There is More to Corrosion Than Getting Rusty

I took a break from Thomas Friedman’s “Hot, Flat and Crowded”
to read through a small book—”The Corrosion of Character” by Richard Sennett, described by Studs Terkel as “A devastating and wholly necessary book”.

Sennett’s book is sub-titled “The Personal Consequences of Work in the New Capitalism” and it deals with the ways in which current work environments in the industrialized world undermine the moral and ethical behavior of individuals and society in general. For instance, trying to reconcile the bringing up of children to honour long-term commitment and loyalty while working in a world which routinely “downsizes” the workforce by getting rid of the longest-term employees and values only those workers who can accommodate major changes in direction on a moment’s notice causes many people to become disconnected from the reality of life. Teamwork, one of the tenets of the new capitalism ideology is shown to be based on superficial co-operation and held together by fear; failure to be a “good” team worker will often lead to dismissal so workers feign co-operation and belief in the ideology only to prevent termination of employment.

Rather than assigning value to long-term experience, corporations look at older workers, perhaps still in their 30’s as being averse to risk and behind the times in technology and knowledge so they are the first to be “downsized” when the business feels it is necessary to become leaner (and meaner). Even youthful appearance is valued over experience in many enterprises so the work experience tends to be shallow, fleeting and incoherent.

Perhaps those who vote for the party that promises “jobs, jobs, jobs” should take a look at themselves to see if they fit the narrow and superficial requirements to be hired for those jobs as well as how many of those low-wage, long-hour and soul-deadening jobs they would need to survive and support their families.

The last words of the content are – “. . . a regime which provides human beings no deep reason to care about one another cannot long preserve its legitimancy”.

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1 thought on “There is More to Corrosion Than Getting Rusty

  1. So true! I hadn’t thought of it like that, but we are a society that pretends to value loyalty and commitment and compassion and integrity, especially in our families and communities, yet in the workforce just the opposite it true–we value expedience, the bottom-line, desposibility, short term gains, etc. And these opposite “values” promote the same attitudes in our homes and communities. I’ll have to get a copy of that book. Sounds like a valuable read.

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