The basic societal transformation to a “learning society” presupposes learning and identity processes. In order to understand the conditions and dynamics of work related learning we need to theorize the subjective significance of work and we need to study work related learning processes in a way which reflects the societal transitions. The aim of this article is to consider the connection between these theoretical and methodological questions: Studies into subjective processes (individual and collective learning and identity processes) helps us theorise the contradictory and asynchronous nature of societal change. The article develops this argument on the basis of empirical research from the Life history project and other research at Roskilde University, which studies gendered, work related learning as re-configuration of identities. Gender has not been the point of departure, but empirical studies of individuals’ subjective relation to work and work related learning have revealed a close connection between gender relations and societal work organisation. This observation has become particularly pointed in studies of a number of professions dealing with traditional ‘women’s work’, in which the close links between the nature of work, the subjectivity of the worker and societal division of labour appears to be historical and changeable. The article draws a methodogical conclusion that the great societal transformations we are witnessing can be studied as asynchronous and contradictory processes on the level of individual and collective learning and identity processes.
'old' and 'new' Worlds of Adult Learning, 2005, p. 27-41