4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
A Glossary that shouldn't be glossed over,
This review is from: The Wage Slave's Glossary (Paperback)This book couldn't have come at a better time. I heard about it through the N.Y. Times and saw that the Occupy Wall Street Library had picked it up, so I went out and found a copy, and I was glad I did. There was nothing of what I was afraid of: it wasn't kitschy or insubstantial or trying too hard to be funny. Instead I found it wonderfully incisive, satirical, contemporary, on-point. Kingwell's introduction on Wage Slavery and Bull**** is market-savvy and goes a long way towards unpacking the rhetoric of capitalism. He draws on Russell, Weber, Parkinson, Pournelle, Moore, Sorel, Frankfurt, Galbraith, Marcuse, Arendt--but also on Douglas Coupland, Ricky Gervais, Nicholson Baker, Ed Park, and Joshua Ferris. Here's a sample:
"Work language is full of bull****, and ... passes itself off as innocuous or even beneficial. Especially in clever hands, the controlling elements of work are repackaged as liberatory, counter-cultural, subversive: you're a skatepunk rebel because you work seventy hours a week beta-testing video games. The manager is positioned as an 'intellectual', a 'visionary', even a 'genius'. 'Creatives' are warehoused and petted. Demographics are labelled, products are categorized. Catchphrases, acronyms, proverbs, cliches, and sports metaphors are marshalled and deployed. Diffusion of sense through needles complexity, diffusion of responsibility through passive constructions, and elaborate celebration of minor achievements mark the language of work. And so: Outsourcing. Repositioning. Downsizing. Rebranding. Work the mission statement. Push the envelope. Think outside the box ... "
Or later, on the sudden burst of "office comedy" novels in the past ten years:
"These books are hilarious, and laughter is always a release. But their humour is a sign of doom, not liberation. The 'veal-fattening pen' label applied to those carpet-sided cubicles of the open-form office (Coupland) does nothing to change the facts of the office. Nor does calling office-mateyness an 'air family' (Coupland again) make the false camaraderie any less spectral. Coupland was especially inventive and dry in his generation of neologisms, but reading a bare list of them shows the hollow heart of dread beneath the humour. Indeed, the laughs render the facts more palatable by mixing diversion into the scene of domination - a willing capitulation, consumed under the false sign of resistance."
The same could be said of The Office. It's brilliantly put. And Kingwell's essay in combination with Glenn's incredibly wide-ranging definitions (which move from the 16th century to 2011, and include terms from Britain, China, and Japan), produces a substantial--far more substantial than you'd think for such a little book--assessment of work language.
I'd never heard of Blackberry Prayer ("the oddly supplicative posture characteristic of distracted white-collar types ... indiscreetly fiddling with their Blackberries") or Leisure Sickness ("victims of which are more likely to report feeling ill during weekends and vacations than when working ... as a result of being unable to relax"); I also had no idea how many types of ceilings one could hit. Glass? Sure. But there're also Bamboo ceilings (for Asian-Americans), brass ceilings (in the military), concrete ceilings (for minority women), gray ceilings (for the post-boomer generation), stained-glass ceilings (for religious organizations), glass cliffs (for women who break through the g.c. but face extra-high risks of failure), and glass corsets (for the openly gay). Glenn does an excellent job of roping the latest and most surprising terminology in with the familiar, while our understanding the latter he consistently deepens and expands.
As Kingwell & Glenn admit, this little book may not "overthrow capitalism," but it succeeds in doing what they set out to do: "highlight essential things about our predicament - philosophy's job ever." Five stars. And speaking of stars: the illustrations by Seth are out-of-this-world good. I'm giving this little guy out left, right, and center.