Busy beavers

First control of the self, then control of the collections. via NARA, ARC #558218

First control of the self, then control of the collections. via NARA, ARC #558218

There’s kind of nothing as terrifying as associative labor. I think it’s fairly clear that we’ve adopted most of Fourier’s prescriptions for the workplace and, far from emancipating the worker, only solidified the managerialists’ grasp on us inputs:

1. That every laborer be a partner, remunerated by dividends and not by wages. The to-each-according-to-his-ability crowd loves employee ownership, defined-contribution benefits, management retreats / coaching / mentoring, etc.

2. That every one, man, woman, or child, be remunerated in proportion to the three faculties, capital, labor, and talent.
Ditto. Pay for performance for everyone, all the way down to school funding hinging on test results.

3. That the industrial sessions be varied about eight times a day, it being impossible to sustain enthusiasm longer than an hour and a half or two hours in the exercise of agricultural or manufacturing labor. Actually, I think we skipped this one.

4. That they be carried on by bands of friends, united spontaneously, interested and stimulated by very active rivalries. Teams are the great Satan of workplace culture. Teamwork and groupiness are the most pervasive of the neo-Fourierist interventions; opposing teamwork is a priori bad. Who wants to be not-a-team-player? Who wants to be a rogue actor? Dissent minimized, check.

5. That the workshops and husbandry offer the laborer the allurements of elegance and cleanliness. …but not the capacity to actually live for himself in a clean environment. My workplace is cleaner than my house BECAUSE I AM ALWAYS THERE INSTEAD OF HERE. The neighborhood of my workplace is cleaner and more secure than my neighborhood because I am always there and not here.

6. That the division of labor be carried to the last degree, so that each sex and age may devote itself to duties that are suited to it. Because we know in advance what duties we’re suited to, or Fourier knows. I mean, we laugh at the naive rationalism of the 18th century, but any vision of complete and over-arching order applied to human affairs should give us all the heebie-jeebies.

7. That in this distribution, each one, man, woman, or child, be in full enjoyment of the right to labor or the right to engage in such branch of labor as they may please to select, provided they give proof of integrity and ability. Choosing not to choose is of course not an option. Participants only! Also, before we commit you to this unchosen choice, please provide certification from an accredited authority of your integrity and ability.

What is it that archivists — professional, skilled, highly-educated, broadly-speaking well-paid workers — have a stake in? Why are professional workers compelled to identify their work in terms of investment, growth and return on investment? So, to rephrase, what is it that we’re committing ourselves to? Whatever it is, I’m pretty sure continuous self-improvement and rectification of the workflows isn’t it. So what is it that management science offers us, apart from initiation into the cult of self-worship and bodily discipline on capitalism’s behalf which has been with us since wackjob aristocrats started ennobling the industrious wasp and the busy beaver?

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