Is job insecurity the new norm? With fewer and fewer people working in steady, long-term positions for one employer, has the dream of a secure job with full benefits and a decent salary become just that—a dream?
In Nice Work If You Can Get It, Andrew Ross surveys the new topography of the global workplace and finds an emerging pattern of labor instability and uneven development on a massive scale. Combining detailed case studies with lucid analysis and graphic prose, he looks at what the new landscape of contingent employment means for workers across national, class, and racial lines—from the emerging “creative class” of high-wage professionals to the multitudes of temporary, migrant, or low-wage workers. Developing the idea of “precarious livelihoods” to describe this new world of work and life, Ross explores what it means in developed nations—comparing the creative industry policies of the United States, United Kingdom, and European Union, as well as developing countries—by examining the quickfire transformation of China’s labor market. He also responds to the challenge of sustainability, assessing the promise of “green jobs” through restorative alliances between labor advocates and environmentalists.
Ross argues that regardless of one’s views on labor rights, globalization, and quality of life, this new precarious and “indefinite life,&” and the pitfalls and opportunities that accompany it is likely here to stay and must be addressed in a systematic way. A more equitable kind of knowledge society emerges in these pages—less skewed toward flexploitation and the speculative beneficiaries of intellectual property, and more in tune with ideals and practices that are fair, just, and renewable.
Andrew Ross is Professor of American Studies in the Department of Social and Cultural Analysis at New York University. He is the author and editor of numerous books, including No-Collar, Fast Boat to China, No Respect, Strange Weather, and, from NYU Press, Anti-Americanism and Real Love.
It seems like pretty much everybody – homeowners, students, those who are ill and without health insurance, and, of course, credit card holders – is up to their neck in debt that can never be repaid. 77% of US households are seriously indebted and one in seven Americans has been pursued by debt collectors. The major banks are bigger and more profitable than before the 2008 crash, and legislators are all but powerless to bring them to heel.
In this forceful, eye-opening survey, Andrew Ross contends that we are in the cruel grip of a creditocracy – where the finance industry commandeers our elected governments and where the citizenry have to take out loans to meet their basic needs. The implications of mass indebtedness for any democracy are profound, and history shows that whenever a creditor class becomes as powerful as Wall Street, the result has been debt bondage for the bulk of the population.
Following in the ancient tradition of the jubilee, activists have had some success in repudiating the debts of developing countries. The time is ripe, Ross argues, for a debtors’ movement to use the same kinds of moral and legal arguments to bring relief to household debtors in the North. After examining the varieties of lending that have contributed to the crisis, Ross suggests ways of lifting the burden of illegitimate debts from our backs. Just as important, Creditocracy outlines the kind of alternative economy we need to replace a predatory debt-money system that only benefits the 1%.
Millions of Americans work full time, year round, for poverty-level wages. In 1998, Barbara Ehrenreich decided to join them. She was inspired in part by the rhetoric surrounding welfare reform, which promised that a job -- any job -- can be the ticket to a better life. But how does anyone survive, let alone prosper, on $6 an hour? To find out, Ehrenreich left her home, took the cheapest lodgings she could find, and accepted whatever jobs she was offered. Moving from Florida to Maine to Minnesota, she worked as a waitress, a hotel maid, a cleaning woman, a nursing-home aide, and a Wal-Mart sales clerk. She lived in trailer parks and crumbling residential motels. Very quickly, she discovered that no job is truly "unskilled," that even the lowliest occupations require exhausting mental and muscular effort. She also learned that one job is not enough; you need at least two if you int to live indoors.
Nickel and Dimed reveals low-rent America in all its tenacity, anxiety, and surprising generosity -- a land of Big Boxes, fast food, and a thousand desperate stratagems for survival. Read it for the smoldering clarity of Ehrenreich's perspective and for a rare view of how "prosperity" looks from the bottom. You will never see anything -- from a motel bathroom to a restaurant meal -- in quite the same way again.