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Love and Alienation
November 24, 2013 8:34 AM   Subscribe

On Graduate School and 'Love' is yet another commentary on the economics of academic work. A younger student chimes in on the role of education in life: "much of education is oriented, for better or worse, toward making a living, rather than making a life."

From the first link:
Graduate school is often described as a labor of love. But "love" is a troublesome word. It often is applied to undercompensated work done mostly by women. It's also typically applied to "soft" academic fields that are "feminized" (i.e., institutionally disempowered), such as the humanities, but not to male-dominated "hard" fields, such as physics or engineering.

No one asks a corporate lawyer whether he protects the interests of his clients for "love."

The word hovers in the background of salary negotiations in academe: "Since you are doing this for 'love,' we don't need to pay you more than we currently do. Maybe we don't need to pay you at all. You should do this work for its own sake. Maybe you should pay us?"

We hear the word all the time in discussions of graduate school: "Only go if you love your subject," which is about the same as saying, "Only do it if you are willing to sacrifice most of your rational economic interests." You are, arguably, volunteering to subsidize through your labor all of the work that is not defined as "lovable."

The love rhetoric that's so pervasive in academe—and certain other labor sectors—supports the transfer of resources from one group to another, typically from women to men, from minority to majority. There's no doubt about it: "Love" is ideological, and it should not be left unquestioned when it is used in relation to work.
Labors of love on metafiler previously.

One view of what this labor of love look like, from one who has a secure and full-time academic position.

Another analysis of graduate school, and the economic/ideological role of professional training programs in general.

Why can't we have nice things - work that is both economically sustainable and personally fulfilling? Marx had some ideas.
posted by eviemath (53 comments total) 34 users marked this as a favorite

 
"Sample Text that is Sort of Running Too Short So Now it's Longer" is a funny thing to say about this.
posted by anotherpanacea at 8:47 AM on November 24, 2013 [5 favorites]


It's also typically applied to "soft" academic fields that are "feminized" (i.e., institutionally disempowered), such as the humanities, but not to male-dominated "hard" fields, such as physics or engineering.

Yet one more way that math, despite being part of STEM, is in many cutural ways closer to the humanities.
posted by escabeche at 8:53 AM on November 24, 2013 [6 favorites]


Never love anything that can't love you back. It's a simple proposition that makes many things clearer.
posted by spitbull at 8:53 AM on November 24, 2013 [20 favorites]


Graduate school is really awesome compared to a lot of jobs. It really, really is. I'm glad this article acknowledges that. There is a sort of odd victimhood narrative that is prevalent about graduate school that I simply don't understand in the fields I'm most familiar with, namely, the humanities. Being an adjunct sounds awful, though.
posted by the young rope-rider at 9:09 AM on November 24, 2013 [18 favorites]


I should say 'some graduate schools are really awesome'. I apologize for being overbroad.
posted by the young rope-rider at 9:09 AM on November 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


When I was at university, it was always the "Techies vs the Fuzzies." The hard science majors going for the big bucks jobs would taunt the humanities, history, and sociology majors saying things like "Oh, Art Major? Do you want fries with that?"

And in my experience it was true: you'd better be in love with your major if it's a fuzzy one. Or aim for an academic career. Even so, many schools now have "adjunct" and "visiting" and even contract professors so they don't have to pay large and allow tenure track. It is also common to bring in a new professor, have them carry the heavy teaching loads, then just not grant tenure after seven years or so...and then bring in the next new graduate to replace them....

Yeah, "what's love got to do with it?" It's all about the financial these days....
posted by CrowGoat at 9:17 AM on November 24, 2013


I semi-regret that I never got the chance to do the full grad school thing. I have an MS but I did it as a part-time commuter student so I didn't really get much of the grad student experience.
posted by octothorpe at 9:19 AM on November 24, 2013


CrowGoat: When I was at university, it was always the "Techies vs the Fuzzies." The hard science majors going for the big bucks jobs would taunt the humanities, history, and sociology majors saying things like "Oh, Art Major? Do you want fries with that?"

