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Ken Coates


(Summer 1962)

From International Socialism (1st series), No.9, Summer 1962, p.29.
Thanks to Ted Crawford & the late Will Fancy.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

The Worker in an Affluent Society
F. Zweig
Heinemann, 25s.

Mr. Zweig is inexhaustible. This, the latest of his surveys of the condition of the working-class, is more refined in its techniques of study than was his celebrated Pelican of a few years ago: but even though it has its selection of tables scattered (at random ?) through the text, the interpretation to which these are subjected is as idiosyncratic as ever. There are useful things in the book: the section on shift-work, for instance, or even the one on housekeeping allowances; but the general picture is fogged, cramped, botched. Mr. Zweig seems to be blinded by the brightness of his own light, which perhaps helps to explain why there isn’t much of it left to point a way through the gloom for the rest of us.

A sample of the finesse with which Mr. Zweig’s mounds of completed questionnaires are treated will show something of the theoretical quality of his work: ‘In the five works I visited I could say that there was very little sign of what is often called the “alienation” of the workman from his work ...’ we are told on page 69. On page 84, we follow on: ‘“Home and work don’t mix” this is a phrase which often circulates among working-men’ ... and more, ‘Men would say: “I never mention work at home, otherwise I could never relax.”’

On page 199 we are informed that:

‘Often when I asked, “Do you like your job?” a generalisation was put forward such as “No one really likes his job”; or to a question, “Do you work only for money; does the job give you something else apart from money?” the answer might be, “We all work for money, there is nothing else in the job.”’

At this point we may be forgiven for recollecting without surprise that on page 22 we had already learnt: ‘men rarely had ambitions for themselves, but a great deal of ambition for their children.’

You pays your penny, and you takes your choice (in library fines rather than bookshop bills, if you are wise).

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Last updated: 11 March 2010