Sunday, August 15, 2004

France Drops Out

Interesting point of view, from the NYTimes story yesterday..

But the author of the article gets the lead wrong. The story here is not that some young people in France are rejecting the Anglo-Saxon work ethic. The story is that lots of people in France are rejecting the legacy of socialist ideals of forced equality of mediocrity, and the invidious class structure it always creates. Socialism cannot reward merit, because it operates on the conceit that effort, creativity, and character either don’t really exist or are morally arbitrary characteristics.

Listen to this, from the linked article:

Part of the problem, according to Ms. Maier, is that French companies are frozen by strict social norms.
"Everything depends on what school you went to and what diploma you have," she said, arguing that advancement is slow and comes less from ambition than from endurance. "French corporations," she says, "are not meritocracies."
Workers remain at their jobs until retirement, stymieing the promotion of those below them, she argues, yet a system of patronage and stiff legal protections make it difficult for employers to fire anyone. Years of such stagnation in France's hierarchy-obsessed society have produced elaborate rituals to keep people busy. "Work is organized a little like the court of Louis XIV, very complicated and very ritualized so that people feel they are working effectively when they are not," she said.
Her solution? Rather than keep up what she sees as an exhausting charade, people who dislike what they do should, as she puts it, discreetly disengage. If done correctly - and her book gives a few tips, such as looking busy by always carrying a stack of files - few co-workers will notice, and those who do will be too worried about rocking the boat to complain. Given the difficulty of firing employees, she says, frustrated superiors are more likely to move such subversive workers up than out.

Only a reporter from the Times-Izvestia could think that this is a description of Anglo-Saxon work rules. The description is actually the logical consequence of what most liberals claim they want: a "fair" system, where hard work is either ignored or punished.

[Except the very last part of her quote, of course, where she rediscovered the “Dilbert Principle”: Move the least competent people into management, where they can do the least harm. That is very Anglo-Saxon. American universities certainly do it. How else could K. Grease have become a department chair at the World Wrestling University? (as the Nature Boy, Ric Flair, would say: “WWUUUUUUUUUUU!”)]





2 comments:

Anonymous said...

OK- the French whine about everything. But I'm still confused:

"Everything depends on what school you went to and what diploma you have," she said, arguing that advancement is slow and comes less from ambition than from endurance. "French corporations," she says, "are not meritocracies."

Is the author describing French Business organizations or American academia? Is tenure a reward for meirtorious scholarship or endurance?

mungowits said...

Well, exactly. US academia is hardly the centerpiece of the meritocracy showcase.

But French corporations make decisions in the same way as U.S. English departments. I'd drop out, too.