September 30, 2010

On the Corrosion of Character

Sennett's evocation of the nature of work in postmodern capitalism is spot-on in recognizing and explaining the alienating factors at play in a de-centered, job-based not career-based working world. In fact the book, a long essay, was in places hard to read because he evoked some memories of my own encounters with this world. It was harder to read also knowing that the research and the ideas driving the work were in place during the time of writing. Much has changed in ways that only amplify the alienation felt by workers. If, as Sennett claims, that the breakdown of the corporate structure is bad news psychologically for the worker -- where there is no clear antagonist in the workplace -- then the alienation is exponentially more evident in a world with ten percent unemployment. This essay was true when he was writing and the US economy was creating over a million jobs a year. The issues he explores are only more true now.