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Experiences of Work at Old Age and Retirement


Thu 27. 8.  14:00 - 15:30
room FA 202

Leaving passionate work: Retirement as an existential imperative


Flisbäck, Marita
University of Gothenburg, Sweden

Retirement means the beginning of a new everyday where new practices must be established that could give room both for independence and for loss of meaning. From analyses of 10 qualitative interviews we ask what existential questions are posed at the entry of retirement, and what new social identities and belongings are considered and established. The interviewees’ have been selected from various professions with different resources and qualifications. However, common to all respondents are that they are highly committed to work, and that retirement takes place in the near future (from a few days to six months). The aim of this paper is to analyse how these individuals – with a dedicated approach to their work that could be described as a "passion" – reason about the value in, and of, their work. In this way we draw a) a picture of what might characterize passionate work and its meaning and value, b) the different problems that may arise when people are leaving passionate work. The theoretical and methodological starting point is an existential sociology approach. By using the concept of existential imperative, developed by the social anthropologist Michael D. Jackson, we argue that retirement can be seen as a transitional stage in life where questions about meaning and identity are defined, redefined and redesigned depending on how the interviewees relate to past and present experiences as well as with regards to their future hopes and expectations.