This week’s award goes to Corey Robin. I really hope that I’m not the only one who finds Robin’s Review cover essay completely offensive. Maybe there are even a few wives, secretaries, and factory workers (of every political stripe) who will find this a little condescending:
Despite the very real differences among them, workers in a factory are like secretaries in an office, peasants on a manor, slaves on a plantation—even wives in a marriage—in that they live and labor in conditions of unequal power. They submit and obey, heeding the demands of their managers and masters, husbands and lords. Sometimes their lot is freely chosen—workers contract with their employers, wives with their husbands—but its entailments seldom are. What contract, after all, could ever itemize the ins and outs, the daily pains and continuing sufferance, of a job or a marriage? Throughout American history, in fact, the contract has served as a conduit to unforeseen coercion and constraint. Employment and marriage contracts have been interpreted by judges to contain all sorts of unwritten and unwanted provisions of servitude to which wives and workers tacitly consent, even when they have no knowledge of such provisions or wish to stipulate otherwise.
You silly women and black people and members of the working class. You may think you are signing contracts and deciding to work or get married of your own free will, but really you are just slaves to the overlords who run this place. You have no idea what you’re getting yourself into! Employers don’t always spell out every one of your responsibilities in a contract. It doesn’t say you have to show up on time, but it turns out you do! And it doesn’t say that you can’t tell off your boss, but you probably shouldn’t!
And as for you wives out there, you may think your marriage is based on trust or mutual respect or love or faith, but really you’ve just been brainwashed. And you poor little secretaries. You may like your office or your co-workers or (God forbid) your boss, but your pretty little head has just been duped. You’re just a peasant in the manor of corporate America.
Say what you will about free-market conservatives (and if you read the rest of Robin’s piece, you’ll find he does) but we have a whole lot more respect for human dignity and autonomy than this ivory tower crackpot.