People far smarter than me posit some really interesting ideas, but I’m always curious about things that to me seem obvious that they don’t acknowledge. I’m currently reading Microstyle, by Christopher Johnson, and I’m enjoying it – Johnson is a linguist, and he talks about the joy of dynamic language that isn’t stuck in some sort of grammar nazi syntax hell.
What I get frustrated with is the sort of blase acceptance of some of the lazy, vaguely cultural-changeish reasons that Johnson identifies for these changes. He places them in a sort of inevitable continuum, one in which all these cool technological changes (and he’s not a technotopian, at least from the evidence in this book) herald larger social changes that we should accept because, well, language has become fun. Sure, I’m a fan of many of these developments myself, but to simply act as if the fact that we’re all suddenly free agents, and cite Daniel Pink, misses some crucial points to me. He spouts ideas like this, which are particularly bloodless and irritatingly bland:
Changes in employment practices have eliminated the kind of job security that people experienced in the middle of the twentieth century, especially in large corporations. Attitudes toward employment have changed as well, as people seek to work for companies that share their values. People change jobs, and even careers, far more often than they used to.
Yes, I agree, and I’m guessing that by noting that eliminating job security has triggered some of these changes, Johnson considers that at least nodding at the fairly devastating ‘changes in employment practices’ buys him some leftie street cred. Perhaps it does.
Still, the overall tone is one that celebrates this new zeitgeist in ways that gloss over a bunch of nasty shit.