Bait and Switch: The (Futile) Pursuit of the American Dream

[Reading] ➽ Bait and Switch: The (Futile) Pursuit of the American Dream By Barbara Ehrenreich – The New York Times bestselling investigation into white collar unemployment from our premier reporter of the underside of capitalism The New York Times Book ReviewAmericans working lives are growing The New York Times bestselling investigation into white collar unemployment from our premier reporter of the underside of capitalism The New York Times Book ReviewAmericans working lives are growingprecarious every day Corporations slash employees by the thousands, and the benefits and pensions once guaranteed by middle class jobs are a thing of the pastIn Bait and Switch, Barbara Ehrenreich goes back undercover to explore another hidden realm of the economy the shadowy world of the white collar unemployed Armed with the plausible resume of a professional in transition, she attempts to land Bait and ePUB Æ a middle class job She submits to career coaching, personality testing, and EST like boot camps, and attends job fairs, networking events, and evangelical job search ministries She is proselytized, scammed, lectured, and again and again rejected Bait and Switch highlights the people who have done everything right gotten college degrees, developed marketable skills, and built up impressive resumes yet have become repeatedly vulnerable to financial disaster There are few social supports for these newly disposable workers, Ehrenreich discovers, and little security even for those who have jobs Worst of all, there is no honest reckoning with the inevitable consequences of the harsh new economy rather, the jobless are persuaded that they have only themselves to blameAlternately hilarious and tragic, Bait and Switch, like the classic Nickel and Dimed, is a searing expose of the cruel new reality in which we all now live.Bait and Switch: The (Futile) Pursuit of the American Dream

Barbara Ehrenreich is an American journalist and the bestselling author of sixteen previous books, including the bestsellers Nickel and Dimed and Bait and Switch A frequent contributor to Harpers and The Nation, she has also been a columnist at The New York Times and Time Magazine.

Bait and Switch: The eBook ´ Bait and  ePUB Æ
    If you re looking for a CBR and CBZ reader to explore another hidden realm of the economy the shadowy world of the white collar unemployed Armed with the plausible resume of a professional in transition, she attempts to land Bait and ePUB Æ a middle class job She submits to career coaching, personality testing, and EST like boot camps, and attends job fairs, networking events, and evangelical job search ministries She is proselytized, scammed, lectured, and again and again rejected Bait and Switch highlights the people who have done everything right gotten college degrees, developed marketable skills, and built up impressive resumes yet have become repeatedly vulnerable to financial disaster There are few social supports for these newly disposable workers, Ehrenreich discovers, and little security even for those who have jobs Worst of all, there is no honest reckoning with the inevitable consequences of the harsh new economy rather, the jobless are persuaded that they have only themselves to blameAlternately hilarious and tragic, Bait and Switch, like the classic Nickel and Dimed, is a searing expose of the cruel new reality in which we all now live."/>
  • Paperback
  • 248 pages
  • Bait and Switch: The (Futile) Pursuit of the American Dream
  • Barbara Ehrenreich
  • English
  • 15 November 2019
  • 9780805081244

10 thoughts on “Bait and Switch: The (Futile) Pursuit of the American Dream

  1. says:

