I think there’s another way to come at ‘economic rationality’ – everybody should earn the same living wage, and any particular shortfall based on individual circumstances be met through benefits. But we’re clearly a while away from that. Meanwhile here’s a good piece I missed at Marc Bousquet’s ‘How the University Works‘ – from it a nice piece of class-based reasoning about why a good society must make the work it needs to be done economically rational for workers to undertake, rather than relying on notions of job satisfaction and personal fulfilment i.e. psychic wages.
“But a labor market arranged around working for love – rather than fair compensation – is actually one of the most sexist, racist and economically discriminatory arrangements possible. From a class point of view, as I emphasize in Gose’s piece and elsewhere: by making the professoriate an economically irrational choice, you stop sorting for the most talented people and begin to sort for the people who can afford to discount their wages. That cuts out most people, period, making the best jobs in the academy largely a preserve for persons with fortunate economic backgrounds or circumstances. And via the wealth gap, that primary economic discrimination has direct consequences for the racial composition of the faculty. By making it too hard to get a job, too arduous an apprenticeship, too poor of a return on education investment: only the wealthier among us are able to “irrationally choose” to accept psychic wages – and the wealthier among us are disproportionately white, just for starters. All of this has tremendous, documented consequences for the achievement and persistence of students from less advantaged economic circumstances and ethnicities poorly represented among the faculty.”
Read on and think about the Big Society, volunteering, internships, pensions as deferred wages, and the kind of workplace ‘helping’ which props up rotten systems.