Office Spaced: Work Shirkers of the World, Unite and Take Over


Corinne Maier’s graceful attack on the corporate world opens with Guy Debord’s famous Situationist slogan, “Never work.” A cynical child of France’s radical May ’68 generation, Maier aims to so disenchant her readers (presumed to be white-collar worker bees, shuffling papers in their cubicles and furiously deleting spam) that they become “actively disengaged” from their work and adopt “so unconstructive an attitude that it verges on sabotage.”

Bonjour Laziness was a French bestseller and Maier herself became a cause celeb here last year after EDF, the company that employed her as an economist, summoned her to disciplinary hearings. Knowing all that, I expected the book to be an explosive call to arms. Instead, it’s a trenchant dissection of “corporate culture,” that contradiction in terms dismissed by Maier as “an orgy of vapid seminars . . . and so-called motivational slogans.” She does propose some practical suggestions for subverting the workplace, but none involve outright disruption. The book mostly dwells on ways to make a living without actively contributing to the value or wealth of the system—like seeking out those vague consultancy positions in which nobody knows what you’re supposed to do. Shirk the job’s claim over your soul and “become instead the firm’s detritus . . . impervious to manipulation.”

The problem with Maier’s passive-aggressive argument is that you still end up festering at your desk for at least 1,700 hours a year. Perhaps she should have looked to another Situationist thinker, Raoul Vaneigem, who asked, “Who wants a world in which the guarantee that we shall
not die of starvation entails the risk of dying of boredom?”