File spoon-archives/lyotard.archive/lyotard_2001/lyotard.0106, message 23

Date: Mon, 04 Jun 2001 23:02:14 +0100
Subject: Re: [Fwd: Weeping in a Rolls-Royce]


I recognise what you are saying - however I work at a quite high management
level within transnational corporations, the US based transnationals laughably
call it 'senior management'.  It used to be higher but I 'downsized' last year
to increase my quality of life and avoid becoming a director and to continue to
function as some kind of engineer. I and the people who work for me (then and
now) supposedly get paid for 37.5 hours a week. On average they and I work
around 45 hours a week during the 10 months of the year that the average person
works, remember 25 days paid leave and an average two weeks sick leave plus
state and bank holidays which use up another 5+ days days of the year. In fact I
schedule 200 working days per year for all European projects and 15 days extra
for US based workers. US based Managers in my previous company scheduled 250
days a year and could never understand why they never delivered according to
schedule... Except during major rollouts nobody works during weekends or during
public holidays, sometimes they pretend but the evidence does not justify their

My Father was an engineer in metal manufacturing industries and worked a
standard 44 hour week, throughout my childhood during the 50s and early 60s (I
was born in 51) had two weeks holiday a year and worked 5 and half, 6 day weeks
and sometimes on Sundays. Of course as you state below he had organised lunch
breaks, tea breaks etc. He was also functioning as a general manager in his
working realm...My Father would have been a lot happier in the discontinuous
working world that I exist in than in the constrained disciplinary working world
that he lived in. I suggest this, because it killed him as it has continuously
killed people, Taylorism for human beings may be the equivilant of battery
chicken farming for chickens...

I am currently engaged in rolling out a complete suite of business support
systems for use from both the USA and Europe. The schedule is of course
impossible and the deliverables based on completely un-understood processes and
requirements. Non the less we'll deliver something that will almost work on the
deadline date - but it is not possible for me to assign more work than can be
delivered within a working week. They will just not deliver and I'd be
completely unprofessional if I attempted to make them as the projects (6 of
them) would all fail.

Difference, discontinuity and variety, which are available for some engineers in
this insane society, mostly because nobody understands what we do and because
like philosophers (laughs wildly) we function in a self-disciplinary mode of
operation (Foucault would perhaps appreciate this deliberate mis-reading of his
work). This will not last but I cannot see an end in sight currently as desire
and demand outstrips our professional ability to supply. I confess to a liking
for discontinuous post-modern lunches appeals to me today for example reading
Heidegger's Being and Time over Double Tall Cappucino in Starbuck's seems an
improvement over the image of my father in the canteen in the factory...

Does this mean that I work longer hours without compensation than I did in the
late 1960s and early 70s when I began my working career. I don't know. In the
early 70s I worked for a while on a Taylorist assemby line for a pittance on a
standard 42.5 hour week with 2 weeks paid holiday.... Contemporary equivilants
still work for a pittance but on 37.5 hour weeks. Seems like a small
insignificant victory to me.

And no I don't understand how I can bear the contradiction of doing this for a
living, I usually put it down to the unrepentent marxist in me who understands
contradictions, just like Lyotard really...

I recommend emigration to Europe to all American Systems people. The wages are
higher and the working hours shorter and we have a skill shortage yopu wouldn't
believe, apologies to everyone regarding this confessional about my current paid
existence... However conservatives need not apply...



"Smith, Donald S" wrote:

> Steve, with regard to your comments about work, following is my experience:
> I have worked for the same large corporation since 1968. Parts of the
> company are unionized but we "white collar" workers are not. In the 60's and
> 70's everyone except middle level managers and above were paid overtime for
> all hours over 40 each week. We also took organized 15 minute breaks
> mornings and afternoons. Lunchtime was an hour.
> Today many people work extra hours each week with no extra pay. Also, With
> the advent of home computers and the internet, much extra work is done from
> home. Long hours are considered nearly mandatory for anyone expecting to be
> promoted into management. Breaks are a thing of the past. We are not closely
> supervised so unorganized breaks can be taken at any time but on balance I
> believe much more break time was used when breaks were organized. Lunch is
> technically still an hour but unlike in the past many people don't leave
> their desks and It seems like 30 minutes is a more typical lunch period. We
> get 12 paid holidays a year and that has not changed since the 60's.
> vacation ranges from two weeks for five years to 6 weeks after 30 years.
> However, it now takes longer to accrue vacation than it did in the 60's and
> 70's.
> Those are the statistics but in addition, there is a subjective difference
> in work. Somehow the corporation has managed to make work a very serious
> business. There is very little joking around as opposed to the past and much
> less fraternizing. Corporate communications continuously remind workers that
> they are in a struggle for survival. War analogies are often used.
> As a manager, I generally assign more work than can be accomplished with
> quality in 40 hours. Those who find a way to complete the work are
> recognized with higher raises and promotions.
> On balance, I would say that we now work longer hours without compensation
> than we did in the 60's.
> Don
> -----Original Message-----
> From: steve.devos []
> Sent: Friday, June 01, 2001 2:36 PM
> To:
> Subject: [Fwd: Weeping in a Rolls-Royce]
> All
> I was interested in this email (from sciene as culture list) because of the
> extraordinay claims that we are working more now than in the 1960s. I feel
> deeply
> suspicious of this claim. My suspicions are founded on the distrust I feel
> for
> people who suggest things are worse now than they were for our parents and
> grandparents - this level of pessimism always makes me want to scrutinise
> their
> evidence. On a personal basis however I remember my father working standard
> 6 day
> weeks and occasionally 7 days - in addition he only had two weeks holiday.
> His
> father worked the same regime but only one weeks unpaid holiday a year. To
> claim
> that a 21st worker is working longer hours than our forefathers is I suspect
> to
> massage the evidence in unacceptable ways.
> Compare these hours to myself - I never work weekends without days off in
> leiu-
> 25days holiday a year, have a standard 37.5 hours working week and work
> probably 45
> hours and sometimes 50 hrs a week if travelling to the USA on business..
> These are
> not unsual working hours -
> It is true however that working time directives are essential - standard 30
> hour
> weeks - preferably over 4 days... are a desirable and achievable goal.
> regards
> sdv


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