May 15, 2014


"Jobism" is the word of the day here on Althouse. Do you know this word? I encountered it on SCOTUSblog in a piece titled: "Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes: Soldier, pragmatist, jobist, skeptic." Context:
[Legal historian G. Edward] White compared Holmes’s solitary intellectual journey as a jurist with the solitary crusade that a soldier undertakes in war.  If, White proposed, there is a connection between Holmes’s experiences as a soldier and his time as a jurist, perhaps it would be his "jobism" – a term understood as an unadvertised excellence at one’s professional duties, particularly in spite of a lack of access to knowledge of the grand strategy in which one is involved...

[Legal historian James] McPherson... maintained that Holmes valued professionalism above all else, and his objective was to make things work, rather then to advocate for particular causes or results.  White took a different approach, telling the audience that Holmes’s jobism was a “translation of the ethos of being a soldier” and doing his duty well.  However, White contended, it would go too far to say he was a pragmatist. 
My reaction to that was... well, first it was that "jobism" sounds like one of the words in the old John Lennon rap song "Give Peace a Chance." Bagism, Shagism, Dragism, Madism, Ragism, Tagism, This-ism, that-ism. But no, it's not, and really, my first reaction was to look up "jobism" in the (unlinkable) Oxford English Dictionary. There, it's an obsolete nonce-word meaning "A vehement lamentation like that of Job."
1855   J. W. Carlyle Lett. II. 268,   I am tempted to break out into Jobisms about my bad nights.
A nonce-word is "a word apparently used only 'for the nonce,' i.e. on one specific occasion or in one specific text or writer's works." So Carlyle had his nonce-word back in 1855, and perhaps Professor White has created his own entirely different nonce-word out of the same sequence of letters. But I see Urban Dictionary has 3 different definitions for "jobism" (from 2006, 2009, and 2010). All seem pretty noncy to me. Back in 2006, somebody wanted "jobism" to mean employment discrimination. In 2009, someone tried out "The belief that jobs are the only solution to poverty and other social problems." And in 2010, someone attempted: "The sub-set of 'real' rules, trends and insights that govern the day to day interaction between people in Corporate America." Elsewhere on the internet, I see someone using "jobism" to mean prejudice based on what job a person has (e.g.,  hating someone because he's a lawyer).

And here's a Talking Points Memo from October 2008 titled "McCain's Spastic Good-Jobism":

So I'm seeing lots of nonce usage of "jobism," but I think White's "jobism" has some potential to amount to an actual coinage, which is a big step up from a nonce-word, no?


Nonapod said...

I'm surprised that there hasn't been a definition related to the Biblical Job. I wonder what it would be? Maybe a "jobism" could be a unit of suffering for one's beliefs.

traditionalguy said...

Canadians come to the USA for the experience of real jobs as sort of a self esteem need. But they tell me they would never give up on Canadian Citizenship because in Canada everyone can get a job for life and no one gets fired if they go along with the Rules.

That same Nationalized sense of hope for security is all many young Americans have left under Obama-Pelosi Socialism. That is why the GOP is shrinking.It is not war on women or Gays equality. It is fear of having no job.

mccullough said...

What is a "solitary crusade in war"? War is the ultimate team sport.

President-Mom-Jeans said...

They left out "eugenicist."

tim maguire said...

It's a crappy word that should be forgotten. Closest to its logical meaning would be "employment discrimination" if used in the sense of discrimination against those who have jobs.

wildswan said...

Oliver Wendell Holmes tried to introduce involuntary forced sterilization into the US in response to pressure from the eugenicists - actually he did introduce it. Later it was shown that the woman he had sterilized was not mentally retarded but his ruling (Buck v. Bell) was incorporated into Roe v. Wade and is still therefore US constitutional law. That ruling is just sitting there like an alien life form waiting its time to break out again. I'd say Justice Holmes did not suffer from jobism. He was an arrogant social engineer, destroying the Constitution while dreaming egghead dreams. He was one of the first of his type but we haven't seen the last of them yet.

Ann Althouse said...

"Oliver Wendell Holmes tried to introduce involuntary forced sterilization into the US in response to pressure from the eugenicists - actually he did introduce it."

No, he did not. How could a judge do that? He wasn't a legislator, but someone who stood back and let legislatures do what they want. That's the OPPOSITE of the case law that supports abortion rights, and Buck v. Bell was cited in Roe for the proposition that privacy rights are LIMITED, not that they exist.

You really couldn't be more wrong.

madAsHell said...


Another -ism for the Obama administration to squelch. When will it stop?

Obama is the post-jobical president.

Mark said...

Isn't that pretty much the same thing as "Professionalism"?

I like a neologism as much as the next nerd, but not when it implicitly signals rot in the conceptual roots of a word it supplants.

Is the idea of "professionalism" really that far gone?

Ann Althouse said...


Good point. And I can't figure out if the failure to use that common word is out of a desire to be more inclusive -- beyond jobs that are professions -- or sort of elitist -- not wanting to concede that a soldier is a professional. Or maybe he wants a bew word so he can dictate a specific meaning.

Nichevo said...

You really couldn't be more wrong.
5/15/14, 3:14 PM

Easy. Be Ann Althouse.

You are correct that the justice lacks the mechanism for introducing legislation. However as the last checkpoint before a law's effect is released upon the country, he effectively either midwifes it or aborts it, so it's not really final till the justice rules.

If you wish to quibble that this is not "introducing," have at it. The more serious point made by your interlocutor, which you see fit to ignore in favor of sophistry, is that Holmes' ruling was not of the "precedent allows" or " the law reads thus" but "I think," "I want.".

"Three generations of imbeciles is enough!" In other words, "Burn it!" But he's really a humanitarian, because "nine grams" would have been even easier and cheaper.