In most parts of the world, from Paris to Beijing, mass unemployment brings the specter of mass social unrest. Not here, though, where 13 million people have accepted joblessness with nary a peep of protest.
Many reasons — from Prozac to Pentecostalism — have been cited to explain American passivity in the face of economic violence. But the truth may be far simpler: In America, being unemployed doesn’t mean you have nothing to do but run around burning police cars. Unemployment has been reconfigured as a new form of work.
Nowhere is this clearer than in the white-collar world, where the laid-off are constantly advised to see job searching as a full-time job. As business self-help guru Harvey Mackay advises: “Once you’re fired, you already have a job. The job you have is tougher than the last one. It’s more demanding.” How demanding? He says you need to “plan on 12 to 16 hours a day.”
Picture it: People across America rising at the usual time, suiting up in full corporate regalia and setting themselves down at their laptops to fiddle with resumes, peruse Monster.com and pester everyone on their address lists for leads.