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August 15, 2004 9:11 PM   Subscribe

Corporate culture is nothing more than the "crystallization of the stupidity of a group of people at a given moment", says Corinne Maier, the author of the slacker manifesto, "Bonjour Paresse". Better read this before clocking in Monday. (NYT)
posted by semmi (25 comments total)

 
Oy. I'd be a lot more sympathetic to her comments if she'd give up the corporate paycheck and/or start her own business. Such self-righteous preciousness...
posted by twsf at 9:39 PM on August 15, 2004


Working, as I do, for a large and plodding behemoth in the Pacific Northwest, it's the way really smart people are reduced to a level of stupididty and complacency that's the killer. A freeway of PowerPoint reduced to the speed of the the slowest prole in the fastlane who bogs the rest down with meaningless corporate gobbledegook...
posted by marvin at 10:32 PM on August 15, 2004


Probably similar: How To Be Idle book extract by Tom Hodgkinson.
posted by bitpart at 11:32 PM on August 15, 2004


twsf: that's just the thing, it seems she's arguing that bringing down the system from within is more effective, instead of self-righteously scraping a living on one's own.
posted by Space Coyote at 11:59 PM on August 15, 2004


Oh to be working 20 hours a week, living on the Left Bank in an apartment decorated with colorful abstract art, huge stereo speakers and a bicycle, and complaining all the way to the bank. Quelle horreur! I hope that anyone that takes her book's advice to heart will be fired, and jobs transferred to the hundreds of millions of Indians, Chinese, and other qualified, eager, and motivated employees that would easily work 70 hours a week for 2,000$ a month.

It is very hard to have one iota of sympathy for someone so fortunate and so well-off to be so smug, selfish, and ungrateful for what she has.
posted by cmicali at 12:33 AM on August 16, 2004


cmicali is showing perhaps the darker side of the so-called protestant work ethic familiar to the UK and Americans. Someone who makes a comfortable living and doesn't give her life to her job is apparently worthy of contempt.
posted by Space Coyote at 1:02 AM on August 16, 2004


I'm not impressed by EdF's attempt to sack Maier... Still more publicity for her book - perhaps she won't have to work anymore.
posted by dmt at 4:45 AM on August 16, 2004


huh ... i didn't know most of the people in my factory could read french ...
posted by pyramid termite at 4:51 AM on August 16, 2004


huh ... i didn't know most of the people in my factory could read french ...

Ha! I thought the same thing. This isn't exactly a revolutionary idea -- take a tour through any large, unionized manufacturing facility in the U.S., and you'll see plenty of people essentially saying bonjour paresse, and "spreading gangrene from within."
posted by pardonyou? at 6:15 AM on August 16, 2004


In defense of America...

and

As long as we're discussing totems...

Wouldn't another solution to the problem be the emulation of the American work ethic? A work ethic that arose not from puritanical minds but from America's fascination with new horizons, desire for accomplishment and non-institutionalized professionalism? The American work ethic as depicted by Michael Mann (Collateral, Heat), the David Brooks styled optimism, and the pure Jim Jarmusch-esqe desire for new horizons (Down by Law, Stranger Than Paradise).

The (North) American counterpoint to this book would be Microserfs by Douglas Coupland. There, the same working conditions as depicted in that article were being brought upon the characters in the book. So... they started a business that they believed in, that had never been done before, and with a goal in mind of creating a perfect replica of what was in their minds.
posted by sleslie at 6:20 AM on August 16, 2004


Yeah, what sleslie said...
posted by twsf at 7:53 AM on August 16, 2004


Wouldn't another solution to the problem be the emulation of the American work ethic? A work ethic that arose not from puritanical minds but from America's fascination with new horizons, desire for accomplishment and non-institutionalized professionalism?

a) No, no, I don't think so.

and

b) Where on earth did you get a goofy idea like that?

[I'm tempted to throw in a "Why, that's Calvinism!" for old times sake, but I can't be bothered to figure out a way to work it in, so it'll just have to be a tangential aside.]
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 8:13 AM on August 16, 2004


Hell, maybe I am a Calvinist. Allow me to ruminate on this on for a bit.
posted by sleslie at 8:58 AM on August 16, 2004


It is very hard to have one iota of sympathy for someone so fortunate and so well-off to be so smug, selfish, and ungrateful for what she has.

she's not asking for your sympathy, she's saying "you can do it too, and here's why you should." i think her argument could be very interesting.

"They think it scandalous," she said, "like I spit in my soup."

of course she did, but when it's shit soup, a little spit makes it easier to swallow.

i don't have a problem with the "american work ethic" (perhaps "immigrant work ethic" would be a better term), i.e. go out, do your own thing, work hard, make money, but i think it's more suited to an untamed wilderness with (seemingly) endless resources than an urban society of over 6 billion people. unfettered production has created an unsustainable civilization on the edge of catastrophe.

perhaps we'd all be better off if we slowed down. i'm not a luddite; i believe in technology. i just think there ought to more consideration in our production.
posted by mrgrimm at 10:16 AM on August 16, 2004


"Hell, maybe I am a Calvinist."
posted by semmi at 10:24 AM on August 16, 2004


Preach it, sister.
posted by The Card Cheat at 10:32 AM on August 16, 2004


Well, surely you'll agree that, from the individual's perspective, there is something intrisically stupid and inferior about working for a large company.
posted by ParisParamus at 11:10 AM on August 16, 2004


It is very hard to have one iota of sympathy for someone so fortunate and so well-off to be so smug, selfish, and ungrateful for what she has.

