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Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Completed trilogy....

This AM I completed my reading of the so-called Richard Sennett trilogy. I label it "so-called" because my image of a trilogy carries the image of well planned sequence of books that reflects a somewhat coherent narrative and plot. That model does not apply here, of course; rather, Sennett has executed a sequence of reflections, and each work has literally grown out of the other.

The first, The Corrosion of Character is Sennett's revisiting of the world of work he and Jonathan Cobb studied in The Hidden Injuries of Class decades earlier. In that work you get a sense of someone trying to come to terms with the transformations that had taken place in the intervening years, but for all the interesting insights the book seemed incomplete.

Respect in a World of Inequality was more deeply reflective and brought in autobiographical material that allowed Sennett to more clearly communicate the nature of the transformations highlighted in Corrosion, but in the end the work seemed unfinished as an intellectual articulation of his views.

This he finally accomplished in the lectures offered The Culture of the New Capitalism which is a good and fast read, providing the clearest statement by Sennett of his current thinking. Most of the work is an indictment of current and emerging conditions of an economic and political order that we seem to have wished upon ourselves, but in the end (chapter four, to be exact) Sennett puts forward a general agenda calling for bringing back the life narrative, sense of usefulness and commitment to craftsmanship that he shows to be disappearing (or is already missing) in the work lives of those operating under the new capitalism.

This is all interesting stuff for me as I develop my syllabi for courses in the "management" of public and nonprofit organizations. It also provides me with an intellectual challenge since I have been trying to offset my preoccupation with abstract issues of accountability with the major themes that are dominant in study of contemporary work life....

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