ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Work: Then and Now

Fourteen years at work Rico, the son has changed his job four times. He has been Work: Then and Now The Corrosion of Character: The Personal Consequences of Work in the New Capitalism by Richard Sennett; W W Norton and Company, New York, 1998.

Sitting in a third world country it is not difficult for us to see the devastation being wrought by the present-day capitalism, the marginalisation of whole continents, from Latin America to Asia, the feeble linkages of a thin upper crust to the global order, devastation of civilisations from Iraq to Yugoslavia. However, this book is not about that, yet it is an important critique of the present order. This work is about those who have made it in the present order. The significance of this writing is that it shows how fragile is this victory of a minuscule minority at the global sweepstakes and how insecure those seemingly in charge feel.

As the author says, this is a long essay rather than a short book, based on informal interviews. The work is situated in the US and the observations are based on both literature and on some individuals as representatives of the present order. Thus there is a management consultant called Rico, a bar owner-cum-advertising executive, Rose, programmers from IBM and bakers from a Boston bakery through whose eyes Sennett observes the most prosperous society in the world. The book is a critique of the new – ‘flexible capitalism’ that is being hailed as a much more rational and humane alternative to the earlier Fordist-Taylorist system. Fordist regime is said to be inflexible, authoritarian and dehumanising due to rigid and narrow job definitions, tall hierarchies, closed channels of communication, and are supposed to be incapable of providing scope for human initiative and innovation. The flexible regime, as an alternative, is expected to provide flexible jobs, open communication network, and hence lead to innovations and is said to be capable of rapid changes and adaptations.

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