Hey, you cant take anyone seriously that has any money. Shit, they're already happy what else do they need right?

Happiness, man, happiness.
posted by Satapher at 11:39 AM on August 16, 2004


Shit, if I could bust ass 20 hours a week to earn a decent living, then spend the rest of the time doing things at a leisurely pace that make me happy (i.e. don't pay that much), I'd be all over it.

The suggestion box is OPEN.
posted by gottabefunky at 11:52 AM on August 16, 2004


The suggestion box is OPEN.

two words: underwater welding

in personally anecdotal terms, freelance graphic design seems like a viable option. as does freelance database contractor (which is more like 50 hours a week for 26 weeks a year, but hey ...).

i don't have the skills or incentive to do either, but i still know some people who do. you have to be comfortable with subsistence living, however ...
posted by mrgrimm at 12:09 PM on August 16, 2004


Club dei “nati stanchi”
  1. Si nasce stanchi e si vive per riposare.
  2. Il riposo è la base di ogni attività.
  3. Lavorando si suda; il sudore è umido; l’umidità è dannosa alla salute.
  4. Per troppo riposo non è mai morto nessuno.
  5. Non far mai oggi ciò che domani puoi far fare ad un altro.
  6. Se vedi uno che riposa, aiutalo.
  7. Se ti viene voglia di lavorare, siediti, aspetta e vedrai che ti passa.
  8. Se vedi uno che lavora, scansati: ti potrebbe venir voglia d’imitarlo.
  9. Evita la fatica e ne avrai sollievo.
  10. Se ti senti stanco di non far nulla, riposati.
  11. Quando un poveraccio ha dormito tutta la notte, ha ben diritto di riposare un poco durante il giorno!
  12. L’ozio è il padre dei vizi, ma la fatica è la madre dei calli.
  13. Se il lavoro è salute, evviva la malattia!
  14. Riposa di giorno, se vuoi dormir bene la notte.
  15. Fai meno che puoi, e quel poco fallo fare agli altri.
posted by Zurishaddai at 8:12 PM on August 16, 2004


spacecyote:

How does writing books encouraging people to slack and take down the organization from within equate to "doesn't give her life to her job." Specious at best.
posted by cmicali at 9:35 PM on August 16, 2004


I'm just saying how can this be taken seriously. Someone who lives in downtown paris (imagine the rent,) went to an elite (read: expensive) school, works TWENTY hours a week, and writes a book saying everyone should be lazy, filch from their employers, and take down the system from the inside? Sounds pretty crap to me. It's from the "I have it all but I'm you still owe me" philosophy, almost as if like an American should have written it!
posted by cmicali at 9:45 PM on August 16, 2004


cmicali: having enough free time to write books about things she wants to write about, while giving some of her time earning a salary writing technical papers seems like an excellent balance to me. Specious? How? Sounds perfect.
posted by Space Coyote at 10:18 PM on August 16, 2004


ok, not many here are getting her intentions right, imho.

In a tongue in cheek way, she's trying to shake up the french work system which needs to wake up and smell the coffee one day. There are so many things wrong in the big picture that I really don't know where to start.

First off, she isn't talking about factory workers.
"the damned of the tertiary sector" She specifically refers to the tertiary sector aka white collar, services and liberal professions.

Furthermore, Cmicali made a basic american assumption in his/her above post when s/he equated an elite school to an expensive school. No. This is not how it works in France.
If I remember correctly, her school is free. But here's the rub: you must first succeed in a series of entrance competitions (I repeat: not exams, competitions) then comes an oral exam in two foreign languages and then if you succeed at those you finally get a meeting with the directors to determine your psychological profile/ambitions.
She comes from a Mensa-type of school. She's working at a dead-end job. And there is no way for her to rise up the ranks/achieve intellectual satisfaction from her job unless she *moves out of her country*. Period. And that's really what her book's about.

Another point Cmicali made is that she only works for 20 hours a week. I'd start by asking, did she chose to work so little? Believe it or not, some people have been forced into part-time work because of this ridiculous 35 hour weekday law.

Look, this may sound crazy to some Americans, but perhaps this woman would like a different job that challenges her. With perhaps some colleagues that enjoy healthy competition. Most importantly she'd perhaps like a work system - not just a work ethics - that'll allow incompetent colleagues to be immediately fired, competent colleagues to be immediately promoted; where your position in life doesn't depend on the school you graduated from and where there's the same competitive intellectual challenges she has always experienced.. that is, until she started working.

She does want to break the system.
Taking her case to her union was brilliant - it's clearly thumbing your nose at the system. (For info, her union is one of the strongest in France, capable of taking the entire country hostage)

I see this woman as another intellectual tiger in a chicken coop, except that this one still has a fight left in her.
Bonne chance.
posted by ruelle at 3:38 AM on August 18, 2004


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