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Bonjour Laziness: Jumping off the Corporate Ladderby Corinne Maier
Synopses & Reviews
Business Speaks an Incomprehensible No-Man's-Language
The most striking thing about the business world is its jargon. It does not have a monopoly on this, since we live in a world of claptrap. Universities, the media, and psychoanalysts are masters of the genre. Still, business jargon is particularly deadly, enough to utterly discourage the workplace hero, the Stakhanovite, lying dormant in you. (Never mind if you don't know the meaning of "Stakhanovite." Read blithely on, for hero workers didn't make the cut in the casting of this book. In fact, they are very rare in the business world. There used to be some in the Soviet Union, but it's anyone's guess what became of them.)
When I first started working, I didn't understand a word my colleagues were saying, and it took me a moment to realize that this was normal. A superb example of this ridiculous language is found in French novelist Michel Houellebecq's book Extension du domaine de la lutte (Whatever), a work that influenced a whole generation (my own):
Before I joined this firm, I was given a voluminous tome entitled Development Plan for the Ministry of Agriculture's Data-Processing System. . . . It was intended, according to the introduction, to be an "attempt to predefine various archetypal situations, developed in the context of a targeted objective." . . . I quickly flipped through the book, underlining the funniest sentences in pencil. For example, "The strategic level consists of the creation of a system of global information promulgated through the integration of diversified, heterogenous subsystems."
Such is the nature of gibberish. It is the ground zero of language, where the words no longer mean anything at all.
This is because the business world has a dream: that human language, far from being the window or mirror that certain bright intellectuals believe it to be, can be reduced to a mere "tool," a new code that is the essence of pure information, so long as one masters the key. This fantasy of a transparent, rational, simple-to-acquire language translates into a true no-man's-language. Pretending to be dispassionate and unprejudiced, and purged of all imagination, this language envelops all statement in a cloud of scientific detachment. Words no longer serve to convey meaning and actually obscure the links between events by covering up the causes that produce them. This deliberately abstruse and incomprehensible no-man's-language ends up resembling an impenetrable jargon derived from the pseudosciences. Its unintelligibility is perfect for seducing people who feel more informed the more muddled their ideas are. The more technical and abstract the language used in business, the more persuasive businesspeople believe it to be.
Its jargon is a fixed response to the complexity of real life. Certain mechanisms are set in motion, but they proceed in an inexorable, wooden manner, giving the impression that no people are actually involved. Examples: "A watchdog unit has been established," "An information-gathering program has been instituted," "A balance sheet has been drafted." One might think that nothing ever happens in business. This impersonal language, with its emphasis on processes, gives us the illusion of being protected. Nothing can happen here: no surpri
Presents an examination of the world of business success, dispensing advice on how middle managers can disengage themselves from the corporate culture and perfect the appearance of actually working.
Your company wants you to be loyal. You should feel lucky–after all, your job is a privilege (think of all those who would like to have it). And you know (despite what you’ve read about Enron and WorldCom) that management has your best interests at heart. Your goal is to devote yourself to the pursuit of corporate profit, make your company number one, and reap the benefits of its success.
Or is there something else you want to do with your life?
Bonjour Laziness dares to ask whether you really have a stake in the corporate sweepstakes and whether professional mobility is anything more than an opiate, and it proposes steps you can take to regain control over what you want to do.
It shows you how to become impervious to manipulation and escape the implacable law of usefulness–in short, it explains why it is in your best interests to work as little as possible.
From the Hardcover edition.
About the Author
Corinne Maier works part-time as an economist for EDF, a French corporation. She is also a practicing psychoanalyst and the author of nine books. She lives in France.
From the Hardcover edition.
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