Vickies and Thetes

Ross Douthat writes,

Yet the decline of work isn’t actually some wild Marxist scenario. It’s a basic reality of 21st-century American life, one that predates the financial crash and promises to continue apace even as normal economic growth returns. This decline isn’t unemployment in the usual sense, where people look for work and can’t find it. It’s a kind of post-employment, in which people drop out of the work force and find ways to live, more or less permanently, without a steady job. So instead of spreading from the top down, leisure time — wanted or unwanted — is expanding from the bottom up. Long hours are increasingly the province of the rich.

Pointer from Reihan Salam.

As befits his role as a conservative NYT columnist, Douthat gives this a civilization vs. barbarism spin.

Here the decline in work-force participation is of a piece with the broader turn away from community in America — from family breakdown and declining churchgoing to the retreat into the virtual forms of sport and sex and friendship. Like many of these trends, it poses a much greater threat to social mobility than to absolute prosperity. (A nonworking working class may not be immiserated; neither will its members ever find a way to rise above their station.) And its costs will be felt in people’s private lives and inner worlds even when they don’t show up in the nation’s G.D.P.

Note: Joseph Sunde thinks along similar lines.

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4 Responses to Vickies and Thetes

  1. another Bob says:

    I work long hours in corporate IT. It’s a grind. The money is OK.

    My wife is an opera singer. She has a very part-time job in an opera chorus. She collects unemployment every year. She has a string of singing gigs AND she produces operas as her own opera company! This month Don Giovanni.

    She’s a better project manager and people manager than anyone I meet in corporate IT by far – not to mention a better soprano and happier and generally a more interesting person.

    But, these productions just about break even. She does not pay herself. Everyone in them (and there are as many as 50 involved in each production) works for nearly nothing. They would all make far more money at minimum wage.

    Thetes or Vickies? Downfall of civilization or the logical outcome of our unprecedented level of wealth?

  2. Floccina says:

    I find it interesting that the Democrats want to get the Thetes’ children into school and working on school work earlier in order to mold to developing Vickies ways

    • Floccina says:

      Addendum There is something that seems ironic to me in the fact that Obama would support a policy that seems to shout that poor Americans are incapable/poor parents and so wee need to get their children away from them at an earlier age. Maybe I am reading him wrong and he just wants to attract voters with free day care and the talk about educating 3 year old children is just a justification.

      • Arnold Kling says:

        Floccina, my view from the beginning is that the target political group for pre-school are the Vickies even though the target policy group would be the Thetes

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