One function of blog entries, it seems, is so the writer can say what’s happening, and comment on it. At another level, this means venting. Or, let’s put that more constructively, as an academic: beginning a piece of writing that might eventually become something more academic.
It’s ironic that I haven’t had time to make many entries in this blog. And that’s what this entry is about. A number of us in my department have noticed that the amount of work has gone up while the resources have gone down, and as professionals with high ethical standards, we have responded by working harder.
We aren’t the only ones to have made such comments, and they are often associated with commentary concerning the ever-present forms of technological communication that render a separation between work and not-work more difficult; and also break up work into fragments, often in a way that disrupts “better” work.
While I intend to check whether this has actually been a feature of all civilized life (like we can find Romans commenting about how poorly behaved young people are and how the language is in decline etc., just like conservative commentators in the present time), if it is a fact, stating it will be important and analyzing its implications also. The implication that is bothering me most is that the absence of unallocated time at work means that most tasks are done in an unreflective way, as fast as possible, so we can go on to the next pressing matter. Clearly this prevents cycles of improvement, which depend on reflection (and even of analysis of failures or weaknesses) from occurring. It seems also to be associated with the increase in individualization. Stereotypically, the “U.S.” is a fairly individualistic culture (though de Tocqueville commented how many associations there were, at the time of the Revolution, and Dewey’s approach to education is predicated on many egalitarian communities in contact). But individualization has increased (Bowling Alone). If I don’t have time to build, maintain, and extend informal networks at work, I actually can’t produce good work. And as a professor, with (by definition) a role in society, I can’t contribute to the improvement of society if I am increasingly cut off from it by ever-extending workdays. I can barely maintain my family responsibilities, let alone my civic responsibilities.
Is that the intention? Is there some larger machiavellian scheme emanating from those who have an interest in having all workers working harder and faster (for the same pay)? Whatever is going on, I don’t like it; and having put it down in black and white, I intend to persist in analysis and constructive response. Comments welcomed, indeed sought. If this is a menace, it must be resisted somehow. (The old term ‘monkeywrenching’ comes to mind – to be continued in next installment.)