Some of the faux companies even hold strikes
June 5, 2015 2:05 AM   Subscribe

In Europe, Fake Jobs Can Have Real Benefits (SLNYT)
The concept of virtual companies, also known as practice firms, traces its roots to Germany after World War II, when large numbers of people needed to reorient their skills. Intended to supplement vocational training, the centers emerged in earnest across Europe in the 1950s and spread rapidly in the last two decades.
posted by frimble (18 comments total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
That was such a strange article. Apparently they have created a connected fake economy of these pretend companies, where they buy and sell from each other. Is there a point where this would grow to the point of having the pretend economy become real, with actual production of goods and services?
posted by Dip Flash at 4:39 AM on June 5, 2015 [1 favorite]

It's kind of a "You will be ready for when the jobs come" cargo cult. But what if they don't?
posted by scruss at 5:06 AM on June 5, 2015 [4 favorites]

Art'Lim why not buy something?
posted by Segundus at 5:08 AM on June 5, 2015 [1 favorite]

If your question is about how to make the practice firm be connected to the outcome of fungible money, then perhaps Neal Stephenson could provide some insight as to how one could achieve that...
posted by Annika Cicada at 5:09 AM on June 5, 2015

So, if corporations are people, are these corporations the type of person that crash on their friend's couch and refuse to get a job?
posted by mccarty.tim at 5:30 AM on June 5, 2015 [1 favorite]

This seems more realistic than using Universities as vocational training indenture traps or having homeless people sell contentless magazines (Big Issue or Streetwise)..
posted by srboisvert at 5:33 AM on June 5, 2015 [4 favorites]

I'm maybe getting too cynical because my first instinct, which I can't seem to shake, is "somebody somehow is using this to screw the people doing pretend work for no pay".
posted by Pope Guilty at 5:38 AM on June 5, 2015 [4 favorites]

This takes Graeber's bullshit jobs to the next level.

Capitalism, yo!
posted by entropone at 6:04 AM on June 5, 2015 [1 favorite]

Thought 1. "Pythons are our new best seller." This is surreal.

Thought 2. A former coworker and I used to talk about how so much of corporate America is reassuring people that they are doing the right things. We had long conversations on how similar building certain presentations on real data for real reasons still was the same sort of window dressing expected in a Potemkin Village. Looking at so many people around us going through spreadsheet after spreadsheet that reports that somebody basically filled out their spreadsheet in this endless cycle of job justification does not grow a business. Requesting an analysis and then ignoring the learning to go with your gut simultaneously eliminates the necessity for the analysis as well as the requesting manager's job as apparently the business operates more on a random chance / autopilot scenario than actually requiring actual data to properly improve performance. So yeah, real companies are filled with Potemkin workers just as much as fake ones. The pay is a bit different though...
posted by Nanukthedog at 6:11 AM on June 5, 2015 [4 favorites]

Pope Guilty: I don't think you're being cynical, there are any number of methods that fake capitalists to capture the imaginary surplus value produced by pretend labour.

More seriously, this seems like a good idea on an individual level, because it's a good way for people to practice the day to day grab bag of skills that make up working in an office in various positions and ease the huge adjustment from unemployed to employed mindsets. It also seems completely useless against the larger economic trends that are driving more and more workers into poverty or insecurity. This may be why it's flagging you as 'someone is getting screwed'; because the jobs that are being trained for are the ones being pushed towards the edge. I'm inclined to think that the benefit for the individual is enough to justify it so long as it doesn't become one of those creepy moralizing 'fake work for benefits' things.
posted by Grimgrin at 6:16 AM on June 5, 2015 [2 favorites]

It's a job where you can be officially "employed" in a benign work training environment which provides an avenue to public money whilst serving no real useful productive purpose.

In America I think they call this graduate school and you have to pay for it yourself.
posted by three blind mice at 6:24 AM on June 5, 2015 [6 favorites]

One of my first office jobs was a faux job. For a few months I worked at a 9 to 5 office in Toronto with guaranteed placement at a realer job later. It was all part of a retraining program paid for by Canada's EI system.

It was basically training for first level support call centres.

Whatever. I needed the money and nothing else was happening during that particular downturn. It was weird though.
posted by clvrmnky at 6:36 AM on June 5, 2015 [1 favorite]

This reminds me of an anime Kino's Journey ("Together with her sentient motorcycle Hermes, Kino is a traveller who journeys from country to country."). There's an episode where she travels to a country where all of the real work is done by machines, but people still travel to "work" and perform stressful tasks because, what else are you going to do?

Another episode carries on that theme a bit. It's about three men working alone, miles apart on a railway line:
As she makes her way along an old railroad, Kino runs into a man who has been polishing the tracks for some fifty years. Stopping for a break, Kino entertains the man with a story of a land where the people no longer have to work, but choose to subject themselves to meaningless and stressful tasks anyway. It may seem foolish to the old man, but little does he realise that his own work is just as pointless, for, as Kino is about to discover, there are two more men working on the railroad, each undoing the work done by the others.
It's been a while since I've watched it, but it has a certain melancholic charm to it.
posted by cyberscythe at 6:54 AM on June 5, 2015 [2 favorites]

I felt this way about the American 'Health Care System' when I first moved here. I mean a huge chunk of American GDP is made up of Health Insurance bullshit that just doesn't exist at the same level anywhere else in the industrialized world. If the system is ever 'fixed' it will produce mass unemployment at levels similar to what everybody is fearing will come from robot truck drivers combined with what would appear to be a productivity drop.
posted by srboisvert at 8:14 AM on June 5, 2015 [8 favorites]

Well, and then there are the cover organizations. This reminds me of the German health care givers who created a bus stop on the grounds of their Alzheimer's treatment facility, for the patients to hang out in, so they have an ordinary activity, waiting for the bus.
posted by Oyéah at 8:24 AM on June 5, 2015 [4 favorites]

In America I think they call this graduate school and you have to pay for it yourself.

The first rule of grad school is never pay for grad school. If you're working on a MA/MS or a PhD and the money is flowing from you to the school rather than from the school to you, and if you do not have an unassailably large pile of independent wealth, you are making a genuinely terrible mistake. Please, mefites, do not make this mistake.

The More You Know ☆彡
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 5:30 PM on June 5, 2015 [1 favorite]

The first rule of grad school is never pay for grad school.

Except when it is a professional masters where you have done the math for the payoff. Even then you can get screwed, as a lot of recent law school graduates discovered, but mostly people who are smart about it make it work really well.
posted by Dip Flash at 8:48 PM on June 5, 2015 [1 favorite]

My boss, who's an architect is still looking for a Latex Salesman here at Vandelay Industries.
And someone for the Import/Export wing of course.
Stop by 186 West 81st Street in NYC if you're interested. Tell them Dr. Martin van Nostrand sent you.
posted by Smedleyman at 10:10 PM on June 8, 2015 [1 favorite]

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