Thursday, 13 December 2012

Control Is King

The following job advertisement was posted on Tuesday (Dec 11 2012) by Dalkey Archive Press:

The Press is looking for promising candidates with an appropriate background who: have already demonstrated a strong interest in literary publishing; are very well read in literature in general and Dalkey Archive books in particular; are highly motivated and ambitious; are determined to have a career in publishing and will sacrifice to make that career happen; are willing to start off at a low-level salary and work their way upwards; possess multi-dimensional skills that will be applied to work at the Press; look forward to undergoing a rigorous and challenging probationary period either as an intern or employee; want to work at Dalkey Archive Press doing whatever is required of them to make the Press succeed; do not have any other commitments (personal or professional) that will interfere with their work at the Press (family obligations, writing, involvement with other organizations, degrees to be finished, holidays to be taken, weddings to attend in Rio, etc.); know how to act and behave in a professional office environment with high standards of performance; and who have a commitment to excellence that can be demonstrated on a day-to-day basis. DO NOT APPLY IF ALL OF THE ABOVE DOES NOT DESCRIBE YOU.     
We certainly seek people with relevant experience, but just as important or more so, we seek people who know what a job is, are able to learn quickly, are dedicated to doing excellent work, can meet all deadlines, and happily take on whatever needs to be done. Attitude and work habits, along with various skills, are just as important as experience and knowledge.    Any of the following will be grounds for immediate dismissal during the probationary period: coming in late or leaving early without prior permission; being unavailable at night or on the weekends; failing to meet any goals; giving unsolicited advice about how to run things; taking personal phone calls during work hours; gossiping; misusing company property, including surfing the internet while at work; submission of poorly written materials; creating an atmosphere of complaint or argument; failing to respond to emails in a timely way; not showing an interest in other aspects of publishing beyond editorial; making repeated mistakes; violating company policies. DO NOT APPLY if you have a work history containing any of the above.

It makes for shocking reading, particularly given that the first paragraph of the advertisement states that successful applicants will, with perhaps an exception or two, be unpaid for an indeterminate length of time. But why be shocked? What is new here, after all? Is it not just another instance of neoliberal control, which puts to work, as Virno says, 
the complex of inclinations, dispositions, emotions, vices, and virtues that mature precisely in a socialization outside of the workplace...: habituation to uninterrupted and nonteleological change, reflexes tested by a chain of perceptive shocks, a strong sense of the contingent and the aleatory, a nondeterministic mentality, urban training in traversing the crossroads of differing opportunities. These are the qualities that have been elevated to an authentic productive force. ("The Ambiguity of Disenchantment")
Nothing new in Dalkey's job advert, then, but its tone, which has abandoned the saccharine speak of "opportunities" and "one big family" in favour of old-style laying-down of the law: control showing us at last that it's king.

Well done Dalkey Archive, for effecting such a marvelous translation: of the worst of present times into the language of the worst of past times.

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