Social futures LO7587

Terri Deems (
Fri, 24 May 1996 00:24:06 -0500 (CDT)

Replying to LO7541 --

In an earlier post, I said
>that the creation of a more just, more
>humane society cannot come about without fundamental changes in our
>assumptions concerning paid work

To which Joan P responded,

>Please tell us what these "assumptions concerning paid work" are that
we must change. I actually don't personally have any today and never
have had any so I am at a loss over the issue. It was always seemed
to me that people who are willing to work will have the most success
and those who come with requirements to lay on the boss will have less
-- end of quote --

I agree in part with Joan's last sentence--though I think the world is
also full of examples of people "willing to work" who, because of cultural
or political or whatever reasons in and out of the workplace, meet with
very little success. Concerning my "assumptions" statement, I apologize
for having used such a generalization without clarifying it (often, what's
clear in my mind never makes it to the printed page/screen!).

I think, however, that whether we recognize them or not, we *all* hold
assumptions in many aspects of our lives that remain uncritically
examined; yet they greatly influence how we view ourselves and
ourselves-in-relationship with others, our worldviews, and how we learn,
how we come to know and make sense of the world around us, including our
workplaces and our lives as workers.

Within the workplace (paid work, as opposed to the other kinds of work we
may be doing in our lives), there exists a fairly pervasive sense of "what
work is." (and yes, I'm generalizing here; clearly, I recognize that not
all organizations fit the more traditional archetype that's been created
over the years.) This sense that "this is the way work is" is based on
certain assumptions. For example, that workplaces must have bosses and
not-bosses. That people's primary reason to work is to earn money. That
we will have chaos unless somebody is telling somebody else what to be
doing, when, how, etc. That management knows best what a line worker
needs to know or to have in order to do an effective job. That we have a
"work life" and then we have our "real life." That it is normal to dread
Mondays and live for Fridays. That joy, love, compassion, connectedness,
values, integrity, belong at home or with groups of close friends, but
don't contribute to the bottom line (and who needs that warm fuzzy stuff
anyway?). That money makes the world go 'round.

The assumptions run the gammet. I guess basically I'm referring to the
Newtonian/Cartesian worldviews, exemplified by the Taylor and Ford
traditions and which continue to dominate today's workplace in spite of
our more sophisticated rhetoric. Assumptions that perpetuate the idea
that paid work MUST, in order to be cost effective, productive, high
performance, etc., be an appropriated experience--something that must be
designated, assigned, allowed, or authorized through a system of power,
control, dependencies, etc. We are, of course, increasingly (and slowly)
coming to know that this does not have to be the case (thus, groups like
this one!), and that there are alternative ways of being--even at work.

Once again I go on too long. I think it's great, Joan, that you hold no
assumptions concerning paid work, and never have held them. I haven't
been so fortunate, and no doubt continue to hold assumptions of which I am
not yet aware. I am blessed with people around me, though, who feel free
to question my assumptions, to show me conflicting evidence, and to engage
with me in a critical dialogue.

Terri Deems
Deems Associates Inc

-- (Terri Deems)

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