Defective Enterprises

Class Conflict for the 21st Century

In their rush for jackpots, America’s top corporate executives are doing intolerable damage to enterprise well-being. Who says? America’s professionals!

A review of Love the Work, Hate the Job, by David Kusnet

By Sam Pizzigati

David Kusnet’s engrossing new appraisal of the contemporary American workplace showcases executives who consider themselves smart, talented, and absolutely deserving of whatever ample rewards may come their way — even if those rewards come at the expense of the long-term health and vitality of the enterprises they run.

Love the WorkThroughout Corporate America today, that’s just what’s happening. Top executives fixated on short-term profits — the only category of profits that Wall Street understands and rewards — are, Kusnet shows us, “shortchanging the investments that improve the quality of their products and services.”

With this shortchanging, these “winners” of today’s American economy — “corporate chief executives, top managers, hedge fund managers, and other financiers” — are creating what Kusnet calls a “new kind of class conflict.”

On the one side: highly skilled professionals and technical workers who love their work and want to do that work well. On the other: corporate executives who are “denying employees the resources, the respect, and the discretion that they need to do their best work.”

Kusnet, a politically savvy writer who has spent the last 30 years working on everything from leaflets for union organizing drives to State of the Union addresses for Bill Clinton, makes his case with level-headed statistical and historical analyses of ongoing national workplace trends. But he devotes the heart of his new book to a series of emblematic turn-of-the-21st century struggles at four Seattle area employers.

Most readers will be familiar with three of these four — Microsoft, Boeing, and Kaiser Aluminum. The fourth, a major local hospital, illustrates the same health care industry profiteering patterns common to every American metro area.

Kusnet has been conducting interviews with workers — and executives — at these Seattle-area empoyers ever since the late 1990s. In Love the Work, Hate the Job, he weaves all their stories with compelling detail and entertaining anecdotal asides. But his stories don’t all have happy endings.

That’s fitting. Kusnet, for his part, isn’t ready to predict ultimate victory for either side in the conflict between professionals and technicians and the executive elites who have “managed them, outearned them, and lorded it over them.” He remains sure on just one point. The outcome of this conflict will determine America’s eventual economic well-being.

Sam Pizzigati edits Too Much, the online weekly on excess and inequality published by the Washington, D.C.-based Institute for Policy Studies.

Subscribe to Too Much

Sign up here:
 Please leave this field empty


No comments for “Class Conflict for the 21st Century”

Post a comment