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Bait and Switch: The Futile Pursuit of the Corporate Dream [Paperback]

Barbara Ehrenreich
4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
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Book Description

6 Mar 2006
Intrigued by reports of increasing poverty and despair within America's white-collar corporate workforce, Barbara Ehrenreich decided to infiltrate their world as an undercover reporter and learn about the problems facing middle-class executives at first hand. Thinking she had set herself a pretty easy challenge, the author was quite unprepared for what happened next. Ehrenreich found herself entering a shadowy world of Internet job searches, lonely networking events and costly career-coaching sessions, a world in which 'professional' mentors and trainers offer pop-psychology and self-help mantras to desperate would-be employees. Her story is an important one - poignant and blackly funny - that delivers a stark warning about the future that faces corporate employees everywhere and calls for collective action to guard against it.

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Bait and Switch: The Futile Pursuit of the Corporate Dream + Smile or Die: How Positive Thinking Fooled America and the World + Nickel and Dimed
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Product details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Granta Books (6 Mar 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1862078971
  • ISBN-13: 978-1862078970
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 19.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 350,849 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description


‘Ehrenreich is an engaging companion, reporting on each humiliating stage in her search with an acrebic wit’ -- Irish Times

‘Ehrenrich is once again a smart, mordant observer… makes great, acerbic company for the reader and tells her story knowingly’ -- The Scotsman

‘Only Ehrenreich’s acid wit and caustic political intelligence makes this an enjoyable as well as a horrible read’ -- Guardian

‘This is a very funny book, and a briskly humane one’ -- Times Literary Supplement

‘a compelling exploration of the human cost of the flexible labour market and the culture of shareholder value’ -- The Irish Times

About the Author

Barbara Ehrenreich is the author of thirteen books including Nickel & Dimed: Undercover in Low-Wage USA. She is a frequent contributor to Time, Harper's, The Progressive, The Nation, the New York Times Magazine and the Guardian, and has also written for The Times and the New Statesman. She lives in Charlottesville, Virginia.

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Customer Reviews

4.3 out of 5 stars
4.3 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
44 of 44 people found the following review helpful
Barbara Ehrenreich has a dry wit. When she decides to go undercover as a white collar professional (first seeking and then fulfilling a job within America's corporate citadel), she finds herself in a world so desperate and surreal that she need only report with her admirable clarity to render it, quite often, funny.

But humour is not her intention, for the most part. Her subject is essentially suffering; the immense human cost of the way American business, especially big business, now approaches staffing at all levels, and the almost totally meaningless responses with which individuals try adapt to it.

Being a white-collar jobseeker is these days proclaimed to be a job in itself. It is also a position in which people are prey to a whole industry of pundits, coaches, purveyors of tips, networking opportunities, boot camps, prayer meetings and therapy groups. Ehrenreich spent over $6,000 during some seven to nine months of intensive searching. All her work, and investment, never yielded so much as an acknowledgement from most of the potential employers she approached.

This is a highly instructive piece of reporting from a world which otherwise really doesn't get represented. The reason is, practically everything else dealing with these realities is determined to ignore their human and social (and, one would think, organisational) costs and simply to provide a programme or set of indicators to people facing the difficulties of what is euphemistically called 'transition.' No-one wants to admit that what is really going on, as with the broader drive of neo-liberal economics (see David Harvey, A Brief History of Neo-liberalism) is effectively class war.
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23 of 23 people found the following review helpful
By William Cohen VINE VOICE
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I spent many years unhappy in jobs before I became self-employed. Since being self-employed I have visited the networking clubs and come into contact with the world of life-coaches, I even had to return to employment briefly which was just as horrible as Barbara Ehrenreich describes. This may be a book about America, but almost all of it is relevant in the UK.

Ehrenreich pinpoints the distorted ideas about how people should behave when seeking jobs. The expectation that people need to be flexible team players, unrelentingly upbeat and amenable. And leave your morals and principles at home please.

I remember once listening to an accountant from a top law firm saying that anyone who wanted to join his firm had to have a 2.1 or above. But when it came to him, he didn't even have a degree. However, things were different now, he maintained. Ehrenreich reveals the stupid ideas about not having gaps in your CV. Having children, taking stock, doing something unconventional - none of these are seen as being quite right for corporations.

My conclusion is you can't fight against it, you have to find people who share your values. For those of us lucky to be out of it, thank the lord.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Well written but unsatisfying 29 April 2010
By T. D. Welsh TOP 500 REVIEWER
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
As a Britisher who was lucky enough to spend most of my adult life working uneventfully for a single multinational corporation, I found "Bait and Switch" very uncomfortable reading. I was made redundant in 1993, and spent several months experiencing the futility of job searching and networking, while being treated like an undeserving supplicant by the DSS. (Eventually I was condemned to a form of indentured servitude, in which - to go on drawing the miserable pittance of unemployment benefit - I had to work full time, free of charge, for a startup that was kind enough to "employ" me). Reading this book made me realise what a narrow escape my family and I had; it tells of so many educated, hard-working and talented people who lost their jobs for no particular reason, and ended up on the streets. Knowing that there is no real safety net is one thing; but Barbara Ehrenreich drives the reality of it home with example after example. It is truly astonishing that someone of her proven intelligence, culture, and ability was unable to get even the offer of a single proper job in almost a year of dedicated, no-expense-spared searching. But then it is only a week since I read in the British newspapers of an educated, hard-working, delightful young woman who killed herself after being unable to get a single job offer in two years of trying.

"Bait and Switch" is an excellent corrective to anyone who is still naive enough to think that free-market capitalism, as practiced in the USA and Britain today, is "the best of all possible worlds". It highlights the shocking selfishness, narrow-mindedness, and sheer primitive thinking of corporate culture.
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Funny - and scary at the same time.. 26 April 2006
By IlonaM
I only just started reading Ehrenreich's "sequal" to her exploration of blue-collar poverty in USA (Nickel and Dimed), and by chapter 2 I'm already laughing out loud - partly because Ehrenreich's dry and witty humour, even when dealing with not at all funny issues, partly out of despair; as a recent graduate and a seeker of my first professional job, the bizarre world of career coaching, networking events, and personality testing rings a bit too true. Recommended for anyone either pursuing or holding a white-collar corporate job!
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars Corporate culture
I came to this book having enjoyed another of Ehrenreich's books 'Smile or Die', a sad, funny look at the cult of positive thinking. Read more
Published 10 months ago by Marand
4.0 out of 5 stars Good but not quite as advertised
Barbara Ehrenreich's dark and unquestionably depressing book exposes us to a world in which the human soul is repressed to a level that the great twentieth century monocrats could... Read more
Published on 4 Dec 2011 by M. Roberts
4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent book on white collar unemployment
Barbara Ehrenreich did an excellent job of explaining and of enabling people not acquainted with the topic to understand the situation faced by millions of white collar workers,... Read more
Published on 16 Nov 2011 by AK
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant book and painfully true
This is a terrific book that I read from start to finish (which is rare for me). She has just the right balance between reporting her hard-won personal experiences and explaining... Read more
Published on 1 July 2011 by Matthew Leitch
3.0 out of 5 stars "Success and failure seem to have little to do with one's...
The above quote, from Robert Jackall, is included by Ehrenreich in her "Conclusion" section, and is a fitting summation of one of her themes. Read more
Published on 13 Jan 2011 by John P. Jones III
5.0 out of 5 stars An unexpected pleasure
I have to admit that I tried to read this book a few months ago and did not manage to get past the first chapter. Read more
Published on 10 Dec 2006 by S. Tattersfield
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