Posted Under: Capitalism,Class,Education,Employment
You know that you’re a bit behind the times when you’re blogging about an article that was published almost a month ago, but I’ve been busy recently, and was so incensed by this nasty little article I feel I should write something. On July 11 the Guardian Graduate section put out a piece about networking and finding graduate jobs. We are told by the Guardian that in times like these, when there just aren’t that many jobs around, and there are tonnes of new graduates, the best approach is to network, to get in with people you know, rather than sending off tonnes of applications. Well yes, I mean I’m not going to pretend that the world of work is not horribly nepotistic, but maybe we should be thinking about the wider social consequences messages like this have.
Of course social mobility should not be necessary, but in a highly stratified society such as our own, it is something we can fight for. It is something that may at least start to bring about some equality even if that equality is not systemic. But the problem with networking is that it does the opposite. If you happen to be the child of some posh liberal guardian readers, and spend your time hobnobbing with media types over quiche and claret, the networking agenda means that you are more likely to find your feet somewhere warm and comfortable than if you spend your evenings having a few mates round with a few cans of stella and a take-away pizza. There is nothing clean or reasonable about networking, when the reality is that it simply means opening opportunities for those with one background over another.
And isn’t this what was fought against 30 years ago? Just because your old boys network now has women, just because they didn’t go to public school, just because they have some stories about 1968, it does not mean that in networking you aren’t excluding others from jobs. We have fought the case for fair access to universities, and yet people who proclaim themselves to be liberals cut off all of the benefits that may be gained as soon as the degrees are handed out. So maybe, if you think you’re a little bit left wing, and you’re considering exploiting your contacts, or even worse if you’re setting up contacts for your kids, you should have a long hard think about those, who work bloody hard, who you’re screwing over in the process.
But the consequences of a networking society run deeper. The political abhorrence has a nasty personal obverse. Now, maybe I’m old fashioned, but I’m quite interested in people because they’re people. I quite like talking to people because they might have something interesting to say. But all of this is now undercut by the notion that people only enter into social interactions for purely self-interested reasons. Yes, I’d like to get to know you, and no, I don’t want you to try to get me a job. Is that all you consider yourself to mean? Is that all you consider my approach to you to be about? All relationships become a practical matter of self-interest, none are permitted to remain outside of the sphere of pervasive networking.
And so I appeal to you to throw out this idea of the network, to take a bottle of tippex to your address books, taking out all those repugnant souls whose numbers you wrote down because “they might be useful” leaving only those people who wouldn’t mind sitting down for a pint with. I appeal to all those who engage in networking to remember that the system you are buying into is essentially a constriction on the life possibilities of the poor, and of people who have been born into poor families. Just because everyone might be doing it, or because the Guardian tells you that it’s ok, it doesn’t mean you are innocent.