Corrosion of Character
Flexibility in the economy can be defined in numerous ways.According to Sennett to be flexible is to be able to adapt to changing circumstances and not to be broken by them. This idea of being able to adapt to changing circumstances can be applied quite easily to the economy and how we as a society or individual have to be accommodating and willing to change and roll with the punches. A few elements pertaining to flexibility are drifting, taking risks and possible failure. In order to be flexible you have to acknowledge that the three elements mentioned are possibilities upon which one might stumble. After all to get anywhere in this world, you have to be ready and willing to adapt to any circumstance in order to get by.
In order to get by in the world today and especially the work place you have to be flexible. You have to be able to drift or move from one city or job to another with ease. This drifting and moving about is becoming more common in todays work place. Constant downsizing and the hunger for change causes people to drift (Sennett 22). The hunger for change, is described by Sennett as the desire for rapid returns or impatient capital (Sennett 22). The rapid return is ones expectation or wanting of more money as quick as possible. This urge for rapid returns causes people to seek out more profitable places of employment. This search for rapid returns requires people to be flexible in such a way as to be able to pack up and move and have no problems doing it. In a pure business sense, the flexibility in drifting is very ideal to the management.
The management of today prefers a sort of flexibility along the lines of drifting. They want a networklike arrangement light on its feet (Sennett 23). This form in which businesses are taking make them readily decomposable and redefinable than the fixed hierarchies of old. In being able to be redefined a company is able to roll with the punches and make itself into whatever is necessary to accommodate the drifting workers and the ever-changing work place. It is in essence the perfect form in which a company can readily adapt to their surroundings (Sennett 23). This ability to adapt makes businesses able to receive the drifting workers such as Enrico( a character in the book) which shows how not only are the drifters being flexible but so are the business which makes then operate at a higher level of competence. Unfortunately not everyone can drift, some people find it a step to risky to take.
This notion of risk is prominent in all aspects of life including the work place. Risk is defined as exposure to possible loss or injury in Websters dictionary. This definition can be readily applied to the notion of flexibility.
In order to be flexible you have to succumb to the fact that loss of money or life or job is a possible outcome. Risk is an evident factor involved in flexibility. Risks and risk taking has become a daily necessity shouldered by the masses (Sennett 80). You have to take risks to be fully flexible and compliant with all moves including those involved with drifting. The fact that they are as prevalent as they are today goes to show how prevalent flexibility is and how it isnt something that always pays of as a rapid reward. Risk is also something that has been around for a while, it is used to symbolize bravado and confidence both of which are necessary components needed to be flexible (Sennett 81). Another way f looking at risk is as a gambling type of situation.
According to Sennett risk is also regression to the mean. He says that each risk is similar to that of a roll of the dice. It is random, it might turn up being a good roll or a bad one. He says it is far from a narrative and how one event leads to another and so on. He says it is so random and unknown that it is essentially beyond ones control to seal his fate for sure at the end of the journey (Sennett 83). This risk factor is similar to drifting and being flexible. To pack up and move is a risk, to be adaptable is a risk, to seek the rapid rewards of the feast lane is a risk. It is almost possible to say that everything is a risk these days.There is always as much of a chance to break when trying to be flexible as there is in being successfully flexible.
This breaking point in flexibility is called failure. Failure is the end mean of taking a risk and having the odds not in your favor. Failure was taboo and hush hush in the past, but as the modern era crept into view it became more of a mainstream occurrence. Failure rose along with the elite status. In other words more and more people were striving for the elite status and falling short. This falling short was failure the opposition of success (Sennett 118). According to Sennett failure parallels not so much with money but with deeper notions of failing to cohere life, failure to realize something precious in oneself and in others, and failure to live rather than exist. These three notions can apply to a post flexibility state. They are ways in which one can feel when they find that they cant adapt or roll with the punches (Sennett 119). In essence Sennett is saying that you can not only fail financially but also personally in both relationships and life.
Failure is also the outcome of not being able to drift or drifting but being unsuccessful at it in the end. It is true that drifting is a risk but one that is supposed to pay off. When it doesnt, not only are you inflexible, but you have also failed. Failing to drift and beat the odds causes the three notions of failure mentioned above. You not only take pay cut by failing but you also feel a sense of shame for yourself. You feel as if you know you could have been successful but because you failed for some reason, you have a conflicting sense of self worth.
Your life is out of phase and you end up seeing all you did was live for your job and flexibility. In the end due to failure you see you didnt live your life to the fullest.
To live your life to the fullest you have to take into consideration the implications of superficial labor, risk taking and teamwork. These three characteristics have an impact on the more personal aspects of flexibility. Superficial labor I found to be shallow needless work (Sennett 98-99). It is the kind of work that say they will put a team together to do but in all reality only one person is needed t accomplish the task. It is almost like busy work. You could also apply it to production lines, a machine could probably do all the work but the human is there to make sure that the 1% chance of failure never occurs.
As for risk taking, it is a chance that a person takes to get a head. Sometimes the chance or risk pays off while other times it leads to failure. Risk taking as mentioned above is a more frequent occurrence today than it was yesterday. With more people striving for what they want, you have fewer people becoming elite and more falling short into failure. Like Sennett says, risk taking is all in the roll of the dice, sometimes you win and sometimes you lose (Sennett 118).
Teamwork is less of a win or lose situation. In many cases teamwork is a good thing for an individual. One can learn from the experience and knowledge of others (Sennett 112). Working as a team you can share the workload and cut the amount of time spent into a fraction of what it would take working solo.
On the downside though, working as a team takes some of ones thunder away. Other people may take or be given credit just because they worked with you. Some people may not pull their own weight leaving you to work twice as hard and in a worst case scenario fail miserably (Sennett 24). Teamwork is a double-edged blade. It can both help and hurt you.
Flexibility is a fascinating topic. You can apply so many elements and definitions to it. The ones discussed above such as drift, risk and failure are but a few that make up this topic. There is much more to flexibility than those three elements and the individual characteristics mentioned above. Not to take away from its importance, but flexibility is none the less important in the work place today. Without it we would still have the hierarchical pyramids of power and the frigid standards of work. Flexibility gives workers the ability to move and work with a freedom unseen in the past One can more readily adapt to changes such as downsizing, horizontal and or vertical moves in the organizations. Flexibility is the key to success in the work places of today and tomorrow.
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