The New American Dream: The Changing Nature of Work

Work hard and your dreams of success and prosperity will pay off. This has been the ethos of the American Dream, a belief that the sky was the limit regardless of origin or background.

The Changing Nature of Work

So, if work is the great equalizer, what happens when workers are at one another’s throats, with the U.S. suffering record levels of labor unrest? By RODNEY HO/ [email protected], originally filed Tuesday, January 17, 2017 “By working for it, you will acquire it,” wisdom declares. But for many, the process is now the equivalent of playing a game of thrones, in which employers and employees are engaged in a continual, strident struggle for power, wealth, prestige, and control. In effect, we are seeing a contest for who controls the American workplace. The outcome of this fight for the control of work is too important for most people to sit on the sidelines. The contest for power is quite concentrated, in fact, with the top 20 percent of U.S. wage earners accounting for 86.

The New American Dream

Not anymore. The pace of technological innovation is outpacing national standards, the environment is more polluted than ever before, and automation is crippling many blue-collar, middle-class and lower-middle-class jobs, leaving workers seeking better opportunities. The environment is also becoming increasingly extreme and the effects of climate change are becoming clearer. “To face the present crisis of our time,” French philosopher Albert Camus wrote, “the United States will need to cast away all temporary restraints and adopt a new moral constitution.” In this new political and economic climate, many Americans are looking to a foreign past to find guidance.

The New American Dream and You

The problem, however, is that this hasn’t been the case. The concept of the American Dream was one based on the idea that individuals could accomplish anything, and that this would be the case regardless of their original station in life. Being young and bright, the dream was to not only attain a certain job, but to become successful in that same job, and to prosper from it. Over time, that idea eroded. But it’s important to remember that this mindset was not born in the 21st century. It grew out of the industrial era, when workers created demand for goods and services, and business owners couldn’t pass up a profitable opportunity. In order to build demand, entrepreneurs would hire “working poor” from the streets of the big cities in order to build factories.

Solutions for the New American Dream

Technology has become an integral part of daily life for most people, with Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, Twitter, and Snapchat at their fingertips. They use these tools to learn, keep up with friends, and in many cases express themselves. What once was termed “popular culture” is now “mass culture” and the young Millennials will probably be the first generation in American history to spend less time with their parents and more time on social media, as they try to establish themselves in a job market that is notoriously hard to break into and get a foothold in. They are also the first generation to be burdened with student loan debt, according to CNBC. There has been a new focus on the need for “flexible” work schedules that are not tied to specific hours or location.

Conclusion and Call to Action

The loss of work in this country has come at the expense of young people and older Americans, to the point that a whole segment of the population is not being taught a new skill set that might have helped them pursue a career path of their choice. We can no longer expect our children to enter the workforce ready to compete and succeed, but instead expected to be trained and prepared for the jobs we train them for. Until we begin to place value on work as a path to a stable and rewarding life, we will continue to see a lost generation of young Americans who have not been taught how to engage in the work ethic that helped propel the country to prominence.

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