Well, if it's any consolation, now job prospects suck for a lot of the hard science majors as well.
posted by Mitrovarr at 9:22 AM on November 24, 2013 [6 favorites]


I hope this thread doesn't go down the "the answer is STEM," because that doesn't seem to be much of an answer. Yeah, we could bump up the enrollment in the sciences, but that just means a lot more competition for graduates in 2020 (or whenever). I think some of the problem is that academia, like so many other things, used to be reserved for the independently wealthy, which means that it has a lot of elements that don't always fit well with the "reality on the ground." It's great to "do things for love" if you are a Gentleman looking for something to occupy yourself, but less so if you need a steady income. On the other hand, picking a course of study because you want to make money rather than because you have an aptitude or a passion for it is a good way to learn a lot of bad lessons during your school years....
posted by GenjiandProust at 9:30 AM on November 24, 2013 [6 favorites]


Graduate school is really awesome compared to a lot of jobs... I should say 'some graduate schools are really awesome'.

This is true in the humanities too! I started my Ph.D. fully aware of all of the horror stories, and I certainly don't expect a TT job to be handed to me along with my diploma... but I am making a living wage, have health insurance, and spend my days doing something I, yes, love. I'd probably feel different at a less well-funded university, but I definitely don't feel like I'm wasting time, even if I have to start over at 30 using one of the many "real-world" skills I've picked up along the way.

I'd have an easier time swallowing Pannapacker if his target was the non-funded humanities M.A., which actually is a bit of a racket, rather than the funded Ph.D., which people tend to go into with somewhat clearer eyes.
posted by oinopaponton at 9:47 AM on November 24, 2013 [4 favorites]


Just in case it changes later, the sub-title on that article is presently:

Why do so many students decide to seek Ph.D.'s, even knowing what they know about the academic labor system?Sample Text that is Sort of Running Too Short So Now it's Longer

"I'm sorry this title is so long, I didn't have time to make it shorter," &c. Heh.
posted by Joey Buttafoucault at 9:56 AM on November 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


These screeds bug me. Not because they're wrong. but because they highlight the false dichotomy I have in my own outlook.

Why did it become so fucking important to love what it takes to feed your family? When, WHY, did it become untenable to do 'some' work and "Love" what it affords you the opportunity to do.
posted by DigDoug at 10:04 AM on November 24, 2013 [6 favorites]


One view of what this labor of love look like,

I love the final line of that link ...

Hence the need for full communism is all the more urgent.
posted by philip-random at 10:07 AM on November 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


When, WHY, did it become untenable to do 'some' work and "Love" what it affords you the opportunity to do.

I guess it depends what that 'some' constitutes. If you're saying, all the income-earning hours required to make ends meet, and those hours end up being 30-40-50 per week (or whatever), then I start to wonder what's left for "Love", except a bit of dabbling here and there. Because great creative work often requires great and prolonged focus. If all you've got to invest is some hobby time, then it's just not going to get done ... unless you're some kind of superhuman who doesn't sleep, or you've got a spouse who can do all the food cooking, housecleaning, child rearing.
posted by philip-random at 10:15 AM on November 24, 2013 [12 favorites]


There are no academic jobs in STEM
fields either folks. Also, congress is trying hard to make industry that way too. (recently)

Are you really interested in an academic topic? We're you wise enough to avoid taking any student loan debt during undergrad, say by studying in a foreign country? If yes and yes, there is nothing wrong with doing a PhD as an "intellectual vacation" from industry. Do what you find inspirational, but make it as applied as you can. Also, learn the wider subject as broadly as possible. Avoid really narrow PhD programs, well U.K. PhDs students get screwed by their 3 year deals. If you're lucky, maybe you're PhD will help you discover any industry job that requires more depth than most.
posted by jeffburdges at 10:33 AM on November 24, 2013


Never love anything that can't love you back. It's a simple proposition that makes many things clearer.

But that seems like it's denying something basic about human nature. Like, we do fall in love with jobs — just like we fall in love with houses and languages and proofs and novels and dances and scenery and all sorts of other inanimate shit. It's probably irrational, but fuck it, feelings are pretty clearly immune to reason and we're gonna keep having 'em.

I'm reminded of the self-defeating ways that we sometimes end up talking about abuse in romantic relationships. You get out of a bad relationship and it's so tempting to tell yourself "Okay, they exploited my feelings and it was awful. Clearly the answer is not to have those feelings anymore. I'm just going to stop falling in love; it'll be much easier that way."

Nowadays I see a lot of people doing that with work too. "I'll never love again! I'm done being emotionally attached to my job! From now on it's strictly a rational transaction and nothing more!"

And I'm kind of like, "Okay, if you say so." Like, yeah, if you manage to go the rest of your life without inconvenient feelings (for people; for jobs; for houses; for languages...) then that'll be awesome. But probably at some point if you don't totally tie yourself into shitty little repressed knots over it you're gonna have some feelings again. And (a) maybe next time you'll be in a healthier situation and nobody will exploit them! And that will be wonderful! And I will be so happy for you! But also (b) if some asshole does exploit them, please let's put the blame on that asshole where it belongs.
posted by Now there are two. There are two _______. at 10:51 AM on November 24, 2013 [23 favorites]



No one asks a corporate lawyer whether he protects the interests of his clients for "love."


I do. While loving what you do is by no means necessary, it is one of the nicest perks you could ever have. By all means if you can support yourself doing what you love then make the effort to make that happen.

There are limits though. A few years back I was at an engineering heavy startup when round C funding came up (basically they issue a bunch of new stock, making what you have worth that much less). During the company meeting someone asked if we would be issued more stock to make up for the dilution. The VP of marketing said, and I quote, "You know, when I was an engineer a lot of the compensation was a job well done."

Unfortunately I was a younger man then. Nowadays I would have asked him point blank if that was most cynical thing he had ever said or if he had surpassed that at some point.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 10:52 AM on November 24, 2013 [3 favorites]


The love rhetoric that's so pervasive in academe—and certain other labor sectors—supports the transfer of resources from one group to another, typically from women to men, from minority to majority. There's no doubt about it: "Love" is ideological, and it should not be left unquestioned when it is used in relation to work.

This is such nonsense that I'm embarrassed that I read past it.

It's fashionable (especially in the weaker reaches of the humanities and social sciences) to try to turn spin every problem as a problem of race or sex or etc. But not every problem is that kind of problem. This approach turns real problems into cartoons.

"There's no doubt about it: 'Love' is ideological..."

LOL. There's very much doubt about it. You can make the suggestion if you like, and it might be worth considering, despite its likely falsehood...but if there's one thing that there's no doubt about here, it's that there's is plenty of doubt that love (or 'love') is ideological. There's all the doubt in the world about that. And there's an enormous difference between (a) making an interesting suggestion and (b) claiming indubitability for it. Of course, the suggestion is too vague to really take seriously...and probably what he really means is that love is sometimes ideological...but almost everything is sometimes something... This is so sloppy that (as Pauli might say) it's not even wrong. It probably doesn't rise to the level of falsehood.

I could go on, but why bother? This really is awful.

Sadly, one thing that makes it so hard for many people to have a sound Plan B when their academic Plan A fails is that this kind of thinking (so called) is often (but not always) taught in places like English. Trotting out popular cant to prompt some hallelujahs from the left is no substitute for actual analysis. Let me suggest that there may be a real reason that the academic fields that are typically thought of as less-rigorous inside the academy also seem to pack less vocational punch outside of it. And the relevant distinction is not between STEM and everybody else... There are more and less rigorous parts of the humanities as well as more and less rigorous parts of the social sciences. One sign you're in one of the less-rigorous regions: you think that everything is ideological...

There might be something worth talking about buried in there somewhere...but I doubt it.
posted by Fists O'Fury at 11:00 AM on November 24, 2013 [3 favorites]


It's fashionable (especially in the weaker reaches of the humanities and social sciences) to try to turn spin every problem as a problem of race or sex or etc. But not every problem is that kind of problem.

It would be an utter mistake to say "This 'love your job' business is entirely a problem about sex."

Luckily, nobody's doing that.

The claim rather goes like this: "Look, among the many problems caused by this 'love your job' business — including a lot of problems which affect men and women equally — there are a couple interestingly hairy ones that relate to sex."

