David Grubbs leads Danny Anderson and Nathan Gilmour on a professional/clerical/official journey through the office.  We start with the Roman Empire and don’t slow down until we’re so far into modernity that even Kafka’s Klamm couldn’t find his way out.  Jump in with us as we kick off a year in the office with a conversation about offices!

3 thoughts on “Christian Humanist Podcast Episode 165”
  1. I think
    the difference between male and female attire is that females tend to
    follow more fashion, instead of traditional clothing, while males
    dress more traditionally—that is, they receive their clothes from
    what a given community regards as proper and changes very little over
    time, while women, following fashion, dress not in accord to the
    traditions of a community (this was irrevocably lost in late
    modernity, though with precedents in, say, post-Revolution Paris) but
    according to the whims of industry (often motivated by less than
    noble ideals). (check out this section of Wiki for a bit of an
    course, male clothing is also being affected by fashion, even in
    offices (especially more cool office settings, like those of
    marketing, but even in the Professor’s office).
    I for
    one lament this, and I’m one of those kooks who links this
    development with the (private) prophecies of Fátima.

    Also, I
    don’t understand why be so negative about seemingly meaningless jobs.
    A person can use it as a form of discipline. As the French say,
    better make virtue out of necessity, right.

    By the
    way, how weird Gilmour’s classical pronunciation of Officium ;).

  2. Excellent podcast!  I found two points to which I could relate.  First, at a low point in our lives my wife went to work for an insurance writer who served the hard to insure.  As an act of generosity, he gave my wife a clothing allowance for “professional attire”.  Later he offered her health insurance but became irate when another employee in the office saw the insurance application on her desk.  My wife came home on lunch, so upset at the tongue-lashing she had received from him, that she could not go back to work.  The boss had the gall to come to our apartment to see if she was coming into work. I answered the door and had to tell him not to come to our apartment again.  The wife never went back to work at the insurance office, or even went back for her final paycheck.  

    In another story, my boss issued a red stapler to me for my desk and would reference “Office Space” every time she saw it.

  3. Thank you for an excellent episode! Your discussion, particularly of Dickens’s Ebenezer Scrooge and Kafka’s “The Castle,” put me in mind of an interesting dichotomy: the Office as a place of personalized oppression or as depersonalized oppression. Both Scrooge and the Castle’s bureaucracy are tyrannical, but whereas the Castle is impersonally bureaucratic and abstracted into procedures, Scrooge is a specific person with understandable motivations and a personality. However cruel his actions might be, they are understandable due to his character rather than arbitrary and mysterious.

    Because of this, Scrooge’s eventual redemption makes sense. Because he is human, he is redeemable; he can change and learn to love. But an inhuman abstract bureaucracy like the Castle’s does not have the personal agency necessary to be redeemed. It can only be escaped or destroyed by its subjects. So the personally evil bad boss and the impersonally evil bad bureaucracy have very different narrative possibilities.

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