Last week Salon.com ran an excerpt from a new book by Allison J. Pugh, The Tumbleweed Society: Working and Caring in an Age of Insecurity (Oxford University Press). The excerpt is published under the title, “Your job will never love you: Stress and anxiety in our frightening new job world.” This excerpt nails it. If you didn’t feel stressed and anxious before reading it, you will feel that way by the end.
Pugh writes of lay-offs (aka, “hatcheting”) and the substantial proportion of laid-off workers, particularly men, who never find jobs back at their former pay scale. She writes of the one-way honor system in which employees are loyal to their employers but the loyalty isn’t reciprocated. She writes of the “new insecurity” and the subsequent increase in work hours.
“[W]orkers have responded to perceived job insecurity by working harder and longer. American workers of every racialized group, gender, and wage level have increased their work hours since the late 1970s. Even with a postrecession dip, the United States logs higher average annual hours worked than the OECD average, with Americans working four more weeks than the British, nine more weeks than the French, and eleven more weeks than the Germans, although as recently as the late 1970s, American and European work hours were about the same. As Arlie Hochschild documented, people face a “time bind” in which they acquiesce to ever-increasing demands of work and find themselves squeezing their nonwork lives into ever-smaller increments.”
She asks an important question, “What do employers owe us, and what do we owe our employers?” If insecurity is the new reality, I have some questions too: What do we owe ourselves? And, for those of us who think of life as a spiritual journey, how does this new reality become part of that journey and the broader reality such a journey suggests? No quick answers to any of these questions. In Finding Livelihood, I try to come at these and other questions by means of a lyric nonfiction approach. If any of this resonates with you, I hope you'll join me on those pages.
[Photo: taken of a page from Finding Livelihood.]