[Marxism] get rich or die tryin’ - bookforum.com / current issue

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Mon Feb 3 08:23:29 MST 2014

When they start out in banking, most new employees don’t know much about 
the profession. They just want the prestige and income that go with a 
Wall Street nameplate—and they also seem to genuinely believe 
recruiters’ claims that once they’ve proved themselves in these elite 
jobs, they can do anything. The implicit promise is that by going into 
finance, they can join the class of smart, rich, important kings of the 
world. But it would be more accurate to say that after a grueling 
entry-level job at a Wall Street firm, most young employees can find 
work somewhere in finance. They’re prepared for, say, a job at a 
university endowment or in private equity. Only those at the pinnacle of 
the banking hierarchy find power in the field itself.

Roose’s subjects, it seems, got wise to the empty promises: By the end 
of the book, many of them have left their banks for tech start-ups or 
lower-pressure financial firms. The worst components of the young 
bankers’ jobs—no control over working hours, serious health risks from 
overwork, constant surveillance, no protection from exploitation or 
arbitrary firing—had worn them down. It speaks volumes about the state 
of working America in the wake of the ’08 meltdown that this litany of 
grievances sounds a lot like the conditions that the worst-off American 
workers in other fields have been fighting tooth and nail. Fast-food 
workers, for example, have been battling their bosses over abrupt shifts 
in their work schedules, and Walmart employees who’ve sought to organize 
their colleagues are focusing on trying to get laws against retaliatory 
firings enforced. Setting aside the obvious gaps in base salary—and any 
remote suggestion of moral equivalence between the financial and service 
sectors of the economy—it’s nonetheless striking that the same 
conditions that have sparked mounting anger and solidarity among 
low-wage American workers are cementing class ties within the financial 
elite. Indeed, when Roose’s chastened dropouts get some more distance 
from the experience, they might well marvel at just what alleged career 
incentives could have driven them to such extremes of body-breaking 
overwork. But Young Money makes it amply clear why, in the moment, these 
sleep-deprived twenty-two-year-olds can’t help but regard such 
introspection as a luxury they can’t afford. All they’re doing in the 
unyielding rounds of their junior-banking lives, Roose writes, is 
“trying to keep from drowning.”

full: http://www.bookforum.com/inprint/020_05/12761

More information about the Marxism mailing list