    Part of the reason why I m a somewhat less than trustworthy reviewer is that writers really do get extra points from me for being able to write well and for being nice people I mean, if I have enjoyed spending time with a writer over the couple of days it has taken me to read their book, well, that goes a long way towards me thinking that their book was wonderful and worthwhile This book was wonderful and worthwhile and it was written by someone who can both write and be nice at the same time In corporate speak she ticks all the boxes.Over the last couple of decades I have been either employed in a corporation, a government corporation, a local government authority or a trade union reacting to the corporate nonsense that is so beautifully discussed in this book One of the things that amuses me most about corporate capitalism is how incredibly seriously it takes itself I ve always seen workplaces as or less dysfunctional families There are members of all families that seem to have been born with a disproportionate sense of entitlement Others never seem to get the rewards they deserve according to the contribution they make in keeping the peace or the trouble they prevent happening to everyone around them There are the crazy uncles who seem to have an aversion to using soap and the sister who does virtually nothing but is still everyone s favourite, even if no one can quite say why The last eight years of my life were spent representing people faced with the really yucky side of the corporate world the part where the people I was representing were being disciplined or threatened with the sack It has been a journey into the hideous side of human nature, a place where people show their worst sides some gleefully than others.The premise of this book is related to the only other of Barbara Ehrenreich s books I ve read Nickel and Dimed On Not Getting By in America In that book Barbara joined the ranks of minimum wage earners and showed how hard they were expected to work and how little rewarded they were But white collar people then told Barbara she should write a book about their experience after all, they had done all the right things finished their education, not gotten pregnant in their teens and sold their soul to the corporation and yet they still ended up feeling decidedly ripped off Barbara decides to try to get a job in the corporate world she tries for a year What this book really is, is a book about the scary world of white collar unemployment and recruitment There are proselytising Christians who think that unemployment is as good a time to become converted to Jesus as any other There are would be gurus on how to become employed whose sole advice seems to be that you should network and dream big I thought the best piece of advice came from Barbara herself, that when doing a web search for work you should avoid the word job as this will lead to millions of sites that linked that word with with the words hand and head If you ever needed proof the internet was designed by boysThe big lesson in her excursion into attempting to be employed in the corporate world is how insecure everyone is and not just the poor bastards who end up out of a job, but also those anticipating a restructure or a downsizing event or right sizing or an exercise in focusing on a corporations key competencies or core business or whatever the latest phrase for sacking people is That is everybody Marx says in Wage Labor and Capitalthat the alienation of labour is due to capitalism reducing all skills down so that every job becomes unskilled White collar workers are facing that experience today too, I think One of the things I was involved with in my endless years as a trade union ratbag was reviewing position descriptions and job classification structures These are written so as to broad band jobs, but the jobs themselves can be broad banded because the skills being bought are much the same over a range of positions When I worked at the City of Melbourne it was part of my role to go to every branch in the organisation and to listen to the mission statements they had prepared It soon became clear that these were virtually identical to each other and or less interchangeable So much so that from reading the mission statement alone you couldn t tell if the branch was involved in Strategic Research or issuing parking fines They always said something bland about customer service despite local governments not really being in anything that could reasonably be called customer service any reasonable definition of which would include the fact that customer service requires the provision of different service leaves depending on the ability to pay They always said something about excellence and something about commitment Their mission statement might as well have said, We re not terribly sure what we do, but we will do it really well and in the best interests of those we do it for according to how we define their interests This was only surpassed by the mission statement presented to us by management at the union coming in at a mere two A4 pages of dot points it included just about everything the union was ever likely to do proving yet again that morons aren t limited to corporate bureaucracies.She sums up my experience with the corporate world beautifully Think what characterises the really intelligent person They can think for themselves They love abstract ideas They can look dispassionately at the facts Humbug is their enemy Dissent come easily to them, as does complexity These are traits that are not only6 unnecessary for most business jobs, they are actually a handicap when it comes to raising through the ranks of large companies Quoted from Lucy Kellaway Companies Don t Need Brainy People She also has got me to buy a book called The Cult of Personality How Personality Tests Are Leading Us to Miseducate Our Children, Mismanage Our Companies, and Misunderstand Ourselves which I m hoping comes before I start uni as I really would like to read it sooner rather than later.This is a fascinating book one I enjoyed very much There is something very sick about our society and the best way to see where the deeply sick and troubling parts of our society are is to watch where the victim is being blamed the most As soon as you hear that it is your fault you are not employable, or have lost a limb in an OHS incident, or are simply too female to earn equal pay, or need to be stomped on as part of a war on drugs, or can t marry who you want because a sky god really might get really upset then perhaps what really needs to change isn t the victim, but whatever is causing a victim to exist in the first place.

