Language, The Economy

What does it say about our society that some of our largest and most powerful firms, including financial giants such as Merrill Lynch and Prudential, have resorted to handwriting analysis” to weed out potentially troublesome hires1 and to monitor the behavior of existing employees”? To be honest, I’m not really sure. I do know that it if corporations were measuring skulls, or counting people’s teeth before hiring them it would say the same thing about the state of our society; but what might that be?

On the one hand it could mean that we are so inept at identifying whether someone is qualified for a job that a purely random means of identification works just as well as anything else. Or, it could mean that people doing the job hiring already know who they want to hire but they are so incapable of justifying their decisions on substantive grounds that they need to rely on this kind of nonsense to legitimate their decisions. It could be an elaborate means to justify discriminatory hiring practices. Or it could just reflect the high level of ignorance which prevails even amongst the most powerful and well educated.” Perhaps it simply reflects the fact that America’s unprecedented high levels of productivity” reflect unprecedented levels of exploitation. As one guy said on the NY City subway the other day, I’m now doing the work of six people, and I’m not getting paid any more for it.”

One thing I know for sure. It is a damn good argument against running our government more like a corporation.

The article offers a brief history of handwriting analysis:

Graphology dates back to 11th-century China, said Dr. Barry Beyerstein, professor of biological psychology at Simon Fraser University in British Columbia and co-author of The Write Stuff: Evaluations of Graphology — The Study of Handwriting Analysis” (Prometheus Books, September 1992). An early proponent was Camillo Baldi, an Italian physician who wrote a book on the subject in 1662.

1I couldn’t generate a permalink for this NY Times article, so it will likely expire in a couple of weeks.