Critically acclaimed journalist Ellen Ruppel Shell uncovers the true cost—political, economic, social, and personal—of America’s mounting anxiety over jobs, and what we can do to regain control over our working lives.
Since 1973, our productivity has grown almost six times faster than our wages. Most of us rank so far below the top earners in the country that the “winners” might as well inhabit another planet. But work is about much more than earning a living. Work gives us our identity, and a sense of purpose and place in this world. And yet, work as we know it is under siege.
Through exhaustive reporting and keen analysis, The Job reveals the startling truths and unveils the pervasive myths that have colored our thinking on one of the most urgent issues of our day: how to build good work in a globalized and digitalized world where middle class jobs seem to be slipping away. Traveling from deep in Appalachia to the heart of the Midwestern rust belt, from a struggling custom clothing maker in Massachusetts to a thriving co-working center in Minnesota, she marshals evidence from a wide range of disciplines to show how our educational system, our politics, and our very sense of self have been held captive to and distorted by outdated notions of what it means to get and keep a good job. We read stories of sausage makers, firefighters, zookeepers, hospital cleaners; we hear from economists, computer scientists, psychologists, and historians. The book’s four sections take us from the challenges we face in scoring a good job today to work’s infinite possibilities in the future. Work, in all its richness, complexity, rewards and pain, is essential for people to flourish. Ellen Ruppel Shell paints a compelling portrait of where we stand today, and points to a promising and hopeful way forward.