FacebookTwitterRedditEmail

Social Control in Europe: Virtual Jobs

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.

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550
September 17, 2019
Mario Barrera
The Southern Strategy and Donald Trump
Robert Jensen
The Danger of Inspiration in a Time of Ecological Crisis
Dean Baker
Health Care: Premiums and Taxes
Dave Lindorff
Recalling the Hundreds of Thousands of Civilian Victims of America’s Endless ‘War on Terror’
Binoy Kampmark
Oiling for War: The Houthi Attack on Abqaiq
Susie Day
You Say You Want a Revolution: a Prison Letter to Yoko Ono
Rich Gibson
Seize Solidarity House
Laura Flanders
From Voice of America to NPR: New CEO Lansing’s Glass House
Don Fitz
What is Energy Denial?
Dan Bacher
Governor Newsom Says He Will Veto Bill Blocking Trump Rollback of Endangered Fish Species Protections
Thomas Knapp
Election 2020: Time to Stop Pretending and Start Over
W. Alejandro Sanchez
Inside the Syrian Peace Talks
Elliot Sperber
Mickey Mouse Networks
September 16, 2019
Sam Husseini
Biden Taking Iraq Lies to the Max
Paul Street
Joe Biden’s Answer to Slavery’s Legacy: Phonographs for the Poor
Paul Atwood
Why Mattis is No Hero
Jonathan Cook
Brexit Reveals Jeremy Corbyn to be the True Moderate
Jeff Mackler
Trump, Trade and China
Robert Hunziker
Fukushima’s Radioactive Water Crisis
Evaggelos Vallianatos
The Democrats and the Climate Crisis
Michael Doliner
Hot Stuff on the Afghan Peace Deal Snafu
Nyla Ali Khan
Spectacles of the Demolition of the Babri Masjid in Uttar Pradesh and the Revocation of the Autonomous Status of Kashmir
Stansfield Smith
Celebrating 50 Years of Venceremos Brigade solidarity with the Cuban Revolution
Tim Butterworth
Socialism Made America Great
Nick Licata
Profiles in Courage: the Tories Have It, the Republicans Don’t
Abel Prieto
Cubanness and Cuban Identity: the Importance of Fernando Ortiz
Robert Koehler
Altruists of the World Unite!
Mel Gurtov
Farewell, John Bolton
Weekend Edition
September 13, 2019
Friday - Sunday
Paul Street
The Age of Constitutional Coups
Rob Urie
Bernie Sanders and the Realignment of the American Left
Anthony DiMaggio
Teaching the “War on Terror”: Lessons for Contemporary Politics
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: They Are the Walrus
T.J. Coles
Jeremy Corbyn: Electoral “Chicken” or Political Mastermind?
Joseph Natoli
The Vox Populi
Sasan Fayazmanesh
The Pirates of Gibraltar
John Feffer
Hong Kong and the Future of China
David Rosen
The Likely End to Roe v. Wade?
Ishmael Reed
When You Mess With Creation Myths, the Knives Come Out
Michael Hudson
Break Up the Democratic Party?
Paul Tritschler
What If This is as Good as It Gets?
Jonah Raskin
Uncensored Tony Serra: Consummate Criminal Defense Lawyer
Ryan Gunderson
Here’s to the Last Philosophes, the Frankfurt School
Michael T. Klare
The Pompeo Doctrine: How to Seize the Arctic’s Resources, Now Accessible Due to Climate Change (Just Don’t Mention Those Words!)
Luke O'Neil
I Would Want To Drink Their Blood: God Will Punish Them
Louis Proyect
The Intellectual Development of Karl Marx
FacebookTwitterRedditEmail