Tag Archives: information as leverage

Work as an identity (Part I)

Many young people now a days engaged in busy professions like finance, business management, information technology etc., or those working as scientists in research laboratories or as technologists in large scale process and engineering industries have very little time to spare, in the course of a normal working day, either for themselves or their families. Their time frame is usually packed mostly with business, but sometimes also accommodates structured leisure elements or packages considered ‘cool’ or ‘in vogue’. All of these do not leave many windows allowing them to just look out watching the fading colour of the sky in the evening and wish they could become like a kite gliding into the distant horizon or do something, anything, that does not necessarily have any use value and call for approbation or sanctions of their peers.

Quite a few of these professions have become increasingly important in recent years and captured public imagination as pivotal for the progress and prosperity of societies under modern democracies, not just in the advanced western countries but also in the so-called third world countries with emerging economies. With an emphasis on the high level of specialised information and/or scientific knowledge as well as analytical and technical competencies we have at hand issues related to a growing army of ‘knowledge workers’ in a burgeoning knowledge society.

There is a positive impetus for such workers to buy into an identity based on such knowledge-oriented work and the consequential hubris. There is an aura of superiority, novelty, modernity and exclusivity due to their technical and managerial expertise in specialised domains such as, commerce, finance, science, technology, etc. By allowing them to play a key role in the innovation and management of the industry and businesses and, increasingly (more recently) in sprucing and speeding up governance, the kind of work they do defines their relevance to those at the helm of the business and the government, in the process providing them not only their financial security but prosperity and social standing.

This also lends them a chance and a reason to celebrate their lifestyle somewhat as suggested visually on the pages of glossy coffee table books showing walls coming alive in exquisite colour and lustre, huge antique furniture pieces, plush upholstery, ethnic décor, soft lighting, sumptuous food and expensive wine laid out on a scale befitting royalty. And of course the celebration would be incomplete without an assemblage of chic crowd with similar or higher pedigree and clout enveloped in the hubbub of good-natured banter and a sweetly nagging flavour of good and gated living.

It is as if not only are their professional life governed by parameters set by the businesses they work for, and hence ultimately, by the market, their individual life, their choices about consumption to keep their body satiated and the mind tamed, are increasingly dictated and manipulated by the omnipresent and omniscient market. Everything that they do or choose not to do must make sense in terms of a generally accepted paradigm about how to conduct life along a materially secure and prosperous path. There is this subtle subservience to a ‘factory’-produced uniformity of products and customs, a fetish for efficiency and a distaste for redundancy, apprehension about asymmetry and cultural diversity that run counter to the fundamentalism of the power elite in modern democracies, especially its neo-liberal globalising variant. They exist in a social ambience – in the family, within the community and wider cultural mileu, valuing and aspiring such a trajectory of life.

For them the work they do is probably their only identity and their lifestyle the only acceptable one. If you take out the work, and consequently the attendant assured wherewithal and the status along with it, the emptiness of a life of ordinariness starts staring at them. A sort of life they have not been accustomed to looking at except occasionally through the windows of their cocoon and ignoring it. One they are certainly not prepared to live. Work thus becomes an escape from a life which otherwise does not make much sense to them.

(This is a slightly reworked version of a post published recently in another blog of mine. A further exploration of this theme will follow)