Flawed System Flawed Self

Arlie Hochschild

Imagine two men drawn from Ofer Sharone’s highly insightful and important study of how jobless people search for work. One approaches a job interview as he might a  first date, and the other, as he would an oral exam. The first offers who he is, the second, what he has. As we learn from this book, the first man is likely to be a white-collar American, and the second, his Israeli counterpart. After encountering  a series of ‘no, no, no’s,’ it is the open-hearted American who is likely to blame himself, feel shame, and give up, while the pragmatic Israeli is more likely to shrug it off and keep trying. Here Sharone articulates a central ‘got-ya’ moment of American market individualism. Called to try to feel personally empowered in the face of a merciless market he cannot control, the jobless man recoils in heart-felt defeat and feels stripped of a dignity—and power—he might otherwise enjoy. Realizing this, Sharone notes, is a first step in mobilizing for social change.

Arlie Hochschild
author of The Outsourced Self

Michael Burawoy

One of capitalism’s achievements is to turn unemployment into perhaps the hardest work of all. Such is the startling argument of Flawed System / Flawed Self, which compares the work of re-entering the labor force in the US and Israel and the toll it takes on the individual.  A brilliant analysis of how we get sucked up into games of self-deception.

Michael Burawoy
University of California, Berkeley

Michèle Lamont

In Flawed System/Flawed Self, Ofer Sharone provides an insightful analysis of the experience of unemployment in the United States and Israel. Based on ethnographic research and in-depth interviews, Sharone demonstrates how different organizational frames for job-searching can shape self-concept, and  illuminates the aspects of job-searching experiences that are generally ignored or misunderstood, as the unemployed ponder what is and what is not under their control in the midst of a terrible economic storm. At a time when there are many more job seekers than there are jobs available, there are few topics that are more pressing, and few topics that should be of greater interest to readers.

Michèle Lamont
author of The Dignity of Working Men: Morality and the Boundaries of Race, Class, and Immigration

Steven Vallas

“In Flawed System/Flawed Self, Ofer Sharone develops a cogent, timely, and compelling account of why American employees blame themselves for their failure to secure employment and why their Israeli counterparts engage in system blame instead. Sharone moves the discussion well beyond global generalizations about the role of culture to make an important contribution to the literature of joblessness.”

Steven Vallas author of Work: A Critique


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May 2017