  2. says:

    OK, so it may be that the blue and pink collar work force is easier to love than middle management It may be that the real heroism in this country is found closer to the poverty line then to middle management Certainly, it is clear that Barbara Ehrenreich believes this to be true A comparison of Bait and Switch with her earlier Nickel and Dimed demonstrated that while Ehrenreich finds much to lament in the plight of the working class, she generally finds the corporate world laughable and the white collar unemployed closer to pathetic than tragic Perhaps these are defensible stances, but not when you present yourself, which she shamelessly and unironically does at one point, as deeply compassionate and empathetic, or as the scholarly investigative writer she equally believes herself to represent I am always at least a bit put off by investigative writers and documentarians who put themselves at the heart of the story they tell While it may be necessary to assume a disguise when penetrating a secretive organization or particularly shadowy corporation, surely at least some of the middle class unemployed are not unwilling to speak frankly about their experiences and expectations Why would stories told in the real voices of the unemployed be less compelling or insightful than Ehrenreich s own But, putting this initial, and only slight objection aside it is fun, after all, to read the narrative of a complete outsider penetrating a new world, even if not entirely convincing my major objection to this book is how callously Ehrenreich dismisses the unemployed workers she interacts with as automatons and gullible fools Ehrenreich s time spent among job coaches and consultants as an ersatz job seeker causes her to deride the industry as filled with victim blamers who cause the unemployed to question their own self worth rather than external forces like the market and unethical corporations that might be equally culpable However, subtly but equally insidiously, Ehrenreich spends much of the book engaging in equally cold victim blaming after all, she implies, only the truly stupid and unaware would fall into obvious traps like image consulting and faith based networking when looking for a new position Unlike the working class, Ehrenreich seems to suggest, these people should know better Of course, she never stops to consider that many job seekers likely don t go the route she takes when looking for a new position I have known a few of the unemployed middle class, at least one of whom was recently without work for than a year, and none used the myriad methods Ehrenreich so condescendingly employs But importantly, are those who do use such methods really to be mocked rather than pitied Desperation makes even very smart, very capable people fall pray to illogical behavior Surely this is a demonstration of how much these people want to find employment, not of their congenital stupidity But by far the most egregious assumption made by Ehrenreich is that she is not only utterly qualified for a corporate position, but that she is over qualified I noticed a similar, although slightly less pervasive, suggestion in Nickel and Dimed In that book, she mentions that nobody who interviewed or hired her ever commented on her education or that she was a writer Gee I ve known someone with three degrees, two of them Master s, and two very prestigious schools on her resume who spent the past year working at a minimum wage job in Chicago because nobody wants an historian or an English professor Maybe the reason nobody hiring Ehrenreich asked about her qualifications is because they see it all the time, and it says absolutely nothing for the applicant s ability to clean toilets or fold shirts In this newer book, Ehrenreich is even insulting She seems to think that people should be lining up to hire someone with her not very impressive sounding and MADE UP credentials Can t imagine why nobody jumped at the opportunity presented there I wonder how she would react to a typical corporate type who showed up at her door, insisted they were qualified to be a co author on her next project, and then provided a falsified resume to strengthen their assertion Surely, she would explain the many hours, even years, which went into honing her craft She would talk about training and education, the commitment needed to get up every day and write a book But, she thinks so little of the profession she attempts to enter that she assumes her skills are not only transferable, but better than Alright, admittedly, this is a really long review and diatribe And all this being said, I do think there is a great deal in the corporate world that should be changed I agree with Ehrenreich that we should be marching for health care coverage, and to remove bias from the workplace The state of the unemployed from all walks of life is lamentable, and I hope never to find myself back in the grind of job hunting or working in the corporate world, either as a member of middle management or a blue collar worker But, I also think that the academic and non profit worlds are generally out of touch and condescending I find it hypocritical to assume that anyone with half a brain, or a conscience, would follow the same path you yourself have taken There are good people who end up corporate managers, born again Christians, and Republicans Really And if Ehrenreich has no empathy for the middle class, she shouldn t write about them while professing something else entirely.