If you stop reading whenever someone mentions sex, then of course feminism will start to seem like narrow, obsessive zealotry — because you'll miss a lot of places (like, uh, the remaining 4/5 of this very article!) where feminists acknowledge that feminism is just one angle on a big and multifaceted issue.
posted by Now there are two. There are two _______. at 11:27 AM on November 24, 2013 [7 favorites]


Everything I do is about sex.

Oh wait, never mind.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 11:46 AM on November 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


> The hard science majors going for the big bucks jobs would taunt the humanities, history, and sociology majors saying things like "Oh, Art Major? Do you want fries with that?"

The STEM meme (and the self-congratulatory crowing of certain STEM folks) is frustrating because, wittingly or not, it's boosters end up chipping away at a niche in American society which is supposed to be (relatively) egalitarian and (relatively) protected from capitalist logic. Spending a few years studying something monetarily "useless" but deeply engaging or humanistic -- really, something that can be an introduction to a richer way of thinking and living, if you grab the opportunity -- has been historically been reserved for an already comfortable and secure minority, an arena which maybe admits some suitable candidates from the lower classes who could be properly socialized. The folks who can spend time doing immediately useless but deeply interesting and worthwhile things. And what's "useless" isn't even necessarily the arts; Darwin, for example, was hardly a dude with huge student loans who needed an MD for the money, or who got into geology because he hoped for a job with Shell.

But no, let's all throw that opportunity away (even though fewer than, what, 30% of Americans have it to begin with) and instead spend four years grinding for cash drops.

I don't even really blame the STEM folks; the vocal, annoying "mocha latte plz" ones are, it seems to me, often the middle or lower-middle class people who have to first and foremost consider the practicality of a higher degree, especially if they went into debt for the chance to try and earn it, and for whom a STEM career really does mean a step up the social ladder. Never mind that unless you're talking fairly high-level research positions (stuff which in terms of reliable monetary returns is closer to the humanities in the first place, unless I'm much mistaken), a glut of STEM workers just means an excess of skilled labor and lower wages all around.

That said, the OP's memory of undergrad is considerably more romantic than my own, although I believe him that in this particular case, 'love' is another way to make skilled, interesting work available only to those who can either bear the sacrifice, or who don't really need to work in the first place.
posted by postcommunism at 11:49 AM on November 24, 2013 [10 favorites]


It's fashionable (especially in the weaker reaches of the humanities and social sciences) to try to turn spin every problem as a problem of race or sex or etc.

And yet, it so very often *is*. Especially when you look at things like the wage distributions for various professions or the way that the humanities and social sciences took the unequal number of female undergraduates, and what compensation different paths get you on the other side of them versus their requirements and what society feels is and isn't worth of compensation.

Hell, I'm even watching that phenomena in good old engineering, bastion of the snobbery over who made 'practical' choices about their career paths, as certain disciplines of engineering start to equalize at different rates, and he snark about what is and isn't serious business arises. Civil engineering is matched against mechanical engineering as the internal dispute just magically tends to dismiss certain sorts of labour as frivolous.

There are more and less rigorous parts of the humanities as well as more and less rigorous parts of the social sciences. One sign you're in one of the less-rigorous regions: you think that everything is ideological...

Except when it is, because at the end of the day ideological emphasis is an effort to come up with functioning models or systems that are so complex they currently defy any other means of study. It's like being a chemist in the days when it's hard to refine materials into the right levels of purity or in medicine before you can see microscopic wiggly things that are causing health problems. If you're in say, political science, we acknowledge that none of the models that we have for state behaviour are perfect, but hell, one of the warning signs that you have a massive blind spot or two is the belief that you are pure rigour- it's all very well to say that medicine these days makes good use of the scientific method, but there's so much crap we don't know that every time we turn around some new bit of knowledge pops up- and we still have to battle pernicious irrationality, like the long held idea that an ulcer is a stress thing or the relatively late discovery of the internal clitoris.

