Friday, May 19, 2006

Precarious intellectuals

An interesting piece in LeMonde - Diplo on the well-educated but underemployed in France. I especially like the term "precarious intellectuals."
Anne and Marine Rambach are precarious intellectuals and claim that this underclass has middle-class origins or has had access to the symbolic capital of the upper classes, but lives on the income and in the same conditions as the poor...

...Precarious intellectuals are modest about their intellectual status. “It gives me no sense of superiority,” says Séverine, “but it does sometimes give me a sense of inferiority to others.” When Alexandre gives lectures on his book he finds the comments from the audience “quite as relevant as anything I have to say. People read and find information, especially on the internet.” He regrets not having learned a trade, something he could use to make a living. “The only thing I can do is use Word. That’s not a selling point on the labour market.” He learned it at a printshop as part of a youth employment scheme. “That was good for me. I felt quite lost after my studies, I hadn’t learned anything useful.”

Alexandre worries that an employer might do an internet search and find that he’s done “totally irrelevant things” and holds certain political opinions. He does not use pseudonyms, unlike many others. Having several different identities is useful to hide the many jobs people resort to just to earn a living, or to cover artistic or political activities that might scare off a potential employer. “Grite Lammane”, who is 30, writes under that name for a monthly social criticism review, CQFD. She does freelance work under another pseudonym: “The people who hire me don’t necessarily want their outfits to be linked to some of my other activities. In any case if I did everything under my real name they’d think I was inconsistent. I only give my real name in situations where I can be understood by everybody, without having to argue my case for hours.”