Monday, August 30, 2010

More on Unemployment

Last k-punk link. I promise. More on unemployment, that I hope will be appreciated by any who have had experiences like mine last year - Incidentally when I had the resources to blog at a rate that I liked. Long-term unemployment sucks, and is, by its very nature, demoralising and worse, psychologically damaging (and, as Mark points out, ontologically alienating). A piece I particularly like:

"For a number of reasons, during my twenties I believed then that I was unemployable - too feckless to do either manual work or retail, and nowhere near confident enough to do a graduate job of any kind. (The ads for graduate jobs would fill me with despair: surely only a superhuman could do the job as described?) I won't deny that eventually getting employment was important - I owe so much of what I am now to getting a teaching job. But equally important was the demystification of work that gaining this employment allowed - "work" wasn't something only available to people who belonged to a different ontological category to me. (Even so, this feeling wasn't rectified by having a job: I had a number of depressive episodes when I was convinced that I wasn't the sort of person who could be a teacher.)

"But surely the importance of Virno and Negri's work is to have undermined the distinction between work and non-work any way. What precisely counts as non-work in post-Fordism? If, to use Jonathan Beller's phrase, "to look is to labour" - if, that is to say, attention is a commodity - then aren't we all "contributing", whether we like it or not? As Nina argues, "[i]t is as if employers have taken the very worst aspects of women's work in the past – poorly paid, precarious, without benefits – and applied it to almost everyone, except those at the very top, who remain overwhelmingly male and incomprehensibly rich." In these conditions - in which unemployment/underemployment/perpetual insecurity are structurally necessary, not contingent accidents - there's more case than ever for a benefits saftey net."


Rob said...

Oh how I feel this now. Somehow caught between the (apparent) pointlessness of my arts degree and the impossibility of borrowing more money to make something of it (honours, teaching dip).

Ross Brighton said...

Yeah - I've got Honours, and I'm doing my Masters at the moment, but I'm caught in the chronically underpaid and overworked hole of graduate teaching -
This summs it up nicely: