Thursday, February 23, 2012


A great, angry piece by Suzanne Moore picks up on the assumptions about work and unemployment being promoted by the insufferably earnest Ian Duncan Smith (aka IDS - or in a moment of supreme lunacy when he was briefly a disastrous leader of the Conservative Party, "the quiet man").
...right now we have an elite telling lazy scroungers to buck up. Yes, clean toilets, pick cabbages, move towns, sit in call-centre barns, smile enough to make Mary Portas types think you care. In short, deliver the service, that those who have never served, demand. Know your place.

I guess IDS knew his place at Sandhurst just as I once knew mine. Until I realised that most menial work leads to more menial work. The idea that this is the stepping stone is as much of a fantasy as The X Factor. The stepping stone is education. That's what makes you free, not work.
In each previous period of large-scale unemployment we saw a rapid growth in enrolment in adult education. Now, the service is decimated and, probably due to the contradictions and confusions in the new funding regime for higher education, there is a sharp decline in applications to universities from mature students. Without an opportunity for second (or even third, fourth or fifth) chance education, what hope is there other than a life drifting from crap job to crap job?

Adult education was, amongst so many other things, an engine for social mobility and, if you are into supply-side economics, by helping to produce a skilled, critical and articulate workforce could be seen as a driver of economic growth. But here is the problem. Articulate? Critical? In a managerialist workplace? Oh no we can't be having that. Much better to send them to that nice multi-millionaire who has been stuffed with large wads of government cash for ... well not a lot it now seems. She gives them what they really need; servility training. After all, servility is the new assertiveness.


Anton Deque said...

Someone has to do the 'crap jobs'. I have done a few. The trouble is the 'better jobs' are well, better paid. Nothing wrong in doing a boring job if it pays well and you have a life beyond work. I always have. As a musician friend said "I made certain sacrifices to live a certain life". We pay people who actually make the world go round - unlike, say novelists, philosophers, art historians or journalists - very poorly. Yet, what would really balls up your day? A blocked main sewer or the delayed publication of another book about the Lake Poets?

The truly wretched aspect of doing 'menial' work is having to suffer the demands of servility. One or two people I worked with had a genius for making their superiors inferior and that helped.

Jim M. said...

Puts me in mind of a fine piece (imho)by Yoani Sanchez

"Compared to the rest of Cuba, 5th Avenue stands as a rarity. And not because such urban beauty is scarce on this Island, not at all, because even the destroyed mansions of Central Havana maintain some of their former beauty. What is strange is this case is not the perfectly trimmed trees, the intact white granite benches, or the mansions with fences and gardens, but the people themselves. The most anomalous thing that strikes the eye is the behavior of these passersby who jog or walk their pets. There is a touch of comfort in them, an attention to their bodies and attire, a tranquility derived from the lack of daily annoyances. They are like some caricature of the bourgeoisie that official discourse tried to make us hate from the time we were little. But, there they are, with their relaxed trot, their athletic clothes, and those extra pounds gained through privilege that the diversion of resources or power have given them, behind our backs, and on our backs."

Yoani Sanchez and Suzanne Moore reading from the same page?

Strange days indeed!