Wednesday, October 28, 2009

The Corrosion of Character: The Personal Consequences of Work in the New Capitalism, by Richard Sennett

This book is interesting, as far as it goes. Richard Sennett mixes real life examples of people being chewed up by contemporary capitalism with his own philosophical ruminations. The results are a bit mixed. Sennett likes to give us the etymological roots of words to do with economics and the work place (for example, the word ‘career’ originally meant a road for carriages etc.), but the trouble is he doesn’t really develop any bigger meanings out of this. In the end you ask yourself, is the author really saying anything? Maybe he is, maybe he isn’t. I can’t quite figure it out.

The book also has a bit of a dated feel. (It was published in 1998.) Maybe it feels slightly dated due to the huge global economic shocks of the past two years or so.

So I don’t know if I’d recommend you read this book. Instead I’d point the reader in the direction of Barbra Ehrenreich's wonderfully snappy first hand reporting in her two books Nickel and Dimed and Bait and Switch. These books refrain from the intellectual fancy work of Richard Sennett and go right for the jugular.

No comments: