Friday, April 29, 2011

Dual-use technologies

There's a lot of anti-social stuff in mainstream US culture that gets perpetuated because US society isn't organized for the benefit, but rather at the expense, of people. All the ways that people are encouraged to look up or down at each other on the basis of every conceivable criteria are truly a hot mess to behold.

The point I was getting at last week is that professionalization, by elevating individuals to important positions of influence and authority, has to filter some of this junk out if the overarching purpose of capital accumulation is going to be fulfilled. Capital accumulation is too important to have every board meeting conclude with someone screaming, "Fuck you, asshole," as would be customary when the same person negotiates over a parking spot.

Professionalism as an ethos is appealed to constantly in a business-run society, and some of us internalize what is decent about it without any external incentives. When I go to work, there is a point of pride about doing something well, not being a lazy bastard, and not ripping off my employer that can have meaning for me even if I see in employment itself a monumental fraud. As colleagues have expressed it, this is something that is important in how we regard ourselves, and how our work ethic impacts other people who are stuck in the same situation. I've known many lazy bastards whose laziness hurt their co-workers far more than it did the owning classes; they are not inspiring examples of resistance, in my view.

In this sense, professionalism can be seen to have different meanings and applications, including those which arise out of contradictory positions. The worker and the employer can have competing reasons to endorse different parts of the same phenomenon: for the employer, hierarchy and control; for the worker, integrity and cooperation. I think this is probably coming close to the logic of a dialectic; which is to say, we want to understand the meaning of something from the vantage point of what are often opposing perspectives, not fall into the trap of regarding it only from one side, or one side at a time.


Ethan said...

As happens so often, you've articulated wonderfully something I've been trying to figure out how to even start thinking about so that I can struggle with it. Thanks!

Hattie said...

Very nice. I would add that covering up incompetence is just as bad as laziness.
And that was the story of the whole Bush administration: a combination of laziness and incompetence.

Brian M said...

Dittos on the compliments. This is much better than a similar discussion over at Stop Me Before I Vote Again wherein the intellectual savants positively sneered at anyone who showed any pride or interest in doing work well. Especially vital work (one critic asked the bon disants if doctors and nurses should be lazy asses who let people die, rather than support The Man) .