Dead Man Working – A Review
“Dead Man Working” by Carl Caderstrom and Peter Fleming is an insightful book, which gives the reader an account of how people experience work in the present ‘dead’ world. The authors of this book largely dwell on capitalism in the society and this makes the theme of the book. They use different scenarios to prove the existence of capitalism in the past years, and show how capitalism today manifests itself in a different face, which seems friendlier, but is even more deadly than before. This review will address the major aspects of capitalism in the society in the perspective of “Dead Man Working.” Mostly, these are the strategies the authors of this book recommend the society should adopt, as well as those they should not have taken in their course of combating capitalism.
In this book, the authors portray the world today as good as dead because of the cancerous capitalism that prevails in various states. They recommend that what corporations and governments need is a change of strategy, especially in the managerial sector, as this will liven the dead world. Today, heavy capitalistic clouds cover the world. People are left helpless and have not taken any course of action to deal with this. People today have chosen to work and live, as this is the only option remaining, the alternative to capitalism. This trend persists among people as they wait for the unknown end, which could as well be the looming collapse of capital. However, this is not the right approach to face capitalism, as we shall see.
The authors introduce the concept of emotional capitalism. This is the new face of capitalism today. The age of work ended, but it ironically adopted a different face evident in the present workers society, where everyone is obsessed with work. This book at the beginning describes a dead man working. He feels drained, and dead. This is his life routine, long office hours, compulsory team building sessions, and interactions with capitalist managers disguised as anti-capitalists. Working today is compared to a living hell. Working is neither living nor dying, it is a living death. However, the ‘dead’ man is expected by his corporation to wear a smile, and a jovial face. The authors attempt to show the difficulty presenting itself for any chances of the situation getting better. The new face of capitalism is hard to clear. First, the capitalistic managers in work places today wear the friendliness masks. Capitalists have become tactful in their strategies, as they even condemn capitalism and tyranny, and employ anti-capitalistic policies in corporations. In addition, they ask their workers to incorporate an element of fun in their work. This is a strategy to brainwash the employees from seeing the dark side of their work and the capitalistic face of corporations.
Corporations today propagate the capitalistic culture and this has resulted in somatic desolation of employees, and these are considered “dead” but still working, as capitalism has squeezed life out of them. Most people do not like their work today. ‘Entering the workforce is like entering the grave” (4). This is a fact known by managers of corporations. They therefore employ other strategies to change the employees’ perception of work. For instance, “fun-sultants’ are invited in companies to make employees who work themselves to death have a moment of laughter.
The authors break down the characteristics of the dead world in order to prove to the reader the state of the contemporary labor sector. Not all these characteristics happened naturally, rather, they are strategies adopted by governments, companies, as well as wealthy individuals to achieve their selfish interests, while blinding the public who will not read between the lines. The main characteristic is the liberal communism, a strategy employed by governments and corporations. Liberal communism embraces philanthropy at highest levels. No one hates philanthropy; in fact, it is a virtue. However, governments and corporations today embrace liberal communism as a strategy to cover up their capitalistic nature, and make it appear as a perfect game to the public eye. The authors typify this to the likes of Bono. By employing philanthropy, governments and corporations feel that the public, including employees will have shared the cake. However, philanthropy this way gives the people a taste of the cake while the capitalists eat the bigger part of the cake. All this is referred to as the bonofication of the capitalistic reality.
The authors’ critique of the work place goes beyond the poor office culture to the post-Fordism realm, where everyone is a worker and the balance between work and life is hardly achieved. They go ahead to address the horrible state of the business ideology today, which is characterized by a constant shift in the nature of power. Here, work is the driving force and cannot be substituted. Social responsibility corporations claim to have does not exist in reality. People are overly attached to work that they have lost their selves. Today, people no longer work; instead, they are constantly in work. The authors use an example of the effects of Fordism crisis to show that labor relations with capital is never ending. Even though the Fordism crisis of the 1970’s and 1980 has adversely affected the capitalistic system of the West, it did not lead to both labor and capital remained. The same case applies to the contemporary capitalism.
The authors do not argue against work, they however condemn how work has become an agent for dehumanization. Work now overrides the needs of the society. The social relations have been watered down as most people think more about work and hardly find time for their social part. Blackberry addiction is a term used by the authors to refer to an instance where workers who cannot leave work at the office. The internet and other communication channels consume the little time people have after work. The authors point out the meaninglessness of white-collar jobs. First, the jobs are repetitive. The middle-class people cannot fully rely on their salaries only for sustenance, and so most will engage in other questionable activities in order to earn enough to sustain them and their families.
Emotional capitalism has robbed people of their social life; in addition, it has led to increased suicide cases among most employees. Today, most companies offer prevailing suicide-management programs, in order to alleviate suicide rates of their employees. The authors also address these prevailing suicide-management programs in companies, and use the France Telecom company as an example of companies that have recently experienced suicide among its employees. Too much work related pressure could be blamed for this. Leisure time in companies is only a short-lived moment dedicated to cessation of thinking; in which escapist material in all mediums serve this purpose. Work has robbed people of personal time for meditation and personal development. People are tired after work, and have no time to think about what they want to do with their lives.
