For many of us, it's where we spend more time and expend greater effort than anywhere else. Yet how many of us have stopped to think about why? In The Office: A Hardworking History, Gideon Haigh traces from origins among merchants and monks to the gleaming glass towers of New York and the space age sweatshops of Silicon Valley, finding an extraordinary legacy of invention and ingenuity, shaped by the telephone, the typewriter, the elevator, the email, the copier, the cubicle, the personal computer, the personal digital assistant. Amid the formality, restraint and order of office life, too, he discovers a world teeming with dramas great and small, of boredom, betrayal, distraction, discrimination, leisure and lust, meeting along the way such archetypes as the Whitehall mandarin, the Wall Street banker, the Dickensian clerk, the Japanese salaryman, the French bureaucrat and the Soviet official. In doing so, Haigh taps a rich lode of art and cinema, fiction and folklore, visiting the workplaces imagined by Hawthorne and Heller, Kafka and Kurosawa, Balzac and Wilder, and visualised from Mary Tyler Moore to Mad Men, from Network to 9 to 5-plus, of course, The Office.
Far from simply being a place we visit to earn a living, the office emerges as a way of seeing the entire world.show more