Contingent Work, Disrupted Lives: Labour and Community in the New Rural Economy


226 pages
Contains Illustrations, Bibliography, Index
ISBN 0-8020-3554-X
DDC 331.1'09713'091734




Reviewed by Terry A. Crowley

Terry A. Crowley is a professor of history at the University of Guelph,
and the former editor of the journal, Ontario History. He is the author
of Agnes Macphail and the Politics of Equality and Canadian History to
1967, and the co-author of The College o


Seldom does sociology hold up a mirror to a population as effectively as
does this book about the effects of economic changes during the 1990s on
the lives of rural Ontarians. University of Guelph sociologist Anthony
Winson and social anthropologist Belinda Leach examine what corporate
reorganization, economic globalization, and government downsizing have
meant to the lives of people in the southwestern Ontario communities of
Elora, Harriston, and Mount Forest (in Wellington County), Iroquois
Falls in northern Ontario, and Arnprior in the northeast. Never giving
in to easy answers or taking intellectual escape routes, the authors of
this award-winning book tackle the issues squarely and forthrightly.

Winson and Leach construct an argument around the evolution of
employment in these rural settings from regular jobs into contingent
work, which is generally part-time, of limited term, casual, and with
few or no benefits and lower salaries. The effects are particularly
severe on older workers who lack the newer credentials required by
evolving technology and on women at the lower ends of employment due to
women’s historically disadvantageous place in the workforce. In the
transition from regular to contingent employment, many workers are
forced to assume two or three jobs, but the distances that frequently
have to be travelled and the lower level of amenities in rural Canada
lead the authors to consider whether rural settlement is ultimately

What was once considered the very backbone of the nation today stands
in jeopardy of disappearing altogether. This book is highly recommended
to all who are seriously interested in rural Canada and its fate.


Winson, Anthony, and Belinda Leach., “Contingent Work, Disrupted Lives: Labour and Community in the New Rural Economy,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed July 18, 2024,