This is a reply to a comment reply, but due to chronic writer’s block, and to the advantages in being regular and frequent in one’s blogging, I’m milking a post out of it. The reply in question is a reply to a comment by David Gendron, who tells us (I’m pretty sure) “how networking [wouldn’t] be sustainable in an anti-capitalist setting, where jobs [wouldn’t be] scarce.” To which Ricketson replies:
Well, I think that’s a loaded question (albeit, unintentionally).
First, I only see two “anti-capitalist” situtations where networking would be irrelevant: abundance, and centralized planning where a job is guaranteed to everyone and every job is essentially identical. The first I think is unlikely to occur (at least in the near future), and the second I think is undesirable.
I think that’s a loaded answer, but I’ll get to that farther down the page. A few sentences farther down Ricketson’s page we read:
…the “non-capitalist” economy that I focus on is one where individuals and small groups have control over all the materials that they need to make a living — housing, land, and tools. In this situation, the employer/employee power relationship doesn’t exist, and so neither does the conventional idea of a “job” being something that you have or don’t have (or something that could be abundant). All we would have is time and tools and the need to decide how to use our time and our tools most effectively to satisfy our desires. “Jobs” would be small, specific tasks.
I recognize some very real advantages in this version of a non-capitalist economy. If a worker doubles as a vendor or contractor or whatever you want to call it (I call it a capitalist FWIW) then the employer/employee relationship is replaced by vendor/customer relationships. The beauty in this is that the former is singular while the latter are plural. If all (or most) of one’s livelihood is earned working for one entity, that entity is a monopsonist, monopsonist being to buyers as monopolist is to sellers; the common term for both being “market power.” I believe that market power really is power; specifically political power. I’m actually agnostic on the question of whether it can exist independently of the state. It is in the spirit of Devil’s advocacy that I assert that it can. I also see a very real downside, in that one successful act of selling oneself doesn’t go as far as “landing a J.O.B.” so one is more on the defensive more of the time. For people like me who really hate selling, there’s also a quality of life angle. As a member of Generation X, I entered the workforce during the Reagan era, so J.O.B.’s within my reach (since I wasn’t a proverbial straight-A student, or ex-military) were either part-time or temporary, or both. At first I signed on with the pitemp agencies. Finding the effective (pro-rated, if you will) income insufficient to the (IMHO) humble goal of being self supporting, at some point I pondered whether moonlighting two or more permanent part time J.O.B.’s might be a less ineffective strategy than floating from one full-time temp gig to another. While I didn’t find this to be “the ticket,” I did manage to hobble together a “portfolio” of J.O.B.’s that at least got me out of the nest in a not-quite-solvent fashion. There really is a difference between being two layoffs away from having nothing, and one, but the difference only goes so far. On the one hand, half a loaf is better than no loaf, but half a livelihood is a form of non-survival, or at least non-independence. Now I know that a certain subset of Generations X, Y, Z and beyond see the trend from J.O.B.’s to gigs as an unalloyed positive. For the most part, I think the ones who feel that way are the ones who have demonstrated (most importantly to themselves) the ability to get gigs that actually require some intelligence, while I was more secretarial pool. I know I have capabilities beyond that, but communicating that fact to others has never been my strong suit. Call it a character defect if you must, but I remain convinced that a trend toward a more market-driven or entreprenoorship-driven economy, even if the trend is away from stifling bureaucracy, while probably a net positive, has at least the side effect of amplifying extrovert privilege. Yeah, I scratched a privilege. So sue me. Anyway, in my own experience, the disadvantages of precarity seem to outweigh the “freedom” of the “free” lance life. But compared to what? Being too young to have experienced the Golden Age of J.O.B. Security and Bennies from within the workforce, I may be underestimating the magnitude of such monstrosities as the Organization Man, the near absence of the Organization Woman, the witch hunts, the plain vanilla culture and even Inflation. I’d like to think I’d have gotten farther in life when the gatekeepers tended to include more civil service exams and periodic reviews and not as much the elevator pitches, “networking” and the necessity of utterly shameless self-promotion, but it’s not like extrovert privilege is a recent invention.
Now as to the loaded answer. It’s not obvious to me that everyone being guaranteed a J.O.B. somehow implies every J.O.B. being identical. It sounds suspiciously like the right wing talking poing of equating egalitarianism to a belief in or wish for all persons being identical. What I envision is the application of extreme transparency to the buying and selling of labor. I do prefer the “agorist” vision of small, specific tasks over the “capitalist” reality of winner-take-all pursuit of employed-status (and the noticeably more exclusive gainfully-employed-status, and solvent-status, non-homeless-status and all those other status goods that both capitalism and agorism seem to treat as, in the final analysis, non-entitlements.) The realization of extreme transparency would add some things to the otherwise agorist mix that would make it more palatable to me. One would be a level of detail in feedback that literally strips away any mystery as to why I might fail to be chosen for any particular “small, specific task” (S.S.T., if you will). The more vulgar type of (alleged?) market advocate will say, “oh, the lack of that type of feedback is just lawsuit protection.” I hope agorists don’t see the situation as quite that simple, and can at least imagine other contributing factors in the status quo economy, such as the use of asymmetric information as a strategic asset. Another side effect of extreme transparency would be knowing the identity of the people who do win each S.S.T., and at what price. Of course the identity of every “unemployed” person would also be public knowledge, which sounds dangerous, but I would feel more than compensated for it by seeing made objectively testable the question of whether underutilized talent has more basis in fact than do unicorns. If there are demographic patterns in who’s getting the S.S.T.’s (i.e., discrimination), that too should come out in the wash sooner rather than later under conditions of extreme transparency. No guarantees implied, BTW. But I think it would invite the surrounding culture to adopt full empS.S.T. participation as a social norm, which of course it already has, but this time in a “trust but verify” way.
Taking it back a step further to the question of whether a shift away from capitalism can potentially obviate the burden ofneed for networking—a particular S.S.T., like a J.O.B. is something one either has or does not have. Each one is a lower-stakes game, so one can afford to lose S.S.T.’s—to a point. Perhaps it’s the best of all possible worlds, abundance being unlikely, and all. Perhaps information doesn’t really want to be free, and extreme transparency is also a pipe dream (or cloud cuckoo land, as the right wingers like to say). But consider this: If it’s unsafe (or even just inefficient) to consult a mechanic without knowing a mechanic, or being a friend of a friend of one, what we have, most of all, is a failure of transparency. Networking, in addition to being a form of nepotism, is a form of insider trading. If knowing who to hire for an S.S.T., where the S.S.T.’s are, or who is competent, or how to get value for one’s money (or whatever one uses in the agora) is guesswork, then we must question the claims that prices contain all information, or even much information. If finding out the answers to these questions is a social exercise, then socializing is part of everyone’s J.O.B. description: no social connectivity=no S.S.T.’s=don’t buy groceries. Even absent the state I have no problem referring to that as an aristocracy of pull.