John McCreery (JLM@TWICS.COM)
Sun, 4 Feb 1996 12:21:47 +0900

Dear Friends,

Now that we have demolished Jeremy Rifkin's reputation,
could we perhaps return to the problems he raises in "The End
of Work" and the ideas he offers there.

My interest in the book is stimulated, first, by an obvious
relevance to a project I am pondering, to examine the
responses of American and Japanese white collar workers to
job loss resulting from corporate restructuring. Here, it seems
to me, is a marvelous case for examining the relevance or lack
thereof of cultural differences to a social issue of major
concern to the world we all inhabit. For those who might like
to contribute suggestions, comments, data to this project, allow
me to note that what I have found so far in the way of
literature on the subject is mostly in places like the _Academy
of Management Review_ , deals mostly with the impact of job
loss on blue-collar workers in communities that lose their
economic base through factory closings, and is, theoretically,
derived mostly from work by social psychologists that assumes
a uniformity of human response to crisis. There is also, of
course, a continuing stream of journalistic articles in the
popular business press: Business Week, Fortune, Forbes, etc.,
some of which is hopeful in tone. Examples include pieces in
Fortune on the simple-life movement in the U.S. and, more
ambiguously, on women executives who choose to leave fast-
track careers in pursuit of other interests (of which, I must
note, families are only one of many possibilities). It would be
enormously helpful to hear from people who know of other,
especially anthropological, sources and lines that ought to be
followed up.

While reading with an eye to this project I have also become
aware that there is a larger political debate of which it might
form a part. What we might call the classic cold-war
framework for political debate on how economies ought to
run has been largely shaped in terms of state versus market or
socialism/communism versus free enterprise. The collapse of
the former East Bloc and apparent global triumph of market
economies has created a space for debate about alternatives to
both the classic alternativesQa third possibility that is neither
state-directed or driven exclusively by bottom-line
"rationality". Rifkin is only one of several prominent authors
who are writing in this vein. Francis Fukuyama in _Trust:
The Social Virtues and The Creation of Prosperity_ and
Anthony Sampson in _Company Man: The Rise and Fall of
Corporate Life_ are other examples. Here, if anywhere, is a
debate to which anthropologists, with our specialized
knowledge of variation in forms of community organization
should be able to contribute. The question for those of us who
assert that what we do as anthropologists should be more
politically relevant, and for those of us who would like to see
our beloved field with a higher profile in contemporary
culture as well, is whether we are ready to move beyond
carping and consciousness-raising (which seems to be what
"critical theory" amounts to these days) to more serious
participation in the policy debates in which we are, alas, at
present only a minor presence.

John McCreery
February 4, 1996

P.S. Here is an area in which feminist anthropologists have, I
suspect, a great deal to contribute.