Those of you who remember “the end of job security” and other paternosters from the dawn of Fast Company will be interested to learn that Tina Brown of The Daily Beast has conducted a poll of college-grad office-worker types, showing many of them are forced by economic circumstances to work two or more irregular “gigs” — consultancies, copywriting, brainstorming, etc. — instead of one sufficient job.
This hardly seems news, until you understand the reversal it represents: “In previous economic crises, the pain was felt first by the bottom income brackets,” says the pollster. “This crisis is different — the middle and upper classes are now the ones hustling.” Then it seems sort of funny.
Brown extracts from this data deep thoughts and new words like “Gigonomics,” “Gigocracy,” and “Gigwork.” (Gigwork : work :: McJobs : jobs. Expect a 189-page book version in the spring.)
Today “doing three things badly is the name of the game,” Brown says, which cheats bosses of consistent support and employees of everything including a decent wage. The only upsides of this curse, she says, are “the overdue demise of the hot-air agencies” (or, as we called them in high school, “phonies”) and that “people nearer the top are learning firsthand… a little more sympathy — maybe even solidarity — with those the meritocracy dismissed as losers.” Well, that’d be a first. We imagine something like that scene in The Grapes of Wrath where the truckers leave the waitress a big tip, only with more of a John Cusack vibe. God, that sounds awful! Fortunately we’re students of history, which teaches that what we can actually expect is lower hemlines and the return of pie a la mode.
A couple of shockers: Brown at one point refers to “people I know in the bottom income brackets, living paycheck to paycheck” — maybe some of her interns occasionally dress up as hobos, and like a Shakespearean hero Brown can’t recognize them. Also, to put a button on some stats showing how bad workers have it, Brown cryptically adds, “As Christopher Hitchens replied the other day when I asked about the dress code for his Saturday night inauguration party: ‘Come as you were.'” Forget Gigonomics, let’s have Hitchenomics; at least his profundities come with drinks.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on January 12, 2009