Who am I? What am I doing here?

030010782x_2 In an Op-Ed piece for the Washington Post, Harold Meyerson writes about “the pervasive insecurity that is inextricably part of today’s capitalism.” Invoking Richard Sennett’s new book The Culture of the New Capitalism, Myerson writes:

“In the absence of a more structured work life, what Sennett sees is a more muddled sense of self. He finds confusion [not only] among displaced middle-aged workers, but also among young college graduates who, compared with their counterparts of the 1970s, are less able to articulate their career goals. In an economy that disdains continuity, how exactly do you define ‘career’?

“From his interviews with a wide range of workers, Sennett turns up a widespread resignation to these immense changes in economic life. That doesn’t mean, though, that the American people aren’t reacting to this profound shift in their lives, and their sense of their lives.”

Only a certain kind of human being can prosper in unstable, fragmentary institutions: the culture of the new capitalism demands an ideal self oriented to the short term, focused on potential ability rather than accomplishment, willing to discount or abandon past experience. In The Culture of the New Capitalism, Sennett examines a more durable form of self hood, and what practical initiatives could counter the pernicious effects of so-called “reform.”

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