Bait and Switch: The (Futile) Pursuit of the American Dream [Barbara Ehrenreich] on *FREE* shipping on qualifying offers. The New York Times. Bait and Switch has ratings and reviews. Trevor said: Part of ” Barbara Ehrenreich is our premier reporter of the underside of capitalism.” — Dorothy. 5 quotes from Bait and Switch: The (Futile) Pursuit of the American Dream: ‘This advice comes as a surprise: job searching is not joblessness; it is a jo.

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Barbara Ehrenreich writes about work.

Protected from the grind of routine employment by a successful baarbara career, she goes undercover to experience the American job-market. For her previous book, Nickel and Dimed, she took on back-breaking, calf-pummelling work – labour without status on the minimum wage. Bait and Switch, which presses its nose up against the corporate world, explores something else: Although in theory it occupies a higher rung on the employment food chain, Bait and Switch is the more disheartening book.

Bait and Switch

Its white-collar disenfranchised have been made redundant, often without warning, and flounder in a stagnant pool of ‘transition’. It’s the transition from hope to despair, in the swotch Bait and Switch is brutally disillusioned. Perhaps you feel the executive status you slaved for is a permanent attribute. You may believe experience counts and loyalty will be rewarded.

Bait and Switch – Barbara Ehrenreich – – Allen & Unwin – Australia

Ehrenreich finds that you’ve fallen for bogus corporate paternalism and that the joke is on you. As her book begins, she reclaims her maiden name, fudges her resume and prepares to enter the world of corporate PR. How hard can it be? A short job-search, a brief period of employment and she’ll have her book.


A superb reporter, alert to the nuance of personality as well as economics, she plays the innocent, a dumb freelance mouse amid the city slickers, willingly accepting their advice and overpaying for their services. This uncombative persona means she can’t always vait how much job-seeking itself has become an exploitative industry. Ehrenreich accepts most of her coaches and counsellors at their own estimation, however loopy. To the reader, they come over as desperadoes and shysters, who have realised that, in an age of unreliable job security, insecurity is a burgeoning market.

Bait and Switch: The (Futile) Pursuit of the American Dream

Or else they’re borderline loopy – like Morton, who enlists dolls of the characters from the Wizard of Oz to illustrate his personality tests Ehrenreich is ‘a tin man with a little lion thrown in’. Or Patrick, the motivational speaker whose shtick is to blame jobseekers for their own misfortune, but who gives off a depressed, ‘death-of-a-salesman vibe’. Ehrenreich is an old-time rationalist; facts matter to her and she deploys them with exactitude.

Nothing was more telling in Nickel and Dimed than her appalled realisation that the scrubbing regime imposed by her cleaning job was ineffective – if anything it spread germs and grime – vait that it gave the superficial appearance of a job well done.

Similarly here, her common sense is tried.

Unscientific personality tests bundle her into a variety of bogus categories – one proclaims her Original and Effective, another acclaims her as ‘the commandant’. Solo job searching is miserable enough, but even less barbars is networking, which Ehrenreich fondly imagines as ‘a freewheeling exercise in human sociability, possibly involving white wine’.

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Kimberly, her unfailingly perky swtch coach, advises her to approach people and chirrup, ‘Hi, I’m Barbara and I’m a crackerjack PR person! Even the most perky might quail when exposed to the phenomenon of Christian networking, designed to save your soul and snag a salary.

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It also marks the point where Ehrenreich stops playing the good pupil – she cannot stomach the bat, the ‘bowdlerised Christianity leavened with down-home homophobia’.

Throughout her search, Ehrenreich is encouraged to remake her CV, her wardrobe and her personality. Some of the most conflicting and insidious advice concerns her gender. Whenever she naively asks whether homemaking might count as a valuable skill, the appalled silence is her answer, and her CV eventually smoothes over any such damaging suggestion. The corporate sector blanches at middle age too stroppy, too darn expensiveand middle-aged women are an anathema. Throughout, barbars realises, she is encouraged to develop a personality of depersonalisation, to become unchallenging, unthreatening switchh able to turn any anger or rejection inwards when, inevitably, given the push.

In a career lacking a particular professional skill, corporate workers are their own tools and blame themselves when unscrupulously consigned to economic wastage. Ehrenreich, who sat through sullen networking events trying valiantly to raise a ripple of small talk, doesn’t get her hopes up, but pins her remaining faith to old-fashioned collective action.

Meanwhile, the jobseekers she leaves in transition still believe that if only they can become more compliant they might be accepted back into the corporate family. Topics Books The Observer.