inadequate badges of ability

Chris Burford cburford at
Sun Aug 1 23:32:38 PDT 1999

At 12:45 01/08/99 -0400, kelley wrote:

> how is labor
>extracted from the regular workers? my boss was also openly uncomfortable
>about this b/c to do so she had to lie w/ the 'promise' of pay
>raises/promotions. there was a well-known glass ceiling. once a cook,
>for ex, reached $8/hr they would often be summarily fired as examples. not
>all, but some: if you wanted to work your way up, then you'd best not get
>too cocky about pay raises and you'd best earn them continually. that was
>the stick.

Sennett and Cobb make the point about workers' internalized preoccupations with ability: that when it comes to bargaining for wage rises, the union official, if there is one, does not discuss the ability of any individual, just what the market rate is for this sort of labour power. The pressure to demonstrate ability is a scam.

Personal ability in employment is relevant only in individual bargaining: if you can have a soulful talk with your boss about how much you want to continue working with her but owing to personal commitments unless you can have a rise, regrettably you will have to accept an alternative offer which has virtually been given to you.

Psychological methods by which management intensifies the exploitation of workers are a bit different from S and C's claim that there is real psychological damage from workers internalizing a standard of ability, which is repeatedly rendered impossible.

> i'm not sure about the claim that
>college education, in the states, alters class distinctions simply by
>virtue of the fact that more folks attend college. while 50% go to
>college, the number who graduate [25%] hasn't changed since the 50-60s.

Is that really so?

>and, as we can imagine, the burden of 'dropping out' is generally
>internalized as a personal failure.

Why do people drop out. From a more rational point of view that must be a failure of the educational system. Of is it alleged they are impossible to educate?

>the 25%, too, was an increase from
>the 10% in earlier decades b/c the gov't invested heavily in the expansion
>of the uni system with public uni's which served several purposes.

So what are the statistics? And what is the trend?

Chris Burford


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