Bait and Switch

Bait and Switch
Author: Barbara Ehrenreich
Price: £9.99
Pages: 256
Publisher: Granta
ISBN: 1 86207 897 1

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Barbara Ehrenreich achieved acclaim for her previous book Nickel and Dimed, in which she described her sojourn among the millions of blue-collar workers living on poverty-level wages in the US. This book describes a similar endeavour, this time among white-collar jobseekers who have been discarded by the corporations they worked for, leaving them without status, pensions or health plans.

Ehrenreich is a journalist, and in posing as a jobseeking PR professional, she knows she can walk away at any time. She does acknowledge this and it is to her credit that she still provides an insightful and largely non-judgemental portrait of the characters she meets. However, the real Ehrenreich does encroach when it comes to her views on the transition industry, and career coaches in particular. One section, in which she describes her pitch to a self-proclaimed career coach guru, is compelling. She applies her forensic journalistic skills to his life’s work and exposes his true nature in a way that even Big Brother would shy away from.

The most telling finding, however, is the extent to which these middle-class jobseekers buy into the social climate that tolerates their situation. In true American tradition, they stick by the notion that their fate and salvation lie either in their own hands, or in those of the Almighty. Any notion of a collective challenge to the corporate culture is unthinkable. Because to even think this would label you as non-conformist and, in effect, unemployable.

In describing this stoicism, Ehrenreich manages a remarkable balance of analysis and empathy, which marks her out as an exceptional social commentator.

Useful? 4 stars
Well-written? 5 stars
Practical? 4 stars
Inspirational? 4 stars
Value for money? 4 stars
Overall 4 stars

Reviewed by Douglas Johnston, personnel manager, NHS Highland


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