  3. says:

    I don t really understand all of the vitriol that some of the other reviewer s are expressing about this book I withheld two stars because I felt that overall she touched on the investigative journalism rather than threw herself into it, and it wasn t her most passionate work.That being said, I have to say as a former job seeker during the 2009 California recession , this book and it s assertions are right on the money Ehrenreich details the struggle that middle class, otherwise well equipped job candidates have to face in getting any sort of employment She jumped through the hoops that the increasingly desperate job seekers are forced to jump through these days career coaches, seminars, resume building, and what have you.The end result and main point I gleaned from the story a white collar job seeker with totally decent credentials college degree, certifications, clean history, etc is going to face an uphill battle and likely PAY money in the form of seminars and preparation just to have a fighting chance looking for any kind of job Our economy is really in the toilet when you have to shell out funds you don t have just to possibly get a job, and I ve been there paying several hundred dollars childcare a month just so I can be on standby to possibly work a temp job for 100 Is it logical at all Absolutely not that is why I quit looking, moved on, and thank God had family to support me in trying to achieve a career another way.Perhaps most harrowing of all are the questions this book doesn t ask if a decent, graduated candidate can have this kind of trouble finding a job, what chance at all does a former convict or mentally ill person hoping to clean up their act and support themselves have There is no good answer for this Some realities are inherently harsh, and can t be left on a positive note.

  4. says:

    Barbara Ehrenreich is our premier reporter of the underside of capitalism Dorothy Gallagher, The New York Times Book ReviewFrom the introduction Stories of white collar downward mobility cannot be brushed off as easily as accounts of blue collar economic woes, which the hard hearted traditionally blame on bad choices failing to get a college degree, for example, failing to postpone childbearing until acquiring a nest egg, or failing to choose affluent parents in the first place But distressed white collar people cannot be accused of fecklessness of any kind they are the ones who did everything right They earned higher degrees, often setting aside their youthful passion for philosophy or music to suffer through dull practical majors like management or finance In some cases, they were high achievers who ran into trouble precisely because they had risen far enough in the company for their salaries to look like a tempting cost cut They were the losers, in other words, in a classic game of bait and switch And while blue collar poverty has become numbingly routine, white collar unemployment and the poverty that often results remains a rude finger in the face of the American dream.

  5. says:

    Ehrenreich posits that, no matter your education or previous track record of success in the white collar world, you are not assured of a stable economic future While her premise is correct, it is neither groundbreaking nor well presented Many of the sources cited in the book are 10 or years old, indicating that the reality of the increasingly downwardly mobile economy is one with deep roots Yet this work is surprisingly shallow in its views Undercover, trying to break into the corporate world, Ms Ehrenreich takes us along on networking, workshopping and consulting excursions though much of the consulting requires only phone contact, so excursion is a bit of a stretch In every scenario she is exhorted to be upbeat The constant emphasis on maintaining a winning attitude even in the most dire of circumstances devolves into a flat out denial of reality The question, unasked in this book, is who is served by the denial of reality The undercover tactic which worked wonderfully in Nickel and Dimed does not serve so well here, in large part due to the author s surface treatment of the subject Though she states on page 2 that stories of white collar downward mobility cannot be brushed off as easily as accounts of blue collar economic woes, she has done a good job of doing just that Though most of her networking meetings and seminars are well attended, the reader gets scant than stereotyped descriptions of Ehrenreich s fellow jobseekers She makes superficial appraisals of them, without talking to them at any length While this is ostensibly to avoid being caught out in her disguise, one feels that Ehrenreich wants to avoid looking too closely at the economic problems these people face and what it says about the system as a whole.Along the way, the author frequently says she is outraged, but seems unable to express what is so outrageous to her Is it the exorbitant fees demanded by consultants The endless hours spent alone searching online for a job The nattering about attitude Perhaps she is outraged that she feels unable to connect with her fellow jobseekers It is not until the last chapter that they are given a chance to voice their concerns Even then, they are kept at a distance and their words are limited to excerpted paragraphs There are no conversations presented, and a lack of human context It is as if the author is tired of her subject and the subjects of her study.She ends with a call to the unemployed to organize and get involved to lobby for improvements These calls avoid the need for systemic change while perpetuating the blame the victim attitude which Ehrenreich claims to deplore, saying in effect, If you would just pay attention and get involved, we would not be here now A serious approach to these issues would require confronting the incompatibility of unrestrained global capitalist competition with the maintenance of the basic needs of the working class, white or blue collar Similarly, one would have to address why the Democratic Party has abandoned any association with social reformism.Ehrenreich does none of this The author is unable to look beyond her narrow reformist perspective and see that what is needed is not lobbying to patch up a dying monster, but an independent political movement of the working class against the system as a whole.

