the twentieth century to a more service-based economy. The second can be found in the growth of a consumer culture, in which convenience and reliability are valued qualities in the marketplace. As time and society become more “incessant,” to borrow Melbin’s term (1987: 84), the nighttime is utilized ever more to meet the needs of a continuous cycle of commerce. These two factors help explain the historical and structural progression of night work as a way to organize time and labor.

Authors: Minerd, Chris.
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social organizations (Melbin 1987: 114). The effects of night and shift work on family life have
also become a major area of study in previous analysis of work schedules. For example,
heterosexual couples with children where one partner works nights have divorce rates of up to
six times higher than other couples (Presser 1999: 5). The main grievance felt by both workers
and family members of night workers alike is the lack of synchronization in family life,
especially towards everyday activities such as mealtimes and sleep. Regarding sexual intimacy,
Melbin succinctly states the problem between couples: “Night is for lovers, except for shift
workers” (1987: 113). Although some people prefer to be active during the nighttime, night
work does have the potential to cause physiological problems, as well as damage to social
relationships. To better understand the implications of these consequences, it is important to
analyze the socioeconomic factors that have justified the need and use of night work.
Analysis: The Rise of Night Work
As noted earlier, the development of night work has been aided in no small part by the
advancement and growth of technology, specifically round-the-clock machinery and artificial
lighting. However, a socioeconomic component parallels technological ingenuity in the drive
towards nighttime activity, and this must be considered to gain a better comprehension of the
existence of night work. There are two aspects of this socioeconomic progression. The first is
that the United States has made a transition during the twentieth century to a more service-based
economy. The second can be found in the growth of a consumer culture, in which convenience
and reliability are valued qualities in the marketplace. As time and society become more
“incessant,” to borrow Melbin’s term (1987: 84), the nighttime is utilized ever more to meet the
needs of a continuous cycle of commerce. These two factors help explain the historical and
structural progression of night work as a way to organize time and labor.


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