A Secret History of the Workplace

Book - 2014 | First edition
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Drawing from popular books, movies, comic strips and an abundance of management literature and business history, this surprising "secret history" shows how the white-collar world came to be, from the mid-19th century to today, and reveals what it might become.
"Man is born free, but he is everywhere in cubicles." How did we get from Scrooge's office to "Office Space"? From bookkeepers in dark countinghouses to freelancers in bright cafes? What would the world be like without the vertical file cabinet? What would the world be like without the office at all? In Cubed, Nikil Saval chronicles the evolution of the office in a fascinating, often funny, and sometimes disturbing anatomy of the white-collar world and how it came to be the way it is. Drawing on the history of architecture and business, as well as a host of pop culture artifacts -- from Mad Men to Dilbert (and, yes, The Office) -- and ranging in time from the earliest clerical houses to the surprisingly utopian origins of the cubicle to the funhouse campuses of Silicon Valley, Cubed is an all-encompassing investigation into the way we work, why we do it the way we do (and often don't like it), and how we might do better. - Publisher.
Publisher: New York : Doubleday, [2014]
Edition: First edition
ISBN: 9780345802804
Branch Call Number: 651.09 SAVAL
Characteristics: ix, 352 pages : illustrations ; 25 cm


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LPL_DirectorBrad Sep 10, 2016

Completely fascinating outlook at the development (and future obliteration?) of the office. There is a lot of smart synthesis of history, cultural studies, and examples from literature. Not just do we see the story of the creation of the office, but we are witness to the psychology of work and labor relations. I completely loved this book and look forward to discussing with co-workers what our best approach to making the most useful office space could and should be. Highly recommended!

JCLHopeH Jun 14, 2016

This was a surprisingly fun read. It's a mix of so many topics: history, architecture, gender roles, furniture, industry, social culture. Nikil Saval brings a lot of light-hearted commentary into his account of how the workplace as evolved over time. If you've ever sat behind a desk (maybe even from the Herman Miller "Action Office" product line), you're bound to find an enjoyable nugget or two in this book.

Ivan W. Taylor
Nov 06, 2014

As a life long office worker, I found this book and excellent history. There may have been a little too much discussion of architecture but I really enjoyed the sections on the history of office work and cubicles especially.

Jun 30, 2014

Synthesizes history from academics, workers, and pop culture to explain why offices are the way they are: the buildings, the furniture, and the culture. An interesting read, but not an authoritative reference source.

BCD2013 May 06, 2014

NYPL Staff Pick
There have been books about coal mines, fire houses, factory floors and schools - all interesting (and sometimes dangerous) places. But what about the office cubicle - the place, in fact, from which I’m writing this right now? Where is that book? Well, by drawing on film, popular books, comic strips and business literature, Nikil Saval has written just that book: a cultural history of the office. Cubed is an enlightening, entertaining and witty examination of the evolution of the office space.
- Wayne Roylance


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