But back to the accusation you have about gendering the idea of 'loving' your work: Obviously with your focus on rigour, you have no problem making the observation that pay in traditionally female fields is more often than not less than that for traditionally male fields that require the same hours of training investment. You are also probably aware that some field are more 'love' powered than others- education, library science, nursing, etc... are way more 'love' oriented than say, accounting. Even in business school, PR, HR and marketing are way more rah-rah 'passion' and unpaid internships, despite being evidently needed enough that this sort of work is still done.

So if something produces an end result that looks like sexism, or classism, or what have you... If it's not 'ideological', what is it? Let's bring some of that 'rigour' out there to problem solving- while *some* career paths and academic fields have atrophied so you might discount them, why do we seem to have the prestige and compensation sorted the way we do?
posted by Phalene at 11:57 AM on November 24, 2013 [10 favorites]


Never love anything that can't love you back. It's a simple proposition that makes many things clearer.
—posted by spitbull at 8:53 AM on November 24 [10 favorites]
Extremely wise. Some people love something precisely because it cannot love them back. And, love often doesn't work like that, that is requited. Still love the sentiment.
posted by simulacra at 12:16 PM on November 24, 2013


If you stop reading whenever someone mentions sex, then of course feminism will start to seem like narrow, obsessive zealotry — because you'll miss a lot of places (like, uh, the remaining 4/5 of this very article!) where feminists acknowledge that feminism is just one angle on a big and multifaceted issue.

I don't think people are saying that demanding affective labor or convincing people to work for love rather than money is about sexism per se (though sexism can come into it).

It's that feminism has a lot of experience dealing with the issues around affective labor or people working for "love," because that's how a lot of female labor has traditionally been framed. Examples would be the demands/framing for jobs like: housewife, mother, shop girl, waitress, teacher, prostitute, etc.

I think the point is that feminism might have interesting things to say about this issue because it's dealt with it extensively, not that this kind of framing or these demands are *only* applied to women -- and in fact, articles like this are saying that they are getting applied to larger and larger swaths of workers.
posted by rue72 at 12:25 PM on November 24, 2013 [3 favorites]


Never love anything that can't love you back. It's a simple proposition that makes many things clearer.

I don't think love works that way.
posted by polymodus at 12:29 PM on November 24, 2013 [7 favorites]


I'm a graduate student and I've never heard the "love rhetoric". Not when I was applying, not when I was accepted, not now that I'm actually in graduate school.

I don't know where Pannapacker thinks it comes from or where it circulates, but it's not a discourse that's at all familiar to me. His emphasis on it makes the article seem like a contrived way of forcing together a context and subject that don't necessarily go together out in the world.
posted by clockzero at 12:40 PM on November 24, 2013


Hmm, apparently my FPP-essay-crafting skills need work. What do folks think of the ideas in the second link, eg. that what some people consider "work" (learning/education) can also be a joy if one has a different relationship to it (control over the direction and conditions), and the proposition that the dichotomy observed in the first link (between doing work that pays sustainably and doing work that is fulfilling and satisfying are set up to be mutually exclusive) is related to Marxian ideas of alienated labor?
posted by eviemath at 1:22 PM on November 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


It's fashionable (especially in the weaker reaches of the humanities and social sciences) to try to turn spin every problem as a problem of race or sex or etc. But not every problem is that kind of problem. This approach turns real problems into cartoons.

The problem with this (very typical) dismissal is, as Phalene says above, that many many problems can be productively seen in terms of race, class, gender, etc. In fact, pretty much all social questions express one or more of these elements, and ignoring them makes a question unanswerable. Because the question is almost never really "how can we do X?" but "how can we do X without challenging any of our assumptions about [class/race/gender/etc]. And even science questions, especially applied science and engineering questions have a social component that goes unnoticed. And the solution works poorly because of that.
posted by GenjiandProust at 1:29 PM on November 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


By the way, the missing link, on "economic/ideological role of professional training programs", should be to a review of the book "Disciplined Minds" published in the magazine Radical Teacher.
posted by eviemath at 1:44 PM on November 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


Something that is a problem at the heart of college education is, of course, who should "drive." On one hand, you could say that the students would love learning more if they could direct their course of study, but this makes life difficult for the faculty, and it's complicated by the fact that most (perhaps all) students don't really have any idea what they need to know (directing your own learning takes a lot of thought and effort, and it's even harder before you have "learned how to learn"). But a course of study run by the faculty is in danger of prioritizing the depths of the discipline rather than the basics, and a corresponding lack of sense of where the students are right now. Fortunately, the current system is in the hands of administrators, who look out for the institution's needs over the students' or the faculty's (and the administrators often dance to someone else's tune, which further complicates things).

