University of Surrey

Test tubes in the lab Research in the ATI Dance Research

Time, space and touch: body work and labour process (re)organisation

Cohen, RL (2011) Time, space and touch: body work and labour process (re)organisation Sociology of Health and Illness, 33 (2). pp. 189-205.

Time_space and touch - SHI revised.pdf
Available under License : See the attached licence file.

Download (325kB)
[img] Text (licence)
Available under License : See the attached licence file.

Download (1kB)
[img] Text (Copyright permission)
copyright permission.pdf
Restricted to Repository staff only
Available under License : See the attached licence file.

Download (116kB) | Request a copy


With ‘efficiency savings’ the watchword for health and social care services, reorganisation and labour rationalisation are the order of the day. This article examines the difficulties involved in (re)organising work which takes bodies as its object, or material of production. It shows that working on bodies (‘body work’) systematically delimits possibilities for labour process rationalisation which, in turn, constrains reorganisation of the health and social care sector. It does this in three main ways. First: rigidity in the ratio of workers to bodies-worked-upon limits the potential to increase capital-labour ratios or cut labour. Secondly: the requirement for co-presence and temporal unpredictability in demand for body work diminish the spatial and temporal malleability of the labour process. Thirdly: the nature of bodies as a material of production – complex, unitary and responsive – makes it difficult to standardise, reorganise or rationalise work. A wide-ranging analysis of body work in health and social care, as well as other sectors, fleshes out these three constraints and shows that attempts to overcome them and reorganise the sector in pursuit of cost savings or ‘efficiency’, generate problems for workers and the patients, whose bodies they work upon.

Item Type: Article
Divisions : Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences > Department of Sociology
Authors :
Cohen, RL
Date : 7 February 2011
DOI : 10.1111/j.1467-9566.2010.01306.x
Uncontrolled Keywords : body work, labour process, time, care, standardisation
Related URLs :
Additional Information : NOTICE: this is the author’s version of a work that was accepted for publication in Sociology of Health & Illness. Changes resulting from the publishing process, such as peer review, editing, corrections, structural formatting, and other quality control mechanisms may not be reflected in this document. Changes may have been made to this work since it was submitted for publication. A definitive version was subsequently published in Sociology of Health & Illness, 33 (2), 2011, DOI 10.1111/j.1467-9566.2010.01306.x. The definitive version is available at
Depositing User : Symplectic Elements
Date Deposited : 01 Dec 2011 12:12
Last Modified : 31 Oct 2017 14:15

Actions (login required)

View Item View Item


Downloads per month over past year

Information about this web site

© The University of Surrey, Guildford, Surrey, GU2 7XH, United Kingdom.
+44 (0)1483 300800