Tuesday, October 27, 2009

50 Cents is on the money: modern business kills

Much gnashing of teeth over the new book from rapper 50 Cents in which he draws interesting parallels between modern business practice and his experiences of selling drugs in southside Queens. The musician, real name Curtis James Jackson, told The Times this week that people in the neighbourhood where he grew up wouldn’t rule out killing the competition. 'I now hang out with people who absolutely have those intentions for their competitors but they don’t have the physical act of killing them as part of their strategy. Two different routes, but they want the same outcome.'

The only difference between 50 Cents and most business people is that he admits it. His central idea is not particularly new. Joel Bakan's 2004 book The Corporation shows how the modern public company whose only obligation it to its shareholders is obliged to behave like a psychopath.

What's this got to do with health? Well, psychopathic behaviour is ultimately pretty unhealthy both for the psychopath and his victims. In this case, the victims are not just competitors but also employees. We heard once again yesterday about how dangerous long hours are to the men who work them. Earlier this year, research was published showing the damage long hours could do to the brain. According to the International Labour Office, one in five workers around the world - or over 600 million persons - are still working more than 48 hours a week, many merely to make ends meet, a significant majority of them men. (Not having a job can be pretty dangerous too.)

In 2008, work was the theme of Men's Health Week. I suggested on malehealth that work was 'the main cause of men's ill health in the developed world'. Nothing that has happened since has made me change my mind.

When someone is killed as collateral damage in a gangland drugs scrap we're rightly outraged. But where's the concern about men and women working themselves into an early grave? Reduce the regulation of business and you increase the health problems of all those involved in it. The best possible health strategy? Workers rights.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Yes work really is an elephant in the room. Understandably having a job is widely advocated, since it is the main way of keeping body and soul together. However as professor Black pointed out most important is the type of work to wellbeing and health. We seem to have forgotten that the really horrible jobs have been exported (no doubt China and others suffer wiedspead industrial diseases now getting rarer here)But most men and many women have seen falls in welbeing in work as they struggle with less security and frequently poor pay and conditions. In Social care "efficiency" has been achieved by outsourcing to companies that pay less and have fewer worker rights. I suppose the problem is that to admit work can be negative doesn't fit a drive to get everyone into employment,