Lyons isn’t calling for radical industrial democracy but a move away from “shareholder capitalism” – which prioritises short-term profits over all else – in favour of “stakeholder capitalism”, as part of which employers invest in the health and happiness of their staff... Lab Rats is a lively and spirited takedown of a human resources industry that is increasingly brazen in its unabashed parasitism. Its core argument – that “dignity, respect, stability and security still matter” – is surely irrefutable.
Dan Lyons, a journalist who spent time working in the industry, has written an entertaining, if scattergun, attack on one aspect of technology’s influence—the effect it has had on everybody’s working lives. He argues that the industry has reduced real wages, made workers feel dehumanised and less secure, and exposed them to constant, stress-inducing change. Tellingly, the proportion of Americans who are happy with their jobs dropped from 61% in 1987 to 51% in 2016... Instead of obsessing about unicorns (startup companies worth more than $1bn), the author thinks the world should look for “zebras”, which can turn a profit and improve society at the same time. Many modern workers will agree.
Underpinning Lyons’s criticism of modern work is the implication of a lost golden age when companies were paternalistic, everybody was kind and nobody got fired. When was this? Has he not read Revolutionary Road, or The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit, on the awfulness of American postwar office life?... Dodgy foundations are not the only problem with this book. The argument is also pretty sloppily constructed.