Lindsay DePalma 

BA: UC San Diego, History and Sociology, 2009

MA: UC San Diego, Sociology, 2013

PhD: UC San Diego, Sociology, expected 2019

Curriculum Vitae

Areas of specialization: Economic sociology, culture, work & occupations, organizations, social psychology, inequality, stratification, gender, field methods, religion.

I am broadly interested in the intersection, negotiation, and organization of economy and sentiment at the individual level. My dissertation analyzes what it means for professionals to desire and pursue work that they love in the context of today’s precarious economy. I pay particular attention to how the experiences of work passion and precarity vary by gender, organizational context, occupation, and family status.

My research has been funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF), UC San Diego Chancellors Research Excellence Scholarship (CRES), and the UC San Diego Department of Sociology Summer Research Grant.

Dissertation Title: “Passion and Precarity: The Experience of Precarity and the Reign of Work Passion for Young Professionals in the New Economy.

Over the last several decades, the substance and experience of professional work has undergone considerable transformation. For professionals, these changes have resulted in a general fragmentation of career paths and an unprecedented state of precarity characterized by perpetual employment unpredictability[i] and a more transactional relationship between employer and employee.[ii] In this new economy, professionals are often encouraged to regard themselves as a “business of one.”[iii] As institutions of work become less reliable sources of security, professionals enter into a “new political economy of insecurity” in which they increasingly carry the responsibility of their welfare[iv] and have to self-manage and self-regulate with a reduced sense of certainty.

Sociologists studying the effects of the new economy on professional work have focused most of their attention on the causes, experiences, and outcomes of precarity using professionals who are exceptionally precarious, such as entrepreneurs, contract workers, or individuals working in technology or the app-enabled gig economy. This body of work creates coherent archetypes of precarious professionals and the experience of precarious employment, but it does not give us a clear picture of the experiences of professional employment in the new economy in general.

In order to assess the effects of the new economy on professional work in general, and to analyze the values and ideologies that are central to how professionals understand, evaluate, and persist in their work, I compare the experiences of professionals in more diverse occupations with varying levels of precarity. The central comparison in my dissertation is between individuals in what I call the ‘Organizations Economy’ and their occupational counterparts in what I call the ‘Market Economy.’ The Market Economy is characterized by work with more instability, flexibility, risk and precarity. The Organizations Economy is characterized by work with more stability, rigidity, and security. Despite their structural differences, all individuals work within the broader context of the new economy. I conducted 74 semi-structured interviews lasting approximately 2 hours each with college educated individuals in their thirties who work full time in one of three professions: engineering, graphic design, and nursing. For example, a graphic designer in the market economy could be a small business owner, while a graphic designer in the organizations economy could be a permanent designer for a medium-large size company.  I also collected survey data from each respondent which included measures of risk, flexibility, and precarity. My secondary comparison is between men and women. Each category of the sample includes fifty percent women. The sample also includes first generation college graduates, recent immigrants, marrieds, singles, and parents.

I posit three central findings. First, because of the striking rhetorical and experiential similarities between respondents in the market and organizations economies, I argue that the experience (or perception) of professional precarity supersedes structure the new economy. This shapes the general experience of professional work in interesting ways, like normalizing or even celebrating career uncertainty.  Second, I argue that sociologists of work have neglected the prominent and pervasive role of work passion—which I conceptualize in my dissertationand its accompanying ideology—what I call the passion principle. Third, by relying on the nuances of interview data, I argue that scholars cannot fully understand the effects of structural changes on professional work without analyzing the emergent ideology of the passion principle beside it. I argue that for the professionals who adhere to it, the passion principle is central to how individuals interpret their experiences of and behavior within the context of a new precarious economy.

My dissertation focuses first on the pervasiveness of precarity, second on the pervasiveness of work passion, and finally on the relationship between them, with emphasis on how the experiences of precarity and work passion vary by gender, relationship and family status, and religion. My work helps scholars, lay audiences, organizations, educators, and career counselors better understand professional work in the new economy and the new types of professionals who work in it.


[i] Hollister, Matissa. 2011. "Employment Stability in the U.S. Labor Market: Rhetoric Versus Reality." Annual Review of Sociology 37:305-324.

[ii] Kalleberg, Arne L. 2009. “Precarious Work, Insecure Workers: Employment Relations in Transition.” American Sociological Review. 74:1-22.

[iii] Gershon, Ilana. 2017. Down and Out in the New Economy: How People Find (or don’t find) Work Today. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

[iv] Beck, Ulrich. 1992. Risk Society. London: Sage.

DePalma, Lindsay. “The Passion Paradigm: Analysis of the Ideology of Work Passion.” (Under review at Work and Occupations)

DePalma, Lindsay. “The Separation of Economy and Sentiment: A Comparison of How Individuals Perceive Hostile Worlds.” (Under review at Journal of Cultural Economy)

DePalma, Lindsay. “Let’s Talk about [Personal Finances]: The Sacred Side of Money.” (Under review at Sociological Forum)

DePalma, Lindsay. “The Other Lover: The Gendered Effects of the Professional Love Affair with Work.” (In preparation)

DePalma, Lindsay. “Personal Brands and Flexible Futures: The New Social Contract Between Professionals and Their Employers.” (In preparation)

Depalma, Lindsay. “I’m No Nurse, But…:” How Client-Based Professions Find Altruism in their Work.” (In preparation)

DePalma, Lindsay. “How a College Yields Work you Love: Retrospective Conclusions from Young Professionals.” (In preparation)

Teaching Statement

Diversity Statement


Sociology Department Senior Teaching Assistant, 2016-2017

Sociology Department/ Writing Hub Writing Consultant, 2018-2019

Associate-In Courses:

Sociology 104: Field Research: Methods of Participant Observation. Syllabus here.

Sociology 121: Economy and Society. Syllabus here.

Experience in:

Sociology 2: The Study of Society (intro course)

Sociology 10: American Society: Social Structure and Culture in the U.S.

Sociology 60: The Practice of Social Research

Sociology 119: Sociology of Sexuality and Sexual Identities

Sociology 120: Sociology of Drugs

Sociology 125: Sociology of Immigration

Sociology 136E and F: Sociology of Mental Illness, historical and contemporary

Sociology 137: Sociology of Food

Sociology 138: Genetics and Society

Sociology 140: Sociology of Law

Sociology 150: Madness and the Movies