Has America Ignored the Workplace for Too Long?

Has America Ignored the Workplace for Too Long?

In that context, watching Sheila’s meeting spiral out of control feels almost as subversive and revelatory as Terkel’s book. Problems arise when the show attempts to explain what, specifically, went wrong to make that explosion possible. Try as it might to stay close to the workers, the series can’t resist its periodic voice-overs, which include industrial-grade doses of information on Obama domestic workers or spectacular archival footage from the movie “Wall Street” or The Economist. provide. Milton Friedman. The script touches on all kinds of systemic forces, from workers left out of the New Deal to the macroeconomics of the collapse of the middle class.

The fact that the show needed to reach back into the New Deal era underscores a critical problem: America’s notion of its own workplaces can be surprisingly out-of-date, given the denial that things They have changed so deeply. The series seeks to revolve around working people, as Terkel did, to understand their hopes and dreams and contradictions. But it also seeks to make an argument about what has happened to American workers by taking the audience through decades of complex changes—all presented by a politician you can’t help noticing. , was in charge of the country for a major segment of the time being searched.

Did politicians participate in all that denial? The issue is ignored, but the series touches on the idea that popular media has long neglected the workplace. Television, Obama argues at one point, used to be full of representations of working- and middle-class people and their jobs — say, in Norman Lear shows like “Good Times” or “All in the Family.” After the Reagan era, however, popular shows tended to follow upscale professionals, or to look more like “Friends” or “Seinfeld,” portraying people who are at ease despite being obscurely or fictionally employed. Use to live. The nation’s jobs have shifted from industrial to service work, but even that seismic change — a work force now symbolized by nurses, waiters, retail clerks, delivery drivers — is rarely reflected in those stories. that we consume. Nor developments like the loss of job security, the rise of erratic scheduling, aggressive workplace surveillance — changes that marked Obama’s own era in the White House.

Terkel writes in his book, “Obscurity in ‘respectable’ quarters is not a new phenomenon.” He cites the example of Henry Mayhew, whose reports on working-class people in 19th-century London “amazed and horrified the readers of The Morning Chronicle”. Author Barbara Ehrenreich later cataloged how journalists and scholars “discovered” it in the 1960s, when the enthusiasm of the post-war economy cooled. (“We seem to have suddenly woken up,” Critic Dwight MacDonald wrote in The New Yorker Review A book on the subject, “to the fact that widespread poverty persists. professionals, and a growing sense of the workplace as a site of immediate, high-stakes conflict.”

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