File spoon-archives/lyotard.archive/lyotard_2001/lyotard.0106, message 61

Date: Fri, 15 Jun 2001 13:41:24 -0400
Subject: Re: [Fwd: Weeping in a Rolls-Royce]

Steve, Don, and All,

I'm now retired, but your experience with large corporations are quite
similar to mine.

If we accept that the prime mover in this post-modern world is greed, the
logic of cost reduction leads towards maximizing the number of temporary
workers who receive minimum wage, no benefits, and for full-time employees,
the extraction of as many unpaid hours as possible, in the workplace and

Food animals are now raised in factories of wire cages but have a place to
live.  Not so the uncaged homeless humans on all continents.

Slavery treated young, able bodied humans as valuable property. It was an
odious institution which persists in many countries today, but it was not
profitable for an owner  to starve or otherwise ruin the health of his

By way of contrast, consider that in mid-nineteenth century New York City,
a construction worker who fell to his death was not a significant financial
loss, for another could easily be hired.

Valuable machines are sometimes treated better than employees. At one time
in the company I worked for, it was irksome that our mainframe computers
were air-conditioned and we employees were not.

When I previously wrote about the possibility of employee ownership, I
sometimes remembered the Lincoln Electric company of Cleveland Ohio.

The June 18 issue of Time Mag brought me up to date with an article which
states that this company, now almost 50 years old
"never" lets people go, and quotes a professor of business administration
who says: "Lincoln puts employee first, customer second, stockholder last."
The article says top factory workers earned $100,000 last year..

That sounds a little like Southwest Airlines, whose leader claims they put
people first, a practice which helped a tiny Texas firm grow to be the
fourth largest airline in the U.S.


> Don
> On a less experiential basic response - my lodestone for such issues
remains the
> work of Andre Gorz whose work from the late 70s and early 80s has always
> to me to be exemplary - ('Farewell to the working class' and 'Paths to
> - on the liberation from work') the following are my personal favorite
> indicators:
> - the necssity for the invention of a 'policy of time'  the
re-establishment of
> a political objective from both unions and the state of decreasing the
volume of
> working hours.
> - the understanding of work as an imposition - a 'heterodetermined,
> activity, percieved by those who have it as a nondescript sale of time'
> energy.
> - the concept of an income for life - not as negative income tax
(Friedman) but
> a gauranteed income independent of a job. The gaurantee of a each citizin
> recieve the product of the socially necessary labour which s/he has to
> in a lifetime.
> - current tendencies are for the distribution of labour in the following
way -
> 25% core workers who work continuously for the orgnaisation, 25% contract
> workers who supply temporary additional high levels of skill sets usually
> contract or consultancy - but are a disposable commodity, 50% lumpen
> low skilled workforce (probably no requirement to educate or keep
healthy). But
> this is not a sustainable model and is contradicted by the inward facing
> of post-modern capitalism.... In other words its a bleaker picture than we
> to accept as an analysis of the post-modern socio-economic system.
> I prefer his work to say Bravermans or some current commentators because
it, in
> some sense proposes an understanding, a utopian vision as a way out of
this mess
> we find ourselves in.
> My favorite initial proposal is as follows:
> During the 20th C productivity per employed person has increased 12 fold.
> Micro-electronics, IT and Telecommunications has increased productivty
with a
> net loss in human employment 6fold in the last 25 years. All with a net
> in the numbers of human employees.
> Proposal: all computers used in organisations should be taxed as if they
> working human beings - countries and states that do not do so will have
> placed on imported goods to ensure an equitable internal market... The
> taxation to be used to minimise human working hours...
> regards
> sdv
> "Smith, Donald S" wrote:
> > Steve, with regard to your comments about work, following is my
> >
> > 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
> > 70's everyone except middle level managers and above were paid overtime
> > 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,
> > the advent of home computers and the internet, much extra work is done
> > home. Long hours are considered nearly mandatory for anyone expecting to
> > promoted into management. Breaks are a thing of the past. We are not
> > supervised so unorganized breaks can be taken at any time but on balance
> > believe much more break time was used when breaks were organized. Lunch
> > 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.
> > 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
> > 70's.
> >
> > Those are the statistics but in addition, there is a subjective
> > 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
> > less fraternizing. Corporate communications continuously remind workers
> > 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
> > 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
> > extraordinay claims that we are working more now than in the 1960s. I
> > deeply
> > suspicious of this claim. My suspicions are founded on the distrust I
> > for
> > people who suggest things are worse now than they were for our parents
> > grandparents - this level of pessimism always makes me want to
> > their
> > evidence. On a personal basis however I remember my father working
> > 6 day
> > weeks and occasionally 7 days - in addition he only had two weeks
> > His
> > father worked the same regime but only one weeks unpaid holiday a year.
> > claim
> > that a 21st worker is working longer hours than our forefathers is I
> > to
> > massage the evidence in unacceptable ways.
> >
> > Compare these hours to myself - I never work weekends without days off
> > 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
> > hour
> > weeks - preferably over 4 days... are a desirable and achievable goal.
> >
> > regards
> >
> > sdv


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