Wednesday, October 2, 2013

What, Exactly, is a Job?

Sometimes - in the context of discussion - a job sounds like a social obligation that society might be able to pull out of thin air as needed. What's more, the actual activities which people would seek out or want to do (picking fruit they like), oddly seem not to be as important as whether or not someone can be expected to pay for the task itself (job as cost). But that line of thinking tends to follow some civilizational dead ends at times. Wasn't product supposed to be about what people want? What's up with that? After all, product - as recognized and defined now - depends on what people want to buy, and in that same sense what we would produce for others has also become one of the most desirable products of all. Let alone the fact we need to be able to produce something that matters to us before other forms of consumption even feel sane to take on.

So in recent discussions as to lower work force participation and their accompanying statistics, the typical jobs dialogues make less sense than ever. The conservative may still tell an individual, "get a job" (similar to "get a life") whereas the progressive may tell the conservative "create a job" or perhaps at least fund one (for government). But what is really at stake in this social disconnect? Why is it that sometimes people will push themselves, push others, or just refuse to push anyone in terms of this particular designation of focused work? Perhaps something about the underlying relationship is awry...

Given the return of work prospects for the short term unemployed, as opposed to the disappearing opportunities (for lack of a better way to think about it) of employment for the long term unemployed, I felt as though it would do some good just to step back and think about the most basic aspects of what people even associate with work. Argh...before people forget what such vital aspects are. Once, focused effort could be likened to pulling fruit from a tree or bush, in the opportune  moment when the fruit was ripe. (i.e. individualized and not routinized daily time). In a sense, the immediacy of GDP measure continues to be about that opportune moment. A job that represents GDP captures something that is "moving forward" or otherwise shifting from a previous point.

Now, a job tends to be about furthering earlier investment or fruit trees (moving those social efforts along a spectrum or continuum) in some manner, but few bother investing in part because there are "weird" fruits with unknown qualities. As a result of societal "cold feet", how many among us will not experience the purpose a job truly serves? (particularly the one that exists in a 9 to 5 perspective)For jobs represent growth, maintenance  and change from one stage of life to the next. How are we to think about the meaning of work (or life), when people lose the capacity to relate individual efforts to everyday realities in any overall sense?

Do we return to the harvest of time random individual economic experience, when society cannot agree on the more comprehensive and routine daily nine to five experience for larger purpose? In the twentieth century, if we weren't personally responsible for aspects of societal definition (maintenance), it became difficult to define our own maintenance. And that still holds true. At the very least, can we take on societally integrated hunter gatherer definitions without reverting to the disorder of hunger games.

By definition, a job becomes an actively engaged form of work or personal responsibility when some aspect of sustenance is attached to it. Sometimes the relationship is primarily that of personal meaning, and sometimes the relationship is primarily about money or other forms of reward. As for sustenance, this depends on where one's sources of economic support actually lie, and the element of choice as to the work itself. For instance, we may do work which doesn't "pay" but it has emotional or some other survival benefit. We often seek to make time for special designations because of prior existing conditions, which make it possible to relate work to other aspects of our lives. Whatever work we choose, it transforms those earlier conditions to some degree.

In the present, expecting society to produce more or better means of employment makes more sense in monetary (fortunately) than structural terms. Each relationship which leads to recognizable job creation also represents a specific form of protection (or pre-existing condition sets), which matter much more for public and private work options than is sometimes realized. This can also be likened to the settings or patterns of a game board. Pre-existing condition sets can also be a result of earlier profit formations. However, some forms of protection are much more benign than others, and present day building or knowledge use patterns are not benign. Normally we think about those protections at the level of business or institutional activity, but it is also quite helpful to think about them in terms of how they affect the expectations of the individual.

For instance, the person who exonerates the free market as it exists now, does so in part because current conditions imply that he won't have to worry about job security in the future. Therefore if one's job includes defending existing circumstance, that certainly makes sense. Likewise, the same holds true for the person who defends the current government environment because there are few job worries for her. Whereas, the person without obvious means of permanent work is less inclined to defend either the government or free market in their present incarnation. Such an individual is more likely to question the ongoing relationships which no longer appear inclusive. This also means questioning certain job relationships in their present form and definition.

In a sense, today's job relationships are much like personal relationships when it's not quite possible to approach them on equal footing. Herein lies a real problem with hierarchical relationships of all kinds, where society or individuals expect the (default) provider to create a means of support based on elements which may not actually exist within the providers control (primarily for pre existing legal reasons). What's more, the protests of many default providers go completely unheard, because of the noise level of the providers and their beneficiaries which remain successful. Unfortunately the laws tend to be set in their favor.

At the very least , economies have begun the process of unscaling in recent decades, a process which could assist in a recognition of the reciprocity which is now needed amongst many participants. A return to local production may eventually mean that all would be providers gain a better chance to be heard and considered. Eventually, one hopes that people would recognize that jobs can exist when all parties make the effort to make certain this in fact can happen. More and more, the work of the entrepreneur will come to represent the kinds of commitments which many kinds of workers will increasingly make, for unscaling means negotiation and decision making becomes more prevalent at individual levels.

When we find ourselves outside the bounds of protection which designated jobs represent, there are many reasons why this actually happens. Consequently, it really helps to look past the victim and aggressor mentalities and the maker versus taker arguments which clutter too much dialogue about societal capacity for work. Jobs - that is, focused endeavor which provides reward, exist because of pre existing arrangements society makes which allows jobs to take place within already existing structures. Sometimes, these are still applicable. But in today's circumstance, much evolution is needed in the ways people interpret both social and physical infrastructures, if in fact mutual forms of social protection are to be arrived at. Perhaps with a little luck, people in the 21st century will not forget what actual, honest to goodness jobs actually consist of.

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