Skip to Main Content

Fixed and Footloose

Huws, Ursula. “Fixed and Footloose: Work and Identity in the Twenty-first Century.” Writing and Reading Across the Curriculum. 4th custom ed. for York College. Ed. Laurence Behrens, and Leonard J. Rosen. New York: Pearson, 2011. 214 –219.

Terms and Allusions

Industrial Revolution

The era known as the Industrial Revolution was a period from the 18th to 19th century in which fundamental changes occurred in agriculture, textile and metal manufacture, transportation, economic policies and the social structure in England. Advances in agricultural techniques and practices resulted in an increased supply of food and raw materials, changes in industrial organization and new technology resulted in increased production, efficiency and profits, and the increase in commerce, foreign and domestic, were all conditions which promoted the advent of the Industrial Revolution.

Global division of labor

Specialization in the production process. Complex jobs can usually be less expensively completed by a large number of people each performing a small number of specialized tasks than by one person attempting to complete the entire job. The idea that specialization reduces costs, and thereby the price the consumer pays, is embedded in the principle of comparative advantage. Division of labor is the basic principle underlying the assembly line in mass production systems


unprecedented  –adj.  without previous instance; never before known or experienced; unexampled or unparalleled

upheaval –n.  strong or violent change or disturbance, as in a society

bar – v.  to prevent or hinder; to protect from

calamity –n.   a great misfortune or disaster, as a flood or serious injury

proximity – n.  nearness in place, time, order, occurrence, or relation

monopoly – n.  exclusive control of a commodity or service in a particular market, or a control that makes possible the manipulation of prices

outsource – v.  (of a company or organization) to purchase (goods) or subcontract (services) from an outside supplier or source

emergence – n.  coming into view, notice or existence

paradigmatic – adj.  pertaining to a relationship among linguistic elements

dichotomous – adj.  divided or dividing into two parts

fractured – adj.  broken

inexorable – adv.  not to be persuaded, moved, or affected; unyielding; unalterable

ratchet – v.  to move by degrees

diurnal – adj.  of or pertaining to a day or each day; daily

volatile – adj.  evaporating rapidly; changeable; transient

erosion – n.  the process by which the surface of the earth is worn away by the action of water, glaciers, winds, waves, etc.

subliminally – adv.  existing or operating below the threshold of consciousness

cumulative – adj.  increasing or growing by accumulation or successive additions

precariousness – n.  danger; risk

caricature – n.  a picture, description, etc., ludicrously exaggerating the peculiarities or defects of persons or things

reprisal – n.  an act or instance of retaliation

Vocabulary Exercise

Fill in the blanks with the words chosen from the box.

calamity          inexorable              dichotomous               volatile                  precariousness

diurnal             cumulative                 reprisal                 proximity              caricature

1. A farmer cannot neglect his _________ tasks at any time; cows, for example, must be milked regularly.

2. The cartoonist’s __________ of President Bush exaggerated the size of the president’s ears.

3. As news of the ___________ spread, offers of relief poured in to the stricken community.

4. Blind people sometimes develop a compensatory ability to sense the _________ of objects around them.

5. After listening to the pleas for clemency, the judge was ________ and gave the convicted man the maximum punishment allowed by law.

6. Saying the stock would be an investment of ____________, the broker advised her client against purchasing it.

7. I am confident that we are ready for any __________ the enemy may undertake.

8. Vocabulary building is a __________ process: as you go through your flash cards, you will add new words to your vocabulary, one by one.

9. The political climate today is extremely _________: no one can predict what will happen next.

10. Willie did not know how to resolve the ___________situation between his ambition to go to college and his childhood longing to run away and join the circus.



1. diurnal    2. caricature    3. calamity     4. proximity     5. inexorable      6. precariousness

7. reprisal     8. cumulative     9. volatile     10. dichotomous


Pre-reading questions:

1.  What is your definition of work?

2.  Have you ever worked?  What kind of jobs did/do you do?   Do you like what you did/are doing?  Is your job related to your life career or is it just a means to earn some money?

3. Do you think people are primarily defined by the jobs they do?  What other factors can also define a person?

4. What changes do you see in the current job market?  Do you see these changes positive or negative?


Post-reading questions:

1. Do you agree with Huws that changes in jobs affect one’s identity?  Why?  Why not?

2. Do you agree that the future of the work place is dismal?

3. What will you do to reap the benefits of the changes and minimize the drawbacks of the changes?