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BEHIND THE SILICON CURTAIN: The Seductions of Work by Dennis Hayes

BEHIND THE SILICON CURTAIN: The Seductions of Work

By Dennis Hayes

Publisher: South End Press

An eloquent, inside account of trouble in the ersatz paradise of Silicon Valley. Hayes' numerous positions in Valley electronics firms, from receptionist to writer, gave him a bird's-eye view of the business and its people. So his well-researched story of the industry's rise and its current decline is warmed by personal experience and conviction. Contrary to its popular image as American industry's new Arcadia, the denizens of Hayes' Silicon Valley are work-obsessed, drug-addicted, demoralized professionals, many of whom suffer disease from on-the-job toxins, Its landscape is a horror of sterile malls, endless highways, and broken families in expensive houses. An exposÇ here of the "clean rooms," the sites of computer-chip production, will shock readers who believed horrible conditions disappeared from US workplaces after the 1930's. Discussions of the computer hackers, harried managers, and desperate entrepreneurs condemn the corporate atmosphere as alienating and lonely. Witness the husband and wife who both worked for Lockheed and were prohibited from discussing their work with each other, with the result that they separated. Tales of the escapes people use to alleviate stress, such as compulsive shopping and exercising, would be humorous if they weren't so pathetic. Hayes' crisp writing focuses clearly on human concerns, subtly raising valid questions about the direction of American society and business. More case studies of individual workers would have deepened our understanding of the malaise he describes, but, overall, the documentation and Hayes' daring in criticizing one of America's foremost industries are commendable.