FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Social Control in Europe: Virtual Jobs

by

As the economy in Europe festers the New York Times reports that the ranks of the Eurozone’s unemployed are finding solace in a curious parallel economy populated by thousands of counterfeit businesses known as “practice firms.” This alternate universe doesn’t actually produce tangible goods or services, rather it offers people with unpaid positions that foster a sense of routine, structure, and personal connection. And while participating in this bogus job market may offer some relief on a superficial level the tendrils of social control are visible to those who know where to look.

Originally designed to offer job training in the aftermath of World War II, this massive commercial simulation is now being leveraged to address the problem of long term unemployment, which accounts for more than half of those who are currently out of a job in the EU. The basic idea is to keep sidelined people from feeling isolated and depressed by giving them a place where they can at least go through the motions of a normal job.

Such is the comfort of familiar patterns. If you can’t scrape together a living through low-paid temporary contract work in the real world you can always keep up appearances and work for an employer that pretends to pay you while your stomach growls. At one point in the article the Times describes a scenario that borders on Orwellian doublethink as a woman asks her colleagues “What’s our strategy to improve profitability?”

As Patricia Routledge exclaims: It’s Bouquet, dear! B-U-C-K-E-T!

Though advocates contend that this vast make-believe workplace garners professionalism and confidence it’s important to recognize that this strategy only treats symptoms. Most people don’t start asking hard questions until catastrophe strikes and the world stops making sense. By keeping the unemployed occupied with what’s essentially vocational hoop-jumping they’re distracted from pondering deeper topics and questioning more fundamental assumptions about the society they live in.

Barbara Ehrenreich, the author of Nickel and Dimed, accurately calls out fake job therapy as an exercise in denial:

“The first step, as in any 12-step program, is to overcome denial. Job searching is not a job; retraining is not a panacea. You may be poorer than you’ve ever been, but you are also freer — to express anger and urgency, to dream and create, to get together with others and conspire to build a better world.”

Celebrities like Oprah Winfrey preach a myopic gospel of self-improvement, a narrative which advocates personal change while almost entirely ignoring larger institutional issues. Plutocrats sanctimoniously bray that “my wealth is my virtue” in the wake of the 2008 collapse and other unprecedented massive transfers of wealth. They have the nerve to stigmatize the victims of the ensuing economic implosion for their own unemployment and then demand austerity as a remedy. Never mind the billionaires moving the goal posts in the background or the aging Greek man named Dimitris Christoulas who chose suicide over penury.

Faced with the threat of a political uprising the ruling class would prefer that the unemployed dutifully remain on the job treadmill, keep their nose to the grindstone, and stay with the program. Because in doing so workers offer tacit acquiescence to existing political, economic, and social arrangements. To do otherwise might give the unwashed masses a chance to organize and consider alternatives. For the moneyed gentry of the 0.1% that could be truly dangerous.

Bill Blunden is a journalist whose current areas of inquiry include information security, anti-forensics, and institutional analysis. He is the author of several books, including “The Rootkit Arsenal” andBehold a Pale Farce: Cyberwar, Threat Inflation, and the Malware-Industrial Complex.” Bill is the lead investigator at Below Gotham Labs.

More articles by:

Bill Blunden is a journalist whose current areas of inquiry include information security, anti-forensics, and institutional analysis. He is the author of several books, including “The Rootkit Arsenal” andBehold a Pale Farce: Cyberwar, Threat Inflation, and the Malware-Industrial Complex.” Bill is the lead investigator at Below Gotham Labs and a member of the California State University Employees Union, Chapter 305.

Weekend Edition
February 23, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Richard D. Wolff
Capitalism as Obstacle to Equality and Democracy: the US Story
Paul Street
Where’s the Beef Stroganoff? Eight Sacrilegious Reflections on Russiagate
Jeffrey St. Clair
They Came, They Saw, They Tweeted
Andrew Levine
Their Meddlers and Ours
Charles Pierson
Nuclear Nonproliferation, American Style
Joseph Essertier
Why Japan’s Ultranationalists Hate the Olympic Truce
W. T. Whitney
US and Allies Look to Military Intervention in Venezuela
John Laforge
Maybe All Threats of Mass Destruction are “Mentally Deranged”
Matthew Stevenson
Why Vietnam Still Matters: an American Reckoning
David Rosen
For Some Reason, Being White Still Matters
Robert Fantina
Nikki Haley: the U.S. Embarrassment at the United Nations
Joyce Nelson
Why Mueller’s Indictments Are Hugely Important
Joshua Frank
Pearl Jam, Will You Help Stop Sen. Tester From Destroying Montana’s Public Lands?
Dana E. Abizaid
The Attack on Historical Perspective
Conn Hallinan
Immigration and the Italian Elections
George Ochenski
The Great Danger of Anthropocentricity
Pete Dolack
China Can’t Save Capitalism from Environmental Destruction
Joseph Natoli
Broken Lives
Manuel García, Jr.
Why Did Russia Vote For Trump?
Geoff Dutton
One Regime to Rule Them All
Torkil Lauesen – Gabriel Kuhn
Radical Theory and Academia: a Thorny Relationship
Wilfred Burchett
Vietnam Will Win: The Work of Persuasion
Thomas Klikauer
Umberto Eco and Germany’s New Fascism
George Burchett
La Folie Des Grandeurs
Howard Lisnoff
Minister of War
Eileen Appelbaum
Why Trump’s Plan Won’t Solve the Problems of America’s Crumbling Infrastructure
Ramzy Baroud
More Than a Fight over Couscous: Why the Palestinian Narrative Must Be Embraced
Jill Richardson
Mass Shootings Shouldn’t Be the Only Time We Talk About Mental Illness
Jessicah Pierre
Racism is Killing African American Mothers
Steve Horn
Wyoming Now Third State to Propose ALEC Bill Cracking Down on Pipeline Protests
David Griscom
When ‘Fake News’ is Good For Business
Barton Kunstler
Brainwashed Nation
Griffin Bird
I’m an Eagle Scout and I Don’t Want Pipelines in My Wilderness
Edward Curtin
The Coming Wars to End All Wars
Missy Comley Beattie
Message To New Activists
Jonah Raskin
Literary Hubbub in Sonoma: Novel about Mrs. Jack London Roils the Faithful
Binoy Kampmark
Frontiersman of the Internet: John Perry Barlow
Chelli Stanley
The Mirrors of Palestine
James McEnteer
How Brexit Won World War Two
Ralph Nader
Absorbing the Irresistible Consumer Reports Magazine
Cesar Chelala
A Word I Shouldn’t Use
Louis Proyect
Marx at the Movies
Osha Neumann
A White Guy Watches “The Black Panther”
Stephen Cooper
Rebel Talk with Nattali Rize: the Interview
David Yearsley
Market Music
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail