Temp: How American Work, American Business, and the American Dream Became Temporary

Author: Louis Hyman

Editor’s note: The untold history of the surprising origins of the “gig economy” –how deliberate decisions made by consultants and CEOs in the 50s and 60s upended the stability of the workplace and the lives of millions of working men and women in postwar America.

Every working person in the United States asks the same question, how secure is my job? For a generation, roughly from 1945 to 1970, business and government leaders embraced a vision of an American workforce rooted in stability. But over the last fifty years, job security has cratered as the postwar institutions that insulated us from volatility–big unions, big corporations, powerful regulators–have been swept aside by a fervent belief in “the market.” Temp tracks the surprising transformation of an ethos which favored long-term investment in work (and workers) to one promoting short-term returns. A series of deliberate decisions preceded the digital revolution and upended the longstanding understanding of what a corporation, or a factory, or a shop, was meant to do. Read more

“Temp is a riveting read for anyone grappling with the contradictions and inequities of contemporary capitalism. Louis Hyman simultaneously shows us the decades-long evolution of the present epidemic of job insecurity, takes a clear-eyed look at the exploitation of women and workers of color, and outlines a positive vision of how Americans can prosper in both work and life.”

Recommended by Anne-Marie Slaughter

President and CEO , New America

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