Knowledge Work Is A Myth LO30907

From: Rene Post (
Date: 01/22/04

Replying to LO30884 --

Hi Y'all,

Jan quoted Bertrand Russel,

"Work is of two kinds: first, altering the position of matter at or
near the earth's surface relative to other matter; second, telling
other people to do so."

and wrote,

Bertrand goes on to explain that the first kind is limited and the
second kind can be expanded ad infinitum: there are people who tell
(advice, inform, search for .. ) other people how to tell other people
to do the first kind. The second type might be called "knowledge

Below I quote a substantial piece of an article that shows for me that
the second kind of work has gone astray, impedes learning of people
and has become counter-productive.



Welcome to what John McKnight might call the New Economy of Need. In
his book, The Careless Society: Community and its Counterfeits, the
Chicago-based author observes that the days when North Americans
produced goods - wheat, lumber, steel - are over. McKnight calculates
that 90 percent of the employed provide what can be broadly defined as
"services." To supply the growing ranks of professional service
providers with work, you and I must have ever more physical, spiritual
or emotional shortcomings.

In an economy driven by service, the only path for fiscal growth is to
find new markets for need. As surely as the auto industry depends on
steel, the service industry needs human problems.

"When there is a tragedy, an airplane crash, murders at a high
school," says McKnight, "a flock of people who had never been seen
before appears. They descend on victims and families, and the
newspapers tell us about it, as if this was a good thing."

These professional helpers don't just appear in desperate times. They
are always available, like a mother's embrace. They give us legal
advice, diagnose our children with learning disabilities, prescribe
drugs for us, help us kick drugs, teach us to use computers, mediate
our divorces, rub our backs. You and I need a lot of help, and our
"unmet needs" drive the North American service economy.

All of this, McKnight says, comes at a cost to our sense of community.
In an ever-expanding market of professional services, neighbors have
fewer reasons to care for one another, more reason to remain passive
receptors of services. Citizens have become "clients." The cost
probably cannot be measured in dollars. It's a much simpler equation:
Why bother to cook a hot meal for the old widower next door when he's
got Home Care coming in every day'? Let the pros handle things.

"The basic issue is professionalism itself, which is dependent upon
the manufacture of need and the definition of new deficiencies."

McKnight lists some of the rarer gems of deficiency that professionals
have strip-mined on the margins of human frailty: tired housewife
syndrome; six-hour retardation; bereavement deficit; litigative
incapacity. Or how about recluse management? At least one Canadian
city pays professionals to seek out lonely souls who have lost contact
with society.

"If I had used the term 'bereavement counselor' 40 years ago, no one
would have known what I was talking about," McKnight says. For him,
bereavement counseling is an especially irksome example of
professionals getting paid to give people what communities once
provided. It is now possible to attain a master's degree in the field.
Thanks to strong lobbying, grief counselors have persuaded life
insurance companies, employers and government agencies to pay for
their services to us, whether we need them or not. And, McKnight
argues, we don't.


"Rene Post" <>

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