A Look at Russell Baker’s “Work in Corporate America”

Russell Baker shows his apparent disdain for the modern American workplace in his short essay “Work in Corporate America”. Obviously, the man is unhappy with how the U.S. economy has progressed. He pines for the days when a child could put his father’s profession into concrete, understandable terms.

And, for some reason—which he does not enumerate—he is convinced that jobs which consist of utilizing cerebral skills one developed in college are “junk”. Baker disparages those who do “market research” or work in “public relations”, yet he never gives the reason why he despises these fields.

The paper turns into nothing more than a litany against those who perform these cerebral based jobs.    It seems that he would prefer to see the American workforce slaving over a hot furnace making horseshoes or in textile factories making jeans rather than in business suits reclining in air-conditioned offices. In fact, the irony of this piece is that Baker is disgusted by a society where paper is the primary means of tangible work, but he, himself, is a writer, making a living in the same exact way that he mocks others for making a living.

If his own child asked him what he did for a living, Baker could show him nothing more than his own piece of paper with words and corrections on it.

Now, Baker’s point that America has moved away from specific hard and fast job descriptions and towards more ambiguous trades is 100 percent accurate. The fact that for an adult, and certainly a child, to imagine selling space or doing market is difficult to wrap your head around is definitely valid.

Baker also performs an excellent job portraying the communications between those who work in corporate America. He shows that human interaction on the telephone—the so-called “meeting of the minds”—is what drives the modern economy.

Looking at Baker’s perspective and our current corporate economy, the author’s work accurately portrays that system, as well. Those, who have trained their minds and developed a skill, use of numbers and the written word to perform their work. But, Baker fails to mention in this essay is that there are still laymen. But, they are fewer, and no one wishes to do backbreaking work when they can, instead, sit in an air-conditioned office and earn twice as much. Now, I would call that progress.

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