On the Dole
- Unemployment by Jeremy Seabrook
Quartet, 226 pp, £8.95, February 1982, ISBN 0 7043 2325 7
- The Black Economy: how it works, who it works for, and what it costs by Arnold Heertje, Margaret Allen and Harry Cohen
Pan, 158 pp, £1.95, April 1982, ISBN 0 330 26765 5
It is, as Jeremy Seabrook says, the similarities that strike you first.
Vol. 4 No. 16 · 2 September 1982
SIR: Melanie Phillips (LRB, 15 July) reports that Jeremy Seabrook emphasises in his latest book, Unemployment – as he has been doing for many years – that today’s unemployed suffer, as those of earlier days did not, from a sense of alienation from the consumer society. Ms Phillips blames the Government for its failure to reduce the number of unemployed.
How lovely to be able to blame a section of society for its ills! In the Thirties and, indeed, during the years of the Poor Laws, the Government blamed the unemployed for being too lazy to work. And now the self-righteous social services experts blame the Government for not solving the unemployment problem. Perhaps there are deeper roots. The real problem, surely, is how society should be organised so that every individual can have his place in it – thereby satisfying the human need to be needed – without being exploited. In the old days, workers were exploited. Nowadays, to protect workers against exploitation, opportunities to work are restricted. For example, schoolchildren are prohibited from learning carpentry and decoration by doing simple repairs to their own school buildings. There are also many prejudices, reinforced by the difficulties of moving home from one neighbourhood to another, against many forms of non-mechanised work that is available – garden maintenance, housework, upholstery, cabinet-making.