Tuesday, June 27, 2006

A Touch of Class: Is US Business Theory Missing Something?

Continuing from the last few posts, it seems to me that it's not just Ken Thompson at CTC who hasn't addressed political issues yet in his investigations. Ken is Irish as well, so let's leave him aside for the purposes of this discussion.

A Touch of Class

Most American theorists seem to avoid class entirely, and politics and gender at least marginally, unless there is an explicit issue to address. For example, if working with people from other countries, those who collaborate are often trained to be aware of cultural differences among people of varying nationalities. Gender and class are often included in the mix, even if not addressed as such.

In fact, implicit politics, class, and gender issues often become either separate or collective elephants in the room when it comes to discussing human relationships at work.

Exceptions: Explicit vs. Implicit Challenges

It's not always the case for gender and race for theorists or practioners -- after all, explicit mention is required since discrimination laws have been passed. But the implicit politics and both explicit and implicit issues of class are almost never mentioned.

So I wonder -- what exactly comprises class in the US?

It Seems Obvious, but Worth Mentioning

Americans don't like to think we have a class system or of human relationships as political. Our national pride is to a large exstent predicated on the notion that anyone can make or remake himself or herself and rise to any position. And money equalizes everyone because it's the real measure of success. Of course, it didn't work out so well for Jay Gatsby or Silas Lapham, but we'll leave that for another discussion.

Technology also now offers the promise of equalizing power among people of all genders and classes (particularly because it could entail a good living). Anyone know of a study that seems useful in this area? Certainly Blogher offers an example of a conference at which women create an environment in which to raise issues not addressed elsewhere. So is technology the great equalizer?

Certainly the American legal system and technlogoy are two areas that hamper freedoms much less than others in terms of class and gender explicitly. But most people without an academic axe to grind don't like to talk about either topic as implicit challenges in work life.

Any Thoughts?

I haven't had the opportunity to discuss this much with anyone, and I'm interested in feedback. I've turned off the comment option due to storms of spam, so please write through the email address on the site.

Back to CTC in the next post.

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