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robertogreco : worl   1

Paper Pushers - The Chronicle Review - The Chronicle of Higher Education
"For example, one might think that the proliferation of office jobs signals the achievement of a middle-class society, the white collar having long been a sign of respectability—and yet this is a time when the ground of middle-class stability is widely seen to be eroding, and when the average white-collar job earns you not much more, and often less, than a place on an automobile assembly line. Workplaces supposedly filled with "knowledge workers," with more potential control over their work, have not become more democratic or equal ones: Bosses fire workers, and more of them at once, with more impunity than ever before; the ones who don’t get fired are temps or contractors, who enjoy even less in the way of security. If the paradigmatic midcentury white-collar novel was The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit, in which one of the central struggles was whether the protagonist could successfully rezone his enormous inherited property, meant for four houses, into a suburban development for 80 houses (spoiler: he succeeds), the defining work of our era has been Mike Judge’s Office Space, a movie in which arbitrary layoffs, mindless work in gray cubicles, and desires for revenge and sabotage curdle the "middle class" atmosphere.

In the face of this onslaught, it has been hard to see the response of white-collar workers as anything but passive. No organizations fight against the culture of layoffs, at the same time that the social safety net has been allowed to erode. In academe, temporary work by adjunct professors is simply accepted as the new normal in a violently unstable "job market" (truly one of the more mealy-mouthed and ideological phrases of our time). The Occupy movement represented an exhilarating moment of political visibility for declassed white-collar workers, allied as they were with unions and other institutions of the even more embattled working class. One can only hope that the repression that the police visited on the movement has only stifled, and not killed, its calls for real autonomy in the workplace and for an end to the harried, fearful aspects of the life of the white-collar worker that Mills diagnosed in 1951, and whose political consequences he feared. The success of such movements may yet lay to rest Mills’s pessimism about the force and power of white-collar politics. So far, however, in this respect, as in so many others, C. Wright Mills has been sadly prophetic."
economics  jobs  worl  labor  1946  2014  nikilsaval  cwrightmills  workplace  knowledgeworkers  unions  ows  occupywallstreet  workingclass  whitecolarpolitics  politics  adjuncts  solidarity  via:ayjay 
april 2014 by robertogreco

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