NEW YORK CITY Benjamin Snyder conducted his research in the cab of a truck hauling frozen chicken from Missouri to Virginia.
Snyder, a graduate sociology student in the University of Virginia's Graduate School of Arts & Sciences, will present his paper, "The Professionalized Body: Truck Driving in the Age of Flexibilization," at the 108th Annual Meeting of the American Sociological Association. Snyder explores how truck drivers, as representatives of the American workforce, are reacting to marketplace demands for speed and flexibility.
The paper relies on research for Snyder's dissertation, which examines how post-industrial capitalism is changing the environments in which people work and how this affects workers' minds, bodies, and emotions. Snyder said while much of his research revealed deeply concerning problems with the way workplaces are changing, it was uplifting to see people being creative to make a meaningful life for themselves.
For his dissertation, Snyder spent three years interviewing long-haul truck drivers and riding in trucks, interviewing bond traders and spending time on the trading floor, and talking with unemployed people who were looking for work following the 2008 financial collapse.
"Capitalist organizations that are trying to make a profit have to be more efficient and more flexible in moving freight," he said. "They need speed and flexibility in their operations to move freight when the markets demand it. Goods have to move at a moment's notice, so that they are either in transport or on store shelves and not sitting in a warehouse somewhere."
To meet the demands of the market, truck drivers learn about the rhythms of their bodies and how to manipulate them, such as timing their sleep to take advantage of the rising sun.
"After two or three hours of driving, they get fatigued, but then the sun comes up and they get a burst of energy," Snyder said. "I have felt that."
|Contact: Daniel Fowler|
American Sociological Association