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Archive for the ‘work and family (im)balance’ Category

In 1776, when Smith published “The Wealth of Nations,” he began his book by envisioning a “pin factory” with just eight workers; Smith and his contemporaries could never have imagined that, in 1913, the Ford Motor Company would hire fourteen thousand people to manufacture its Model T, or that it would police those employees with a quasi-governmental “Sociological Department” that performed unannounced inspections of their houses. (“Workers were eligible for Ford’s famous $5 daily wage only if they kept their homes clean, ate diets deemed healthy, abstained from drinking, used the bathtub appropriately, did not take in boarders, avoided spending too much on foreign relatives, and were assimilated to American cultural norms,” Anderson writes.) The rise of large factories and corporations created a new environment in which private government could thrive.

Contemplating the return of private government, Anderson asks, “Why do we not recognize such a pervasive part of our social landscape for what it is?” She argues that we no longer think carefully about the distinction between “public” and “private.” We seem to have forgotten that private government exists; we believe, incorrectly, that “the state is the only form of government.” Because corporate tyranny takes place in the so-called private sphere, it seems to us like a niche problem for the labor movement, not a civic problem with broad implications for our society, on par with gerrymandering or the rise of the surveillance state. At the same time, we see the corporate world through an eighteenth-century lens. To large corporations, we lend the liberatory aura that, in Smith’s day, surrounded small businesses. This allows C.E.O.s to “think of themselves as libertarian individualists,” even though they are more like “dictators of little communist governments.”

From Joshua Rothman’s “Are bosses dictators?” in The New Yorker. This is a great piece on the encroachment of work into our private lives.

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This fascinating article, “Why happy people cheat” in The Atlantic by Esther Perel confirms something I’ve long thoughts.. people often have affairs not because they desire a different lover, but a different self.

Priya’s affair is neither a symptom nor a pathology; it’s a crisis of identity, an internal rearrangement of her personality. In our sessions, we talk about duty and desire, about age and youth. Her daughters are becoming teenagers and enjoying a freedom she never knew. Priya is at once supportive and envious. As she nears the mid-century mark, she is having her own belated adolescent rebellion.

These explanations may seem superficial—petty First World problems, or rationalizations for immature, selfish, hurtful behavior. Priya has said as much herself. We both agree that her life is enviable. And yet, she is risking it all. That’s enough to convince me not to make light of her behavior. If I can help her make sense of her actions, maybe we can figure out how she can end the affair for good—since that’s the outcome she says she wants. It’s clear this is not a love story that was meant to become a life story (which some affairs truly are). This started as an affair and will end as such—hopefully without destroying Priya’s marriage in the process.

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croutons

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The better option is to care less about work because we care more about other things.

Most of us have had meaningful experiences—finding love unexpectedly, feeling awe when asked an intriguing question—that we quickly dismiss as being no more than passing moments, or which turn into nostalgic episodes to be recalled wistfully now and again. But these experiences are clues that reveal a different lens through which we can see life: The more important things take us out of the endless pursuit of “being useful” while enabling us to lose ourselves in the flow of time.

By caring less about work, we open ourselves up to caring more about other dimensions to life—about what matters more.

And

Once we’ve gotten the knack for embracing the idea that certain things in life are wondrous because they’re not focused on getting through, onto, or ahead of something, we can turn our attention to ourselves, inquiring into our own lives. Socrates’ great insight involved showing his conversation partners that they thought they knew themselves, but it turns out that they didn’t.

Following Socrates’ lead, we can ask ourselves, “If I’m not just a worker, then who am I?” Let this question sit in the back of your mind for a few weeks before you try to answer it.

From “The secret to office happiness isn’t working less – it’s caring less” by Andrew Taggart in Quartz.

 

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live

From The Evening Herald, Ottawa, Kansas, April 28, 1904

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I don’t want this to sound like a gendered question, but you keep mentioning your kids, and so I was wondering if you felt that motherhood changed you as a writer.

I think it’s superuseful. I remember when I was pregnant with my first child: I was at a book festival and a writer of my own age, who will remain nameless, sat opposite me and said, “God you’re having a kid huh?” It was a man. He said, “I guess you’re going to lose a lot of time and you must be worried about falling behind.” I was about seven months pregnant, and I just had a sudden inspiration. I said, “Yeah I guess so” and then, “You must be worried about just a complete lack of human experience that you’re now going to be 40 and then 50.” His face went so pale. It was a wonderful way to frighten him back.

The honest truth is that Eliot wrote without children, Woolf wrote without children, Gertrude Stein, loads of people write extraordinary things without children so it’s not any answer. Every life that you live will give material for fiction. But given that I do have children, it is that experience of just the simple thing of seeing life in the round. It’s so dull to say that, but it is extraordinary to see your childhood replayed, refracted, to see yourself saying things your parents said, to be in this new relation to death.

When I think of writers, I really love someone like Ursula Le Guin, who had three kids and lived an entirely domestic life. I feel her children in those books, I feel that the weight of it, her experience of being a girl, a woman, a mother, an old woman, it’s almost overwhelming when you read her. I don’t know, when I read Woolf, I love Woolf and I love Eliot, but they remained young women their whole lives. That’s part of their genius. They had that pointed, critical perspective, which never faded. What I get from Le Guin, maybe because I’m now heading in the same way, is something I appreciate particularly.

From Zadie Smith in Salon with “Zadie Smith on male critics, appropriation, and what interests her novestically about Trump” by Isaac Chotiner. This is so, so good.

You said your concern was people, not politics. Does anything interest you about Trump, novelistically?

What interests me, which probably doesn’t interest other people, is the children. I’m going to talk in a generalization. When people are children of narcissists, and there are multiple children, they usually bond together against the narcissist. But when you have a lot of money, as Trump does, that seems to skew the whole thing. What I find so painful is the idea of children competing for the affection of a narcissist, whose affection they will never receive. That seems to me just excruciating. That’s what boggles my mind: Reading interviews with them where they boast about who gets to call him in his office more regularly or who saw him more than four times during their childhood. It’s so sad, that part. It’s slightly unbearable. Also because if the children don’t correct the narcissist, he goes to his grave never knowing. I think that’s the kind of man he is, right? He’ll never know.

I imagine Saddam’s kids, or Qaddafi’s, being the same.

But even with the children of a dictator there’s usually one who turns. I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything like this. Maybe just to be told you are the prettiest is enough from this kind of parent.

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