I was recently listening to a special report on jobs by The Economist, the podcast edition. Matthew Bishop summarizes the current trends in thinking about jobs and careers, which I thought was quite fascinating. It is “a brave new world” out there:
“The underlying message is that no one should take for granted the idea that the old get-a-job-with-a-company, work nine-to-five, work for thirty years, get a gold watch and retire—that that is the way that work is going to be the future. It’s going to be far more jumping from career to career, company to company, sometimes you’re going to work very long hours, other times you may have periods where your not working at all. Sometimes you may be doing two jobs. Sometimes no jobs. And you need to be prepared for that, and it’s the responsibility of each individual to be adult in the management of their own individual career and not rely on the company to look after them.”
This strikes me as the continued modern trend of extreme fragmentation. Technology, consumerism (and the forms of global capitalism that encourage consumerism), and individualism create this perfect storm that sweeps us toward a completely groundless existence. We cease to have any roots whatsoever and simply move about on the chess board wherever “the market” takes us.
This thinking also gives businesses and corporations a free pass to hire and fire whenever they need to adjust their income statements. In our world, and even more so in the world to come, there is no fidelity, loyalty, or responsibility to the worker. Conversely, the worker has no responsibility to the company.
Perhaps this brave new world appeals to some, but to me it seems like an extremely unhealthy way to live as an individual and as a society. How is such a society to retain any sense of ethics and responsibility? I think the current recession, caused by the bursting of the housing bubble, is an example of how both the irresponsibility of corporate powers-that-be and individuals work together to hurt everyone collectively. And yet there is no evidence that policy makers or the general public cares to change the basic irresponsibility of the system of global capitalism. For me, however, this brave new world is something I wish to change.