Mar 5, 2022
Carolyn Chen's book Work Pray Code: When Work Becomes Religion In Silicon Valley is about how something disturbing is happening in Silicon Valley: people are becoming so totally devoted to their work that their relationship to their companies is a kind of religious devotion. Prof. Chen interviewed scores of employees at tech companies and found that traditional ties of family, church, and community are disappearing in favor of ties to the company. Corporations are providing a site where people find meaning, some even saying that they became their "true selves" on the job, or describing a "conversion" experience. In this interview, we discuss the implications of this kind of extreme devotion to for-profit companies. A certain class of high-paid workers who might once have viewed a job as something you did to earn a living, so that you could go and enjoy your life, view serving the company as the very purpose of life itself, the source of meaning and joy. It is a far cry from Marx's description of "alienated" workers who must sacrifice a piece of themselves to get their daily bread. These workers think that life on the clock is better than life off it—and so they aren't particularly interested in civic participation.