"The whole movement of life is learning" (Krishnamurti). "To be an act of knowing, then, the adult literacy process must engage the learners in the constant problematizing of their existential situations" (Freire). "Once you learn to read, you will be forever free" (Douglass). "I can learn anything I have the desire to learn" (White, S.G.).

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Our Enchanted Workplace

Gee, Hull & Lankshear use the term ‘enchanted workplace’ in The New Work Order to describe the ideology of fast capitalism.  The term amused me, as I’d underlined multiple statements leading up to the use of ‘enchanted workplace’.  Are we not enchanted to be submerged in a fast-paced and stressful work environment?  Imagine Disney’s Snow White scrubbing and cooking for seven unkempt working men.  Enchanting; no!  Yet eliminate the seven middle men and consider the work conditions she endured on her slate bed and her duties of waiting for the Prince.  Now we’re enchanted.  Gee, Hull & Lankshear mention Disney’s Core Values, number one being no cynicism allowed!  Instead let’s ‘bring happiness to millions and celebrate… wholesome American values’.  In other words, “Let’s get to work”!

The repeated descriptions in this article rang so true to today’s workforce that I was anything but enchanted which I suspect was the goal of the Gee team.  The middle management has been eliminated; the bosses are bossier and richer.  The hub workers are doubly responsible, highly devoted to their tasks, working over forty hours a week, training for additional tasks in their off hours, answering calls at all times of the night, checking e-mails while out to dinner with family and smiling while doing it all.  And the bosses are saying “We want you to be eager to stay, but ready to leave.”

Competition is the only thing that matters.  Our products need to be unique, of high quality, with excellent customer service and marketed at the best price.  In order to achieve these goals our companies are now ‘lean and mean’.  We have increasingly sophisticated consumers, but are the hub workers as sophisticated without the middle?  The missing middle management is potentially creating a workforce of ‘partners’.  These partners are described by the Gee team (and translated by me with additional cynicism) as practically dancing through the endless forest looking for Snow White.  Their jobs are meaningful to them, they seek to improve their performance, and they control their jobs because they are ‘supported, developed and coached’. 

I imagine that those hub workers that have managed to preserve their jobs in these corporations without middle management are anything but enchanted.  They are overworked, overstressed, over-trained (but it won’t all be retained), over-committed, and over-the-top in their efforts just to keep their positions.  In today’s economy we are told everyday how lucky we are to have jobs.  We’ve been told this so many times that we have ‘reengineered’ our own thinking or have we?  I admit I feel many of the same things being pushed at me in the workforce, even in the public education system.  There’s always room to do more!  Yet ultimately as someone who believes in capitalism; given the chance financially I would quit my job as ‘partner’.  Ultimately I continue to go to work for the paycheck; I am no longer enchanted with my career. 

(To follow up on facilitated class discussion:  This blog has been typed in Tahoma font, the font we’ve been coached to use at school, as the student’s SOL tests use it.)


  1. Hi Lisa - thanks for continuing our class discussion here on the blog. It's not like our families and friends are going to engage us on this topic (ha ha). I like the Snow White metaphor for the enchanted workplace; it really speaks to the question "for whom is the workplace enchanted?" It's certainly not the basic worker in this case.

    I'm going to steer the conversation to our topic of underlying assumptions in "fast capitalist texts" such America's Perfect Storm. Gee et al. posit that it's a belief that science and technology--the "right" science and technology, will fix all problems. If we study and "fix" the workplace we can make it more efficient. Then, Susangale prompted us to dig for a deeper assumption. We decided it's all about money and our belief that capitalism is the best system.

    While I consider myself someone who believes in capitalism as an economic system, in a "free" market, and in competition, I do not necessarily espouse the belief that "my" science and technology and "my" knowledge (all that "real" quantitative data-none of that flakey qualitative stuff)should be used to meddle in and "fix" the workplace.

    Alas, what happened to the good old days when I was happy to go to work, do my job, and accept what was all around me. I'm waiting for the time when I am no longer a teacher. Instead, I will be a "facilitator" or "group leader" or some such thing. Gee et al. challenge us to "engage" these fast capitalist texts as a "window on a fast-changing world" (p 25). I think I'm going to engage the Gee article for my blog this week. They, too, have become part of the Discourse. Thanks, Susan

  2. Lisa:

    I was in a way fascinated with the way the new corporate world was described. When I thought of the word enchanted, I didn't really think Disney, though. I thought of the spell being cast. I don't think any workforce of size doesn't have a corporate culture. I think we pick our workplace in part based on the culture we know of in a company; we don't take a job just to take a job (if we can help it), but we look at the company before we take the job. I don't know if I could be a teacher in K-12 today (which is all I ever wanted to be growing up - a kindergarten teacher) because I don't like the enchantment of the workplace. I like my job at the university because I'm able to be my best and without constant supervision I can still try to belong to the corporate culture; although it's education, it's with adults, and no matter how old my students are, I'm still the 'boss'.

  3. I enjoyed this post Lisa, and agree with Susan that it's an excellent way to continue previous discussions from class as I typically get the "here we go again" from those not experiencing these opportunities with me! I do agree that perhaps the attempt of the "enchanted work place" may have been the idea of empowered employees. But perhaps the definition of empowerment gets confused at times with more work. I think many of us feel the stretch of the current expectations that our workplace loads on us, often (as you mentioned) under the idea that we are "lucky to have a job". But I now step back from this statement with a bit of a critical eye, for I wonder how often they remember that they too are really lucky to have us? For without the "skilled worker", especially those that go above and beyond when called upon, they would truly be on their own with their empowerment.


Thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts on this post. Diverse opinions are welcomed.