From The New Inquiry:
It is a new kind of Taylorist workplace, in which the scientific pursuit of profit is hidden behind ergonomically designed bean bag chairs, nigiri buffets, and talk of individuality, flexibility, customizability. But, unlike the 20th century’s Taylorist strategies, which set workers in an antagonistic relationship to the efficiency experts who repeatedly demanded more of them, this new approach to workplace engineering makes you think Google actually gives a fuck about your feelings. The Google work/play space, like the health rave, offers a safe outlet to transgress bourgeois workplace norms, while steering partiers away from anything too anti-social—and, by extension endangering the bottom line.
In combination with Dave Eggers’s The Circle this critique feels spot-on true.
Here’s what’s odd for me, as well – the Google space, and campus, and hell, idea, are uniquely utopian among corporations. Admittedly, the utopia is tempered by a knowing, sorta cynical, wry assessment of the world – ‘Don’t be evil’ is a long way from ‘Throw the money-changers from the temple’ – but it still represents an effort to acknowledge that companies are often just fucking evil, and that Google wants to not do that. ‘Not do that’ unfortunately doesn’t go all that far.
The fact that I’m working at a white collar job that I usually love does not obscure the fact that I’m working 16 hour days at labor for this organization. The historian Nikil Saval has even coined a term for this type of work: “boundaryless labor,” and there are certainly times it feels boundaryless, mostly because I feel that I’m completely caught in the loop of wanting this job and wanting to make sure the organization succeeds and thus wanting to work this much.
At some point something has to give.