Tag Archives: Local Community

Bookshelf Review: the Rise of the Naked Economy

In the ongoing re-organization called Life, I came across this book and skimmed/read it to make keep/discard decisions.

It’s in the ‘Keep’ pile, but only just barely; and only for the function of identifying fallacies and wishful thinking.

I found the facile tone and smudged glossiness of the imagery very off-putting.

This book described happily the new work reality, in which many of us are super-specialists, providing very highly polished skills to a perpetually delighted market.

Others of us are to be generalists _ also very crucial, we’re told_ filling in gaps and doing – you know – general things.

All the infrastructure and ‘normal’ trappings of work are to be discarded – offices, established work relationships and protocols, permanence of any kind. Except for managers perhaps  – they can have trappings. But none for the rest!

It mentions at the end a few minor glitches – health insurance (and other benefits), collections problems, taxation policies that burden entrepreneurs vs. customers.

So ok, in reality – those minor things are kind of major, and many unstated problems exist which vastly outweigh the benefits.

For one thing, earning enough money to live on as a freelancer is very difficult to do in conjunction with maintaining the skill sets and knowledge base of a specialist. Apparently these new roles come with some sort of time-turning magical device!

Most utilization of freelancers takes place within a mature, structured workplace; because of all the ways in which that structure is necessary. The main body of activity in ‘getting things done’ will always need to happen within a permanent structure. Large groups of people engaging in innovation or existing service provision require permanent physical locations, computer and telephone technologies, long-standing interpersonal relationships.

There won’t ever be a ‘flash mob’ of people who are able to come together all as strangers for a short period to get a new design from research through the marketplace etc..

The flicking-off of a small percentage of positions from employment to contractor status weakens the people in those positions, as well as the organization itself: whether the specifics are adjunct faculty or accounting contractors. A great deal is lost when functional responsibility is lost in the shuffle.

I strongly feel that this push will turn out to have been profoundly wrong-headed; beneficial to small sets of people who managed the provision of freelance service and also to the people making the outsourcing decisions – at least until enough time passes to make clear the full impact of those decisions.

Meanwhile, from day one all the way through until a more complete relationship is re-established, the person providing the service is under-compensated. Financially, and on the wider basis as far as ongoing stability and life-planning foundation and career-wise and so on.

So many building blocks of a solid future exist only within the employment relationship. To actually replace those for freelancers – sincerely and in good faith – would take much more generous monetary compensation as well as a range of other substantive realities that have not at all been even explored, much less implemented. The reality is that these relationships have not been in good faith, but have been part of the hollowing out of the middle-class.

These authors – Ryan Coonerty and Jeremy Neuner – are themselves not distanced observers, but directly within the paradigm they’re discussing – they are both involved with NextSpace, an early pioneer in the coworking model.  Which brings up another aspect of this book – it weaves present and future, concrete realities and wishful generalizations, coal and diamonds to such an extent it’s difficult to digest.

But coworking itself is fascinating, and a great environment for certain types of functions. For folks in social media for instance, I can see how it would be perfect. It has its downsides (one example set), and will have growing pains as it matures (real estate prices for instance). But as it solidifies it also becomes one of the ‘infrastructure’ pieces that it itself is replacing, reminiscent of the conclusion of Vonnegut’s ‘Player Piano’.

This book also suggest using free resources whenever possible as a freelancer, to support the no-overhead model. Those free resources are reminiscent of procurement-chain management, in which smaller business were replaced with corporate/global supplies. Both paradigms deprive small, locally-held businesses of needed volume, causing constricted decision-making and diminished futures. More evidence of the wrong-headedness of this model

“Fun to Read!” says the book jacket. Not always ‘Fun’ to live!

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