Saturday, 14 July 2007

Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America

I have just finished reading Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America by Barbara Ehrenreich. This book is a MUST for anyone who is interested in the struggles faced by low-wage earners in the US.

The author, who has a Ph.D. in biology, decided to try her hand at a number of low-wage jobs to see what life is like for the millions of people whose current occupations do not constitute a pathway to prosperity.

The book is packed with food for thought on the misery faced by countless individuals living in the capitalist system. I strongly recommend Ms Ehrenreich's work to any politician who wants to obtain a clear view of various employment-related issues that need to be tackled fairly urgently in order to build a more humane as well as healthy society.

While reading this book, I thought about the lack of democracy in most, if not all, capitalist workplaces. I find it baffling that while so many people talk about the importance of democracy nowadays, very few individuals seem to report its near-total absence when one goes to work. Talking about low-wage employees, Ms Ehrenreich (2002) stated that "When you enter the low-wage workplace - and many of the medium-wage workplaces as well - you check your civil liberties at the door, leave America and all it supposedly stands for behind, and learn to zip your lips for the duration of the shift...We can hardly pride ourselves on being the world's preeminent democracy, after all, if large numbers of citizens spend half their waking hours in what amounts, in plain terms, to a dictatorship." (p. 210).

I will stop here for today, but I will keep referring to Ms Ehrenreich's remarkable work in future entries.

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