The Ideology of Self-Help

The self-help book is ubiquitous, filling the shelves of bookstores and offering to solve the problems of your life. From happiness to loneliness to overeating, everything can be solved with a ten step plan. In the digital age, a cottage industry of self-help websites have sprung up, with similar promises and even less scientific backing. Self-help books are the world’s best selling genre. They demonstrate both our dissatisfaction with our lives and the all pervasive nature of the ideology which underpins them.

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Historical Graduate Outcomes

To further my earlier post on STEM oversupply, I took a look at historical graduate numbers and job openings (on a three year rolling average to smooth out fluctuations), using data from the ABS and the Department of Education & Training, accounting for not just retirement but also deaths and migration (though occupation data on skilled migrants isn’t available). In short – even under the old restricted entry system, graduates often outpaced opportunities but the combination of economic slowdown and increased access to education after the GFC has led to this gap widening to its present unsustainable level.

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The STEM Delusion

Deregulation of university places by the Gillard government has left a legacy of massive graduate oversupply. The chart above makes for stark reading, with many more graduates than jobs available for them in every field except IT, much like the situation in the US. The much vaunted STEM field, which Australia’s Chief Scientist declared should be “at the core of almost every agenda” is revealed to be a hollow wasteland, with 18 graduates for every job in the maths and sciences. The supposedly “always in demand” engineering sector provides a similar employment proposition to the much derided creative arts stream. Without jobs in their area of study, graduates in SEM will be forced outside it in order to find work, if indeed they can find skilled work at all given the depths of the oversupply. So how did we get here, and why is STEM still lionised as a cure-all to employability?

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Where Is The Australian Left?

Since the GFC and subsequent stagnation obliterated the established orthodoxies, we’ve seen a re-emergence of radicals on both the left and right worldwide. From Bernie Sanders to Donald Trump, Syriza to Golden Dawn and Jean-Luc Melechon to Marine Le Pen, the Overton Window has been blown out by charismatic firebrands on both sides of centre. If we are to build a better society, we need these folks for their ability to think outside the square and imagine alternatives to the status quo. Australia has the re-invigorated Pauline Hanson, onion-infused Tony Abbott and pure reactionary Cory Bernardi providing right wing alternatives, but where is our left?

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The Intellectual Poverty of Late Stage Taylorism

What do you do?

To this common icebreaker, one is expected to respond with their job title. But I write, I think, I analyse, I research, I design, I create, I photograph and I develop, there is much more to my abilities than just ‘Mechanical Services Engineer’ or ‘Software Developer’. The intellectual poverty of late stage Taylorism has driven us into tiny little silos with exceedingly specific skills, debasing our general abilites and as a result we are losing the ability to consider things holistically or systemically.

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How Conservatives Became the Anti-Establishment

Our society isn’t working out well for ordinary people right now. Every politician wants to appear a saviour, a fount of fresh ideas which will solve those problems. Yet this rebellion against the establishment seems to be repeatedly turning towards figures from the top of that existing order. The Czech Republic turned to the ANO party in the weekend’s elections, yet this supposedly anti-establishment force is led by the country’s 2nd richest man, Andrej Babis. The United States famously elected billionaire and TV rich man Donald Trump as President last year, whose campaign was predicated on ‘draining the swamp’, and similar anti-establishment positions. France turned its back on their established parties by electing Emmanuel Macron as President and giving his new party a majority in the National Assembly, yet he had come from a background as a Rothschild investment banker and finance minister in government.

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