Of course, finding the middle path would be easier if the demand for efficiency and economy did not push for larger and faster classes, leaving little room for individual needs and interests. I guess to go back to the Marxism, it's like the Industrial Revolution has reached Higher Education, and the need to squeeze every drop f "profit" out of students and faculty robs them of pride in their efforts, the alienation of the intellectual work.
posted by GenjiandProust at 2:02 PM on November 24, 2013 [2 favorites]


[Did finally add the broken link, carry on]
posted by jessamyn at 6:01 PM on November 24, 2013


So if something produces an end result that looks like sexism, or classism, or what have you... If it's not 'ideological', what is it? Let's bring some of that 'rigour' out there to problem solving- while *some* career paths and academic fields have atrophied so you might discount them, why do we seem to have the prestige and compensation sorted the way we do?

Because of supply and demand? Because a person who hires a lawyer or doctor desperately wants to avoid prison or death and wants the very best lawyer or doctor. People are just not so selective when hiring for jobs that were historically dominated by women like teachers and psychologists.

Despite the historical trend, women will probably make up the bulk of pharmacists, biochemists, doctors, and accountants if they don't already, and these can be very lucrative jobs as well.

I've heard that men tend to value compensation more than women when choosing careers. In my experience, they also are more likely to leave steady jobs for risky startups with a lot of upside, and many value their career over their social life.

I don't agree with the suggestion I think you're making that a social conspiracy exists that a priori values the work of men over that of women. It's the other way around: men have put themselves (perhaps unfairly) into more demanded positions, although that reality is changing.
posted by esprit de l'escalier at 1:43 AM on November 25, 2013


students don't really have any idea what they need to know

In STEM fields, the prevalence of internships is quickly changing that.

I agree with what you wrote. The way I see it, the problem is that college is training and evaluation for either (1) industry, (2) research, or (3) life.

In all cases, you want to awaken the passion of the student, but for industry, you want to focus on the standard course work; for research, you want to awaken in the student interest-driven exploration and evaluation is completely different, and for life, I think you want total exploration and evaluation doesn't matter.

Unfortunately, these three aims are all accommodated by a single system, a system which almost always prioritizes (in STEM at least) training for industry.
posted by esprit de l'escalier at 1:56 AM on November 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


can also be a joy if one has a different relationship to it (control over the direction and conditions)

One management theory for motivating employees is to give them autonomy, mastery, and purpose. But, in general, there is going to be more supply for work that is more rewarding universally, and compensation will probably be lower. And why not?
posted by esprit de l'escalier at 2:03 AM on November 25, 2013


I don't agree with the suggestion I think you're making that a social conspiracy exists

Ah, this is perhaps the most common misperception around the idea of systemic oppression.

So, the thing about a systemic analysis of oppression is that it can explain sex/race/class-differential effects as emergent phenomena of complex systems, without requiring that individuals collude as part of a vast conspiracy to keep other folks down. Patriarchy, colonialism, etc. as systems of oppression can be sustained by the not-necessarily-mean-spirited actions of individuals just going along with what they've been taught and with the status quo. To change that status quo does require coordinated and deliberate mass social movements (generally these occur out in the open, rather than as some backroom conspiracy, of course; since it wouldn't be much of a mass movement otherwise).
posted by eviemath at 7:11 AM on November 25, 2013 [8 favorites]


How Academia Resembles A Drug Gang
posted by jeffburdges at 7:22 AM on November 25, 2013


without requiring that individuals collude

Yeah, but my point was that there are much more likely explanations than "systematic oppression" for the historical difference that is decreasingly prevalent.
posted by esprit de l'escalier at 9:48 AM on November 25, 2013


