Join a five-a-side team just to find work? Meritocracy really is on its last legs

时间:2019-11-16 责任编辑:益聂 来源:银河网投官网 点击:242 次

Giuliano Poletti, Italy’s employment minister, touched a nerve when he and play five-a-side football instead. His point was that formal job applications don’t mean that much in a society where . Landing decent work is more dependent on who you know, being able to mingle with the “right people” – or through what is called a “raccomandazione”: a recommendation by a friend or relative.

The comment caused an uproar because it fundamentally rejects the ; that the job you hold reflects your abilities and skill rather than who you know. Also, it once again places the blame of structural economic trends – rampant unemployment – on to the individual. The reason you aren’t getting any job offers is because you’re not networking enough or displaying likeable qualities.

But Poletti’s comments reflect a more general change in the nature of employment, especially in neoliberal economies. We’re often told by critics of that it’s painfully dehumanising. All social relationships are reduced to a cold cash transaction, and this has devastated the very fabric of societies such as the UK and the US, where the only thing people know for sure is that they’re on their own.

However, running alongside this cold variant of neoliberal capitalism is a massive deformalisation of employment, where jobs and careers become ultra-reliant on personal connections and fickle power relationships. The problem faced by workers now is not that jobs have become less human. No, now they’re too human. Indeed, the most common gripe expressed by employees today is not that their work environment is too bureaucratic and impersonal. It’s usually the opposite. Promotion, pay and privileges are allocated subjectively, based on whether you have spent enough hours in the pub with the boss or trapped in a gym jogging next to the managing director.

Workers on or hired as temps know very well the unspoken requirement to ingratiate themselves to their employer. Getting another shift depends upon it. An agency employee recently . Particularly notable was how a staff manager rechristened a new 19-year-old temp “treacle”, joked that she had “great wrist action” when mixing a G&T and told her to “stop flirting with him”. In desperate times, it’s easy to see why employees feel they have little choice but to put up with it.

‘Workers on zero-hours contracts or hired as temps know very well the unspoken requirement to ingratiate themselves to their employer.’ Photograph: Joe Giddens/PA

Herein lies an ugly tension in economies that have been deregulated and neoliberalised to death. On the one hand, jobs now fully embody the ethos of lone individualism that neoclassical economics so ardently promoted as the new normal. On the other, your economic livelihood largely depends on how well you get on with the boss and the people you know, what behavioural scientists gleefully call “”.

Conservative commentators frequently applaud these developments. Take Steve Hilton’s arguments about making . The former adviser to David Cameron argues that big bureaucracy has left most of us alienated and unhappy. We need to inject the workplace, schools and government departments with a good dose of humanity to solve the problems of economic miasma. Part of this involves decentralisation – making economic relationships less formal and more one-on-one so that people can enjoy a direct connection with those around them.

A good example of this “more human” management philosophy can be found in the offices of London. Employers have attempted to blur the boundary between work and play by . It is believed that the office becomes more personable and friendly when people are free to be themselves and let their hair down rather than behave like lifeless robots all day.

What Hilton conveniently forgets, of course, is that humanity has a dark side, something that is often exacerbated when power and dependence is added to the mix. All that bureaucracy Hilton wants to scrap is often the employee’s only defence or unfairly treated by an employer. This is exactly why the great French philosopher once joked, “we are taught that corporations have a soul, which is the most terrifying news in the world”. It isn’t hard to see what he means when it comes to the morning after . Please tell me I didn’t drink half a bottle of whisky in front of our teetotal CEO! Oh god, I didn’t really say that, did I? What was supposed to be a shot of “soul” into the job turns out to be a hangover-mired nightmare.

Little wonder so many employees avoid these events. Business gurus too easily recommend that workplaces abandon the “red tape” without looking at the other side of the coin: exposure to fickle superiors, favouritism and patrimony. And let’s not forget that amorous admirer who decides whether you get a pay rise or not.

Perhaps this is the real reason why Poletti’s comments about abandoning formal job application processes annoyed everyone so much. Not only does it make the job market even more unfair than it already is, but it smacks of . Neoliberal capitalism has managed to reinvent a weird variant of vassalage at the heart of modern society. For those with power, a kind of mafia-like loyalty can be expected. But for everyone else with only their labour to sell, it is increasingly evident that they must learn to navigate a world in which objective merit and ability are increasingly of little economic value.