The Fruits of Civilization (54) Employment


The world could one day be filled with nothing but those little cogs, little men clinging to little jobs and striving toward bigger ones. ~ Max Weber at the beginning of the 20th century

Soul-destroying, meaningless, mechanical, monotonous, moronic work is an insult to human nature. ~ E.F. Schumacher

Employees have become commodities. ~ American economist George Tyler at the end of the 20th century

The fundamental issue is why economies exist. The reasonable and naïve answer is so people may sustain themselves, be gainfully employed, and enjoy their lives.

Modern capitalism aims at an altogether different goal: relentless resource exploitation for profit. Under this system, humans are a disposable commodity, to be used and discarded when no longer needed; a costly cog in the machinery of revenue generation.

The standard capitalist formula is trying to do the same business with fewer people. ~ Warren Buffett

If it could, capitalism would make do with white rats. ~ Moroccan French sociologist Jean Baudrillard

The American workplace is physically and emotionally taxing. 78% of workers must be present at their workplace during regular business hours. 1/3rd have no control over their schedule. Over 70% have intense or repetitive physical exertion on the job. 2/3rds work at high speeds or under tight deadlines. Over half of American workers are exposed to unpleasant or hazardous working conditions. 20% face a hostile or threatening social environment at work. Women ubiquitously experience discrimination and unwanted sexual advances, while men are subject to verbal abuse.

There is little systematic, representative, and publicly available data about the characteristics of American jobs today. American working conditions paint a stark picture. The workplace is taxing, both for less-educated and for more-educated workers. ~ American sociologist and economist Nicole Maestas et al in 2017

Though slavery is outlawed, modern employers do their best to find a substitute. 20% of American workers are bound by non-compete agreements that prohibit them for changing jobs to anyone the employer deems a competitor. This perpetual indentured servitude is even required of low-wage workers who have no access to proprietary information. Over half of American fast-food workers are barred from going to work for another fast-food joint. Wages in states that allow non-competes are 4% lower than those that do not.

That the market system grossly rewards capital over labor is a matter of distribution. However sorry such inequity may be, an even greater tragedy plays out in wasting people’s lives by not providing employment for all those who are willing and able to work.

Job insecurity reduces both physical and mental health. ~ Belgian psychologist Tinne Vander Elst

Unemployment has a profound impact on those who suffer it for extended periods. Youth are alienated from the society that provides them no opportunity. Despair drives them to crime and rebellion.

Local job losses can both worsen adolescent mental health and lower academic performance, and, thus, can increase income inequality in college attendance, particularly among black students and those from the poorest families. ~ American economist Elizabeth Ananat et al

For those prematurely put out to pasture toward the end of their working lives, facing penury leads to suicide. Since the 2008 recession, suicide rates have risen in the US and Europe.

People quietly offing themselves is pastoral compared to what others do. The young mass murderers that sporadically pop up at schools across the American landscape are driven by rage in facing the prospect of a wasted life. The killers return to the institution which inadvertently deceived them to render their final denouement on a broken society.

Gun violence can result from disappointment and despair during periods of unemployment, when getting an education does not necessarily lead to finding work. ~ American sociologist John Hagan