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One of the last prominent Marxists, Slavoj Zizek offers a unique take on contemporary labour issues.The Slovenian philosopher is dismissive of progressive corporate culture—e.g. free snacks and Ping-Pong tables—which he says serves to disarm the workers.
Here’s a passage on Zizek from an article about exploitative work at architecture firms by architect Andrew Maynard:
Arguably the most pervasive element enabling exploitative office culture is the postmodern trickery of the contemporary working environment. Slavoj Žižek argues that modern employment tactics create the illusion that our employer is our friend. This fabrication empowers the employer while denying the employed the right to vocalize and protest dissatisfaction of their working conditions. “You’re not going to stick around and help out? I thought we were a team? I thought we were friends?”
Žižek suggests that the environment of the workplace has been twisted, using architectural devices, to manipulate employees. Kitchens, ‘break-out spaces’, lounges, free food, free coffee – he postulates that this is a postmodern sleight of hand designed to manipulate and disarm staff. By fabricating the illusion of employer as friend, the employed is denied the opportunity to protest, argue, fight, be adversarial and demand more of their working conditions. These informal spaces are political spaces of control, surveillance and manipulation.
Business Insider has a Ping-Pong table and a friendly office environment like all the cool tech companies. We also, as you may have read in the NYT profile of our deputy editor Joe Weisenthal, work long hours.
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