Only undergrad related but hey : UK Govt Has Sold Your Student Loans to Debt Collectors : Corruption, Plain and Simple
posted by jeffburdges at 1:01 PM on November 25, 2013


The word is systemic, not systematic. Kinda makes a difference in the meaning. In a way that changes it's likelihood as an explanation for stuff. Systemic as in systems thinking, which is not coming from quite the same perspective as systemic analyses of oppression, but isn't so far off. When people say "there is systemic oppression of X group", what they mean is that one can find statistical differences in political and social power, health and happiness outcomes, levels of violence experienced, etc. based on membership in X group versus a higher status group. It's a description of outcomes, not of inputs or causes.

Systematic, in contrast, has connotations of intentionality, and relates more to the inputs or causes than the outcomes. There are certainly still prejudiced individuals (oh boy are there), who sometimes work in concert together. A group of guys who egg each other on toward raping drunk women could be an example of such; as could the networks of people creating, maintaining, and supplying content for revenge porn web sites. Both of these examples would be aspect of the system of patriarchy - reinforcing a status quo that under-values womens' safety and bodily autonomy. The individuals in both examples would in turn be influenced by patriarchy in finding support for their actions, indifference among bystanders, or bystanders uncomfortable with their actions but also helping shame or blame their victims in a way that minimizes the offending individuals' culpability.

Viewing these interactions as part of a system - patriarchy - allows analysis and explanation of factors such as the role of bystanders and victims past experiences' in determining the extent of harm of these actions, as well as prevalence and manner of expression of individual prejudices. It's kind of the key to explaining why some individuals experience more harm as the result of a specific discriminatory action than others, for example. It also gives us language to ask questions about, for another example, why men tend to value compensation more than women when choosing careers, whether that has differential effects on individual health and happiness by sex/gender (it does), and how individual choices and preferences affect population-wide statistical effects. This is hardly a controversial way of thinking about complex systems in economics or ecology. Why would it be unlikely or lacking in explanatory power for more strictly sociological type questions?
posted by eviemath at 1:50 PM on November 25, 2013 [2 favorites]


But coming back to the FPP topic: patriarchy or no patriarchy, do you think that there is necessarily a split between well-remunerated work and emotionally or intellectually fulfilling work (the third link, despite throwing in the bit about go communism at the end, seems to me to be arguing that this is possible, though only in limited cases)? Do you agree with the links that this split is a bad thing (a la the first link, or the fourth link), or do you think it's just fine? What do you think the purpose of education is? What do you think it should be; do you agree with the kid from the second link that it should be for happiness, not for job preparedness? If not, where do you think his argument fails? Do you think that capitalism can be reformed to make more people's jobs both well-paying and fulfilling (the kid in the second link seems to think so)? Or do you agree with Marx (last link) that some form of socialism would be needed to accomplish this? Do you think some form of socialism could accomplish this?
posted by eviemath at 1:50 PM on November 25, 2013


Isn't fulfilling work in higher demand, and why shouldn't that drive down remuneration?

Someone once told me that education is wasted on those who don't use it professionally. I think that's garbage: education should be for happiness, but unfortunately I don't think you will ever convince the public to fund education for happiness. Most people are willing to subsidize universities that train doctors and lawyers who will pay taxes that refund the system. It's hard to sell indirect benefits of happiness, literacy, humanism: intellectual épanouissement.
posted by esprit de l'escalier at 2:26 PM on November 25, 2013


I've always assumed that fulfilling work paid less mostly due to competition, esprit de l'escalier, but another factor exists too :

If you do fulfilling work, then you actually do work, worse work that you want to get done. If otoh you work in management, administration, etc. or merely if you hold a zero marginal product job, then frequently your job leaves time for social game playing, either because you play social games for your employer or just because you don't really do so much that needs doing.

I'd therefore expect that productive and fulfilling work inhibits promotion, limiting your long term income, while wasteful work helps you build the connections to advance yourself.
posted by jeffburdges at 3:25 AM on November 26, 2013 [1 favorite]


I don't see the link between your three paragraphs.

