Mstu4016 f06 session14 wikiwork
This Week's Respondent
In exploring the personal consequences of work in the new capitalism Sennet mainly brings our attention to the great instability and flexibility in today’s working life by focusing on how the global economy, and the capitalist system actually determine people’s lives in the modern world.
He describes how workers feel pressured to changes jobs frequently, not being satisfied standing still, they constantly take risks and keep on moving. This frequent moving eventually takes away any bonds between workers. Also he mentions how difficult it becomes to shape our lives as narratives, with long term purposes an development of values in this kind of woking life. He addresses the most confusing aspect of flexibility as its impact on personal character. He believes: “Character is expressed by loyalty and mutual commitment, or through the pursuit of long-term goals”, but “ How can mutual loyalties and commitments be sustained in institutions which are constantly breaking apart or continually being redesigned?" However in the end he is positive enough to say, “ If change occurs it happens on the ground, between persons speaking out of inner need, rather than through mass uprisings. What political programs follow from those inner needs, I simply don’t know. But I do know a regime which provides human beings no deep reasons to care about one another cannot long preserve its legitimacy.”
Ting-Fang (Annie), Cheng
New capitalism introduces people a fluid age where discontinuance, disconnection, emptiness and alienation impeded in lives on the one hand and strict network-like corporations’ surveillance takes place on the other hand.
"The indifference of the old class-bound capitalism was starkly material; the indifference which radiates out of flexible capitalism is more personal because the system itself is less starkly etched, less legible in form. Enrico knew where he stood...in our circumstances it [confusion] is an accurate reflection of reality. Thus the personal confusion today about answering the question "Who in society needs me?" (p. 146)
The character questions hit really close to home. I assume these questions are all ones we are consciously asking. Who needs me? Who am I most responsible to? I am moved by Rico's concern about what he is teaching his children about communal values and permanence in a "flexible" society where he and family adapt regularly to changes in corporations. The personal associations for me are many and overwhelming The pain of regularly questioning social values, the rise of conservatism to combat a sense of unboundedness, the inability to name one's core values. These strike close to home. The folks in Sennett's case studies are my family, my neighbors, my colleagues. We are are struggling to enact values within the demands of a market that leaves us at loose ends. The values of time and place Sennett brings out are central to contemporary life; these are the struggles I am facing, not just the one's I'm looking in on. They are contemporary history, and frankly, I think Sennett his the nail on the head. I am struggling to respond to this text because of that key word in the text I quoted above. This flexible capitalism that I/we have imbibed is personal.
How can a human being develop a narrative of identity and life history in a society composed of episodes and fragments?...short-term capitalism threatens to corrode his character, particularly those qualities of character which bind human beings to one another and furnishes each with a sense of sustainable self. (pp 26-27, Sennett)
While I think Sennett makes some interesting points regarding how the forces of new capitalism, largely enabled by new information and communication technologies, negatively influencing how individuals create meaning around their lives through their work, I think there are pieces missing. There are elements of life( cultural, religious, ethical) that influence one's character that are not included in his argument.
Perhaps I have to believe this as a "perma-lance" worker -- but my question to Sennet is: What about an individual's commitment to building a body of work, a lifetime portfolio? Can that enable one to weave a narrative thread? Perhaps I am too critical and defensive -- Sennett did compliment the IBM programmers.
Valerio Borgianelli Spina
Having read the super-interesting essay wrote by Richard Sennett I have three simple and perhaps trivial questions and reflections:
1. “A positive view of self-limits and mutual dependence might appear more the domain of religious ethics than of political economy. But shame about dependence has a particular consequence. It erodes mutual trust and commitment, and the lack of these social bonds threatens the workings of any collective enterprise.” (Sennet, p. 141)
a. Is there a real change of values in the society? Is it true that values such as “trust” and “commitment” do not shape anymore our communities? Is this the reason why the catholic church is almost doing an “advertising” campaign since no one seems to be interested in the catholic values?
2. “It is almost a universal law the ‘we’ can be used as a defense against confusion and dislocation.
a. The is certainly true but very often ‘we’ is the wrong pronoun that people use ignoring differences between societies, nations, habits, cultures.
3. Why the word ‘community’ is so important in the language spoke by a society (USA, England) that is loosing completely it sense of community?
If an organization whether new or old operates as a flexible, loose network structure rather than by rigid commands from the top, the network can also weaken social bonds. The sociologist Mark Granovetter says that modern institutional networks are marked by "the strength of weak ties," by which he partly means that fleeting forms of association are more useful to people than long-term connections, and partly that strong social ties like loyalty have ceased to be compelling. These weak ties are embodied in teamwork, in which the team moves from task to task and the personnel of the team changes in the process. Strong ties depend, by contrast, on long association. And more personally, they depend on a willingness to make commitments to others. ... Detatchment and superficial cooperativeness are better armor for dealing with current realities than behavior based on values of loyalty and service. (pages 24-25)
While my experiences may well be atypical, I haven't found this to be the case myself. I spent many years working within traditional, rather rigid workplace structures and in which I managed both traditional and team-based staff. I now work in an environment that is an extreme of a flexible and loose network structure -- in fact, my own consulting company doesn't even describe itself as a "company" but as a "network" (really, it's a kind of very loose collective of consultants who contract with one another on a project-by-project basis).
While there are no long-term contractual or employment obligations among the group, the social ties among members -- and individual personnel of client companies -- have proved to be quite strong over the past 6 years.... in fact, they've survived many changes in location and employment and have resulted in a great deal of personal and professional loyalty. In other words, although the actual work projects are short term, the associations certainly appear to be long term. In fact, I find the connections to be much stronger than what I've experienced in more traditional employment situations.
Practiced at home, teamwork is destructive, marking an absence of authority and of firm guidance in raising children. He and Janette, he says, have seen too many parents who have talked every family issue to death for fear of saying "No!"... (page 25)
Doesn't this assume that group work is by definition dysfunctional? I really don't believe that "teamwork" needs to be synonymous with "nobody's in charge." Nearly all of the work I do is team-based, and in my experience the difference between a successful and an unsuccessful project often lies in the group's understanding of how they should function as a team, particularly in terms of authority and decision making. (As far as this related to raising children, I have no comment.)