Bait and Switch

Bait and Switch
by Barbara Ehrenreich

You probably don’t think of C. S. Lewis as a critic of corporate business. Yet, although he was certainly no revolutionary, Lewis considered capitalism as pointless as it was unfair-a system that squanders the talents and time of workers on absurd but profitable tasks. “The world of business,” Lewis mused at the end of his essay, “Good Work and Good Works,” “does with such efficiency so much that never really needed doing.” It’s a sentiment I recalled more than once while reading Barbara Ehrenreich’s mordant and depressing new book, Bait and Switch.

A veteran of the secular democratic Left, Ehrenreich has fought the good fight on a number of fronts: sexist medicine (For Her Own Good), male irresponsibility (The Hearts of Men), the roots of war (Blood Rites), the culture of avarice and indifference (The Worst Years of Our Lives). In Nickel and Dimed (2001) she reported on her three-month sojourn as an unskilled worker, toiling alongside low-wage Americans whose plight she described with an angry clarity and lyricism. (“To be a member of the working poor is to be an anonymous donor,” she asserted, “a nameless benefactor to everyone else.”) Ehrenreich is also an incisive student of middle-class mores. In 1979 she coauthored a seminal essay on “The Professional-Managerial Class,” and a decade later published Fear of Falling (1988), tracing the cultural history of the credentialed bourgeoisie from its cold-war...

To read the rest of this article please login or become a subscriber.

About the Author

Eugene McCarraher is associate professor of humanities and history at Villanova University. He is completing The Enchantments of Mammon: Corporate Capitalism and the American Moral Imagination.