The Office and Philosophy: Scenes from the Unexamined Life (Anglais) Broché – 28 mars 2008
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Is Michael Scott in denial about death? Are Pam and Jim ever going to figure things out? Is David Brent an essentialist? Surprisingly, The Office can teach us about the mind, Aristotle, and humiliation. Even more surprisingly, paper companies can allow us to better understand business ethics. Don′t believe it? Open this book, and behold its beautiful paper...
Join the philosophical fray as we explore the abstract world of philosophy through concrete scenes of the unexamined life in The Office. You may discover that Gareth Keenan is secretly a brilliant logician, that Dwight Schrute is better off deceiving himself, that David Brent is an example of hyperreality, and that Michael Scott is hopelessly lost (but you probably already knew that!).
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Just to recap what this book is: it is an anthology of academic papers on different moral and ethical issues and situations that are brought to light in both the UK and US versions of "The Office." It is a very clever, well thought, well chosen, and well organized anthology. Please note though, that I give this book a 5 out of 5 IF you are a fan of "The Office" and IF you are a fan of intellectual discourse. If not: forget it, move on, start with the show on DVD and work your way up.
I will go out on a limb and suggest that this show will be source material for relationships, business, and society for years to come. Historians and pop culturists will find a rich vein of references and themes to mine. The various authors who contribute to this book already have tapped into its cool content. Standouts for me came from Andrew Terjesen, Sean McAleer, and David Kyle Johnson. While they attempt to position the essays in a broad philosophical light most of the insights stem from the conflicting inter-relationships. The show is a behavioural lab as it was fictionally intended to be by employing the mockumentary style.
As a marketer I enjoy when the show explores consumer behaviour which both versions do with frequency. In "Costume Contest", the sixth episode of the seventh season of the American version the plot involves a best Halloween costume contest. The prize is a discount book offering coupons from local businesses. The retail cost of the book is $40 but it offers $15,000 in savings if all coupons are redeemed. One of the characters on the show, Oscar Martinez, is an accountant who takes exception to the exuberant reaction of his colleagues to this prize.
The employees throw themselves into the contest. They produce topical and highly detailed costumes in order to best each other. The competition dominates their workday. In frustration, Oscar asks a group of them, "Everyone realizes this coupon book is not actually worth $15,000 right? You would have to spend $200,000 on crap you don't need to get $15,000 of benefits. I am not the only one who sees this right?"
Apparently, he is. The employees escalate the competition by changing and upgrading their choices of costume while strategizing how best to present them. Oscar takes another opportunity to challenge his colleagues on economics and their behavior. They aggressively rebut or outright disregard his argument. To them, the coupon book is truly a $15,000 prize. Oscar challenges this irrationality and takes it on as a crusade and opportunity to educate. He switches from his originally planned disco themed dance outfit to a very staid and generic ensemble worn by an everyman. He explains to his colleagues using air quotes that he is now a "rational consumer".
The contest commences with the participants showing off their extremely elaborate ensembles including a samurai, Lady Gaga, a mummy, Michael Moore, and a sexy nurse. Each employee casts a vote for the winning costume and to everyone's surprise Oscar wins but his victory is greeted with little enthusiasm. The show cleverly reveals that the reasons why people voted for Oscar were as irrational as their view of the prize. There are rich, layered messages here and lessons for brands and consumers alike.
The book could do with an update and I heartily volunteer to offer up an essay covering consumer behaviour called Buy Buy: The Irrational Rationality of The Office. Hey, I'm in marketing.
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