  6. says:

    From a blog post I wrote in 2006 I was looking forward to reading Barbara Ehrenreich s latest tome, Bait and Switch The Futile Pursuit of the American Dream I really enjoyed Nickel and Dimed in which the author took on several minimum wage type jobs and tried to live on her salary Her latest effort is a look at what the white collar folks go through when they get laid off fired from their relatively high paying jobs.It wasn t the story I thought it would be I expected her to go through several forays into the craziness that is Corporate America and describe it from the perspective of the free wheeling academic That world is so illogical and frustrating, I thought it would make a great story.Instead, the book was all about just trying to get a job in the white collar world She employed a resume expert, job coach, had a personal makeover and attended several workshops and networking group meetings to help her land a job In one year, she was only offered a job selling insurance at Aflac without benefits and one becoming a Mary Kay Rep.However, I think her effort was flawed in several ways She didn t entirely fib her work history, but she had several gaps and tried to portray herself as a contractor type with speech writing and meeting planning experience Originally, she set her sights on an Executive PR job which no one would have given her with her purported work history She then tried to find a lower position but I never felt like she focused on anything realistic.There were several anecdotes about people who were involved without success in long term job searches but none about people who actually found a job comparable to the one they left Did she just not encounter any or did she not report any I don t know.We read this as a book club selection and no one in our group dug it very much, mostly for the same reasons I didn t.

  7. says:

    Although this book was published in 2005, I didn t read it until 2010 If I had read it in 2005, I might not have related to it so intensely, as I did in 2009 when I was laid off for the first time I would get laid off twice before landing stable employment again in 2012 Back in 2005 I was smug, fully insulated from the severity of unemployment, never having been out of a job since I got my first part time job at 16, working at the mall This turned into paid internships at prestigious accounting firms while I was in University, and a great job as a financial analyst upon graduation This was followed by promotions, raises, and benefits, and exciting career changes before it all came to a halt in the wake of the Great Recession Ehrenreich s portrayal of looking for white collar work after any kind of life change maternity leave, a lay off, your company going bust, even just being in your 50s is spot on Not only does she expose the entirely new industry that sprang up in the wake of mass right sizing and economic re organization phony career coaches, resume consulting firms, image experts and expensive job hunting boot camps she also delves into the devastating emotional toll an experience like this can take on people even on her, when this was supposed to be just research for a book Very sobering, and very true Especially for those who think this can never happen to them.

  8. says:

    While I didn t agree with all of the points raised in Nickel Dimed, I enjoyed it I wish I could say the same for this book Maybe I took things a bit too personally but working in public relations I was insulted that Barbara thinks she can easily step into a director s position in PR with a made up resume and absolutely no contacts in the industry But she approaches every adventure in job searching with snobbish disdain I agree that it s hard for people to find jobs in America and especially once you hit a certain age and level in your career but I feel that the book would have had of an effect if she d just followed the struggles of one of the many people she met along her journey instead of creating her own troubles Plus, while there are numerous legitimate and free networking job coaching services out there, she seemed to take part in the sketchier ones that require a financial investment and no guaranteed pay off The whole thing just left a bad taste in my mouth and overshadowed the real problems that people in this situation face.