Also, your theory is that management doesn't do anything? Have you seen their calendars?
posted by esprit de l'escalier at 8:42 PM on November 26, 2013


I can't think of unique enough search terms to find the link quickly, but there was an article several months ago about how executive schedules include all kinds of tasks that are considered personal rather than work-related for the rest of us: working out, buying presents for spouse, massage appointment, etc. When these types of tasks were removed, the article's author found that executives, rather than putting in more hours than their hourly workers, put in slightly less per week. Does anyone else remember this and have the link more quickly to hand? I think it was on the blue; I forget what magazine it linked to though - something in the same category of Mother Jones, likely.
posted by eviemath at 6:44 AM on November 27, 2013


I'd love to unseat upper-level management, but I meant mid-level management and administrators actually. Yes, these employees "do something", but it's mostly parasitic social control, not so much productive work. And frequently startups function with drastically reduced management structures. ZMP workers sounds much broader still.
posted by jeffburdges at 8:09 AM on November 27, 2013


mostly parasitic social control, not so much productive work.

Honestly, you must have worked for some pretty terrible companies. Maybe, I've worked for some excellent companies, but it's been universally obvious how talented my managers have been. At my first full time position at a small company, I remember my manager asking me (which means insisting) to go to the company meetings. What I learned: the company was in good hands; I have my set of skills and they have theirs.

I think this idea that management are parasites is naïve. If you're so sure that you can do better, why don't you start your own startup; manage your own company?
posted by esprit de l'escalier at 11:42 AM on November 27, 2013


I have only discussed mid-level management and administration because, although I believe upper level management should eventually be eliminated, that requires fairly major cultural changes. There is no upper level management in the open source software world for example, so maybe we're talking changes as radical as a basic income, not sure.

There is often a wide difference between administration at small and large organizations. In particular, all the tech start ups I'd worked in had efficient seeming management with minimal layers, although they might've squandered money on advertising, salesmen, etc. Conversely, all the large organizations I've worked in were universities with spectacularly inefficient administration, supposedly large corporations have similar issues.

There are already an awful lot of software tools that help alleviate the need for mid-level management and administration, many like bug trackers essentially wikify some management tasks, some like demand forecasting or scheduling software do tasks that most managers lack the mathematical background to do well anyways, etc. All these tools allow smaller organizations to grow a bit bigger before they need to add much middle management layers. Integrating and polishing them should yield much more, but no it's not easy.
posted by jeffburdges at 7:53 AM on November 28, 2013




If you a lot of the shares of a company, don't you want some high level management to maximize your return? If you own/run your own company, then you're the high level management. What's wrong with that?

Universities are very different than private companies because their income comes from the government and students, and so they have a lot of power to raise tuition and much less incentive to cut administration. Also, the admin have strong unions; even if you had a technological replacement, I don't think you can walk in there one day and say, "half of you are redundant".

As for mid-level management, they do a lot more than task management. Managers at top STEM companies are technical these days as companies realize they are much more effective when they understand the jobs of their subordinates. What do you about someone who isn't pulling their weight, or is obstinately going in the wrong direction? What about when there's a conflict about which direction to take a project? What about a personality conflict? What if you want to be moved somewhere else in the organization, who decides if that's a good idea? What if you find a job somewhere else; who decides what your company should offer you to stay? Who decides how useful you are?

As soon as a lot of (someone's) money is involved, you then have foundations that manage it even in the open source community.

If you're not advocating no management, but just less management levels, then that's the exactly the direction of industry right now.
posted by esprit de l'escalier at 3:50 PM on November 28, 2013


[well, I suppose debating whether bosses/management are or are not fundamentally/structurally parasitic gets us back around to socialism, which could get us back around to the FPP topic of alienated labor, more specifically in the academic/intellectual labor sphere? must remember, making the FPP doesn't mean that I own the thread... the direction the discussion takes is the direction the discussion takes... do not own the thread.... sigh. carry on.]
posted by eviemath at 3:30 PM on December 2, 2013






People don’t actually like creativity
Amongst the most powerful arguments for a basic income I've ever read, but never even mentions it.
posted by jeffburdges at 5:45 AM on December 10, 2013


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