The authors note that people today value personal happiness highly. The society tie self-worth to the salary a person earns and the kind of job they do. People therefore work hard to live to the standards they have set for themselves in the society. This therefore ties them to their jobs despite the poor working conditions. The society has adopted this wrong strategy in their quest for happiness. The authors attempt to bring out what the difference is between forms of enjoyment in the 1960’s and today. Desire for personal happiness and enjoyment existed since 1960’s but today people have mainstreamed this in their lives, as an excuse to justify the sacrifices made in their jobs. Happiness today is immediate and includes films, sex, slapstick, and clichés. This is due to the time-poor people cannot afford long-term happiness. There is a change in ideology today.
The girl child is another theme raised in this book. The authors purport that today, what we experience is the neoliberal zombie capitalism, since the real capitalism died in the 1970’s era. Today, children are highly regarded as the future nations. The state of children in any country therefore paints the future of that country. However, today’s society has been a boundary between boys and girls. These are not seen in the same light today and this has an impact on the future of nations. One thing a reader can learn from this is that investing in the future of a nation is worth. Therefore, the present generation parents could apply this strategy in raising their children, so that future generations are empowered. This could alleviate the degree of future capitalistic bodies.
The authors linger on the concept of the dead work, and its possible effects to the social factory. “The real fault-line today is not between capital and labor. It is between capital and life. Life itself is now something that is plundered by the corporation, rendering our very social being into something that makes money for business. We know them. The computer hackers dreaming code in their sleep. The airline stewards evoking their warm personality to deal with an irate customer…The aspiring NGO intern working for nothing. The university lecturer writing in the weekend. The call center worker improvising on the telephone to enhance the customer experience.”(33 ). Work today has become a way of life for most people. This shows the extent to which capitalism has spread to other facets of life. This is presented through the 24-hour capitalism, where each single hour sees a number of people working.
Cederström and Fleming argue that the present capitalism has no alternative, but is a destination in itself. Going back to the theory of Karl Marx, the authors feel that the present state of capitalism is the fulfillment of Karl Marx prophecy. According to Karl Marx, consumerism and materialism are the fruits of capitalism. In the contemporary world, the rates of consumerism have peaked. People have sadly become materialistic, as consumerism takes root in the society. Work and consumption is the order of the day. People work to spend, hence nourishing the roots of capitalism in society, just as Karl Marx had foretold. According to Cederström and Fleming, this is what makes it hard for capitalism to be eliminated in society.
The authors think that the dead man, who is the victim of the contemporary capitalism, has not put in any efforts to alleviate his situation; instead, he is helpless as complies with the prevailing conditions of capitalism. However, in as much as Cederström and Fleming condemn the helplessness of the dead man, they also offer reasons for this helplessness of the dead man. To them, capitalism is hard to control since it has become part of our social existence. Corporations are the epitome of capitalism, while their employees depend on them for a living. Therefore, if capitalism has to be eliminated, this must start with wiping out of corporations. However, this will mean the human existence will as well be wiped out in return, as these two are interdependent. Nonetheless, corporations have overly exploited the source of their sustenance, which are their employees.
Cederström and Fleming however, advise that a strategy with which to combat capitalism is facing the problem head on. They use the Charlie, a character in Stephen King’s novel ‘Firestarter,’ and Danny, a character in ‘The Shinning.’ They contrast these two characters in terms of their capabilities of power and courage. Danny exhibits power to an extent of identifying with ghosts, which then inhabit his world and he inhabits their world. The authors therefore imply that an appropriate strategy is fighting the enemies by keeping them, just as Danny. Charlie on the other hand runs away from her enemies, so that they cannot find her. Therefore, capitalism should not deprive people’s happiness, as there is hope for effective strategies to alleviate capitalism today as the authors point out.
Conclusively, this book by Cederström and Fleming is very insightful, as it peers into the depths of the always-ignored dark side of the corporations. The depth of capitalism roots with its new face in the society today is shown. The book also reveals the impact this level of capitalism today has on the corporation workers. Workers are lifeless as work; a capitalistic element has taken their lives over. However, the tactics of the capitalists has made them believe that it is normal to work this way, losing their social life. Such tactics include granting employees freedom to “be themselves” at their work place and “have fun” in the office. This book shows the realm of the work world today. However, this should not be the end of hope for humans, as there are strategies that could be used to combat capitalism. We can choose to live with it tactfully, like Danny, or run far away from it, like Charlie. However, since elements of capitalism have existed over history, there is no running away from it, rather, we should accept that capitalism is here to stay, and come up with strategies of controlling or regulating it, so that its effects are not lethal to human existence.
Cederström, C. and Fleming, P 2012, Dead Man Working, Zero Books, UK.
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