90.9 WBUR - Boston's NPR news station
Top Stories:
PLEDGE NOW
Evolution Of The Office Life: To The Cubicle, And Beyond

From counting houses to cubicles to floating free agents, we’ll look at the evolution of the workplace, and of work itself.

At Brooklyn Boulders Active Collaborative Workspace in Somerville, MA, it's possible to both workout and get work done. The unusual coworking space is one of many changing the shape of the modern office. (Courtesy Brooklyn Boulders)

At Brooklyn Boulders Active Collaborative Workspace in Somerville, MA, it’s possible to both workout and get work done. The unusual coworking space is one of many changing the shape of the modern office. (Courtesy Brooklyn Boulders)

The office has always been a stage for the meaning of white collar work.  A miserable “tank” for Scrooge’s clerk, Bob Cratchit,  in Dickens’ time.  A corner office seat of glamour and power for Don Draper in Mad Men.  Lines of desks and then angsty cubicles for millions in the computer age.  Or “open plan,” with Fusbol.   Now, work and the workplace are going free agent.  To a corner of Starbucks.  Or anywhere.  And that has meaning too.  This hour On Point:  the history and future of white collar work and the workplace with Nikil Saval, author of “Cubed.”

– Tom Ashbrook

Guests

Nikil Saval, editor at the literary journal n+1. Author of the new book “Cubed: A Secret History of the Workplace.”

Jesse Levin, senior cultural chameleon at Brooklyn Boulders in Somerville, MA. (@BKBSomerville)

Nancy Koehn, historian and professor business administration at the Harvard Business School. (@nancykoehn)

From Tom’s Reading List

The Atlantic: Our Cubicles, Ourselves: How the Modern Office Shapes American Life — “I’ve found that space in an office often reflects the way power operates in a workplace: design expresses (though not in a simple way) relationships of hierarchy, control, and authority.”

Slate: Little Workers in Pretty Boxes — “By separating knowledge from the basic work process … the ideology of Taylorism all but ensured a workplace divided against itself, both in space and in practice, with a group of managers controlling how work was done and their workers merely performing that work.”

The New Republic: Why Do Our Offices Make Us So Miserable? — “Counting houses were cramped: One typical New York establishment was only 25 square feet yet accommodated four partners and six clerical workers. They were also hopeful. In part because we were so physically close to our employers, we were convinced that we would eventually take their places. For this reason, we thought we were exempt from the Marxist principle that capital and labor are locked in an intractable conflict.”

Read An Excerpt of “Cubed” By Nikil Saval

Please follow our community rules when engaging in comment discussion on this site.
ONPOINT
TODAY
Jan 28, 2015
Vice President Joe Biden speaks at Pellissippi State Community College Friday, Jan. 9, 2015, in Knoxville, Tenn. (AP)

The promise of free community college. What it might mean for our economy and our fraying social contract.

Jan 28, 2015
tasty

Did our sense of taste make us human? From evolution to culture, a new book explores the science and perception of flavor.

RECENT
SHOWS
Jan 27, 2015
As any ant knows, building a reliable team can be hard. (Flickr / Guildmn20)

From Silicon Valley to your office, some teams work better – and smarter – than others. We’ll look at the surprising reasons why.

 
Jan 27, 2015
Leader of Syriza left-wing party Alexis Tsipras speaks to his supporters outside Athens University Headquarters, Sunday, Jan. 25, 2015. A triumphant Alexis Tsipras told Greeks that his radical left Syriza party's win in Sunday's early general election meant an end to austerity and humiliation and that the country's regular and often fraught debt inspections were a thing of the past. (AP)

A leftist victory in Greece, and anti-austerity pushback across Europe. We’ll ask where this goes.

On Point Blog
On Point Blog
Our Week In The Web: January 23, 2015
Friday, Jan 23, 2015

New thoughts on Facebook, new analysis of State of the Union twitter activity and new weekend excitement. New! And exciting!

More »
Comment
 
Meet On Point’s Interns: Spring 2015
Friday, Jan 23, 2015

Good news! We have interns, and they are wonderful, and here they are for the spring term. Meet them digitally, right here.

More »
2 Comments
 
Caller To Author Ron Rash: ‘You Cared About People Like Me’
Thursday, Jan 22, 2015

An unexpected caller from South Carolina brings back guest Ron Rash’s years as a community college professor in a movingly real way.

More »
1 Comment