  9. says:

    Why do I do this to myself I feel this guilt that requires me to finish a book, even when doing so makes my blood pressure skyrocket I wasn t a big fan of Nickel and Dimed, so why would I think it d be any different when Ehrenreich is piously judging the middle class In short, the author goes undercover to try to land a middle class executive PR job, with a minimum salary of 50,000 She creates a somewhat fictitious resume she has a background in event planning and was a PR consultant until taking thirteen years off as a homemaker Does she really think that she can go with basically no experience to a 50K executive job Nonetheless, she spends almost 6,000 on career coaches and image makeover consultants What middle class person out of work would spend 6,000 on something like that She goes to networking groups that take places in churches and then rants and raves that the group starts the meeting with prayer Really, what did she expect

  10. says:

    Barbara Ehrenreich in this book explores the scary world of white collar unemployment and the transition industry That is a euphemism for the business of helping white collar job seekers It s a world of job coaches, head hunters, job seminars, job seeker boot camps, job fairs, and Christian support groups for job seekers some taking the opportunity to proselytize She describes passing encounters with sham job offers that advertise being your own boss or get rich quick At one point she is offered a job where she is to work on a commission basis in sales for a large insurance company for no salary, no office space, and no benefits and she is to provide her own computer and pay for books and training She also views with a jaundiced eye some of the tools used by the network and dream big motivational gurus In particular she takes a couple swipes at their use of personality tests under the pretense of helping to find the right job.This book is about people who did everything right and find that the American dream didn t work for them They went to college, didn t get pregnant at a young age, and obtained the degrees and credentials that are supposed to provide a ticket to the middle class Many of them at one time were progressing successfully in their careers when they were downsized i.e laid off Ironically, the highly successful were sometimes the first to be let go because of their higher wages Then they found that finding another job difficult, and sometimes impossible Thus many are now joining the flow of the downwardly mobile This book was written in 2005 prior to the latest world wide economic downturn Conditions described in this book can only have gotten worse since then Many in this book were victims of the dot com bubble i.e many I.T types Presumably now many would be victims of the real estate and finance collapse Come to think of it, there are probably quite a few unemployed journalists too.The last chapter of the book zeros in on the nature of the problem as a whole Everybody in the transition industry encourages positive thinking and being an enthusiastic participant in the expectations of corporate culture Then in return, corporate culture gives zero loyalty to its workers Many white collar workers in today s environment are simply stripped of their dignity white collar corporate workers lack.dignity The white collar corporate employeemust sell not just his skill and hard work but himself His is a world of intrigue and ill defined expectations, of manipulation and mind games, where self presentation as in personality and attitude regularly outweighs performance The role of unions has been to protect workers But unions are losing influence, and generally don t represent white collar professions Some professions are protected by barriers that limit the number who may enter their profession e.g State licensing of medical doctors, nurses, accountants, engineers, teachers and lawyers These barriers provide some protection from lesser trained completion However, in the case of management, human relations, marketing, and PR, anyone with a college degree can present themselves as a potential practitioner And with this openness comes a huge vulnerability for the veterans in the field.The book s cynical appraisal of the transition industry that feeds off the plight of the white collar unemployed fits well with my own negative views on the subject It s obvious that job seekers need assistance, help and encouragement Being charged fees for services of questionable value is the last thing needed The book acknowledges that many job fairs, which are aimed primarily at blue collar employment, are usually provided at no cost.Barbara Ehrenreich is a good writer and is able to make this discouraging commentary of American life an interesting, and at times humorous, reading experience I recommend this review of the book by Trevor.

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