27th June 2010 The Emergency Budget: Fewer Jobs But More Work

In Britain, Chan­cel­lor George Osborne has just pre­sented his first bud­get, announc­ing 25% cuts to most gov­ern­ment depart­ments. Last week, pro­posed gov­ern­ment invest­ment in leisure, social ser­vices and man­u­fac­tur­ing was removed. A visitor’s cen­tre at Stone­henge, a health­care cen­tre in Leeds, and finan­cial sup­port for the Forge­mas­ters plant in Sheffield were some of a number…

26th June 2010 Depictions of Work in the United States during the 1930s

There are a num­ber of excel­lent col­lec­tions of pho­tographs and other visual sources avail­able online which depict the world of work in the United States dur­ing the 1930s. Click­ing on phrases that appear in green will take you to the rel­e­vant site. The Pho­to­graphic Unit of the Farm Secu­rity Admin­is­tra­tion / Office of War Infor­ma­tion took…

18th June 2010 Women Drivers

One of my favourite flickr groups is ‘Taxis of the world from inside’. I like the glimpses of the city in these shots, and the con­fu­sion between the out­side spaces and the mobile indoors of the car. The car in the city rep­re­sents a super­moder­nity (Augé, 2009), a non-place, nei­ther pub­lic, nor pri­vate, fluid without…

11th June 2010 Closing Down

Two signs pho­tographed in a depart­ment store that’s about to close. To the left, big, bold let­ters and colours: the store is clos­ing down and every­thing must go, “step right up, bar­gains galore”. Thrill at 20% off a new ket­tle. Take home a pot­tery owl, only £42.99 (down from £59.00). It’s an excit­ing chance, you consumer…

10th June 2010 The Poet

Early in the film of Blake Morrison’s mem­oir And When Did You Last See Your Father (dir Anand Tucker, 2007), Blake (Colin Firth) accepts an award for his poetry (it might be that the def­i­n­i­tion of ‘real’ work is that it’s the sort of activ­ity you’d never attend an award cer­e­mony to mark). At the risk…

3rd June 2010 Routine and Creativity

Rou­tin­i­sa­tion is usu­ally seen as deskilling, as alien­at­ing, as the oppo­site of cre­ativ­ity (Braver­man, 1998; Lei­d­ner, 1993). Aus­trin and West (2005) sug­gest that the rou­tin­i­sa­tion of how casino staff manip­u­late cards acts as mech­a­nism for sur­veil­lance. Stan­dar­d­is­ing and con­trol­ling how staff hold their thumb and fin­gers lim­its the chances for them to cheat. Rou­tines are supposed…

1st June 2010 Work and Realism

One of the most effec­tive and real­is­tic depic­tions of man­ual work in cin­ema is found in a scene in the avant-garde film Pravda (1970) by Jean-Luc Godard (offi­cially by the Groupe Dziga Ver­tov), well-described in Monaco (1976). This is a short piece about the events in May 1968 in what was then Czecho­slo­va­kia. Whereas most…