1:15 – it seems to me that caring labor is best conceived as labor that is directed ultimately at maintaining or enhancing another’s freedom.
1:17 – i think we could re conceive value in creating labor not in terms of production/consumption.. but.. in care as freedom and freedom as play .. such a view is already tacit in people’s sense of social value or lack of it in their own labor.
above from 1 hr + talk by David Graeber
@davidgraeber lectures at the Collège de France. No tat here. Les Frogs certainly do things in style. Preamble in French with simultaneous translation, then DG in English https://t.co/JYjhFXWhCj #anarchism #anthropology https://t.co/hCMin5kpzD
Original Tweet: https://twitter.com/JonangusMackay/status/981561866819395585
david starts at 14 min
19 min – class of caregivers.. had problem translating into french for title.. since no word for this in french
20 min – (in 2011) 1000s holding up signs (on tumblr blogs) … we are the 99%.. about 75% were women.. even men.. engage in helping/caring professions ..
21 min – the complaints addressed were about the irony of the situation.. people over and over saying.. i wanted to do something useful w my life.. i wanted to have a job where i would actually benefit others thru my work and i found that if you want to take care of other people.. they will pay you so little and put you so much in debt that you can’t take care of your own family.. that’s the irony/contradiction of that situation that explains the anger that lay behind the movement..
this is how i first came to think about occupy.. as the revolt of the caring classes.. raised important questions about the changing organization of work and of capitalism itself.. and above all.. about what is valuable in work.. that are really important if we’re going to think about what a social movement.. what a social working class in particular.. would be under the form that capitalism currently takes
22 min – starting in 70s-80s a shift in the nature of capitalist classes.. where there had been an opposition between finance and upper echelons of corp bureaucracies.. increasingly those two classes became the same social class.. people moved back and forth between finance and corp positions.. they bureaucratized the finance at the same time as financializing corps..
23 min – so there’s a kind of new ruling class.. that ruling class in turn led to a change in the relation of state and capital.. whereby under classic capitalism.. you have just state as the guarantor of property rights thru which one can get ones profits thru making and selling things.. financialization.. increasing reliance on rent taking and the artificial creation of debt meant that the state actually played a more and more integral role in the extraction of surplus value
that is to say.. juro political means became the very means of extraction of profits.. it has become the case in american for ie.. that even in large manufacturing corps.. ie: ge, car manufactures.. actually the profits come from the financial division.. and of course finance operates entirely thru legal systems.. so the state becomes the means of extracting surpluses which means that corp bureaucracy and state bureaucracies increasingly fuse and become essentially the same thing
24 min – this was most dramatically illustrated in the too big too fail bailout i 2008.. but it’s become a basic feature of the new economic order
all of this had really profound effects on the organisation of the workforce.. popular discourse in 80s – rise of service econ.. and i think this discourse if very deceptive.. if you look at actual service providers.. in classic sense of term.. people who cut hair.. serve coffee.. the actual numbers have not changed.. remained pretty constant at 20% for the last 100 yrs.. so really no change.. there’s been a change that less of them work in private households but actual numbers about the same
25 min – what’s really changed dramatically is the number of clerical/admin/info/supervisory workers.. which just boomed.. tripled easily.. probably more than that over the last 50 yrs.. t..the remarkable thing about many of these jobs.. and this includes whole new industries like.. corp law; telemarketing; lobbying; uni admin; .. that have expanded enormously.. or created wholesale.. is that huge proportions of people who work in them.. in fact the vast majority are personally convinced that their jobs are completely pointless.. that if their jobs did not exist it would make no difference whatsoever.. this is what i refer to as bs jobs
26 min – this later is my most surprising discovery on my own research of work.. which was carried out at first in a relatively haphazard fashion.. less as part of my academic work than part of my political work.. it struck me that many of these standard justifications for capitalist inequalities basically no longer stand.. arguments based on capitalism producing rising living standards for the poor.. a growing and stable middle class.. rapid tech advance.. all of this is obviously no longer the case
in fact .. the existing order is really held together more than anything else.. by the idea that no alternative is possible.. of course.. but also by moral imperatives.. probably the two most powerful/effective of these are the morality of work and the morality of debt..t
27 min – in fact i’ve written one book on each of them trying to understand the opponents’ strengths as it were
my research on debt.. was essentially a political intervention to try to understand why it is that people universally seem feel that people who do not pay their debts.. no matter what the conditions under which the debt was contracted.. are immoral.. and that debts must be paid
but very similarly there seems to be an almost universal belief that people who don’t work harder than they really want to be working at something they don’t particularly like.. are essentially bad people and do not deserver the love/support of their communities
and this is a really powerful idea.. and it’s a really difficult thing for people to overcome when they’re doing political organizing.. this very moral impulse (has) produced really perverse and paradoxical situations.. where enormous percentages of the work force are convinced they’re employed at absolutely nothing.. were there jobs to disappear it would make no significant difference..
28 min – but at the same time.. it has not come to be seen as a social problem..
the original piece i wrote on this (on phenom of bs jobs in 2013).. was an experiment really more than anything else.. i wasn’t even sure that the premise i was setting out was true.. what i suggested was that the reason why keynes’ famous prediction that by around this time we would all be working 15 hr weeks.. never ended up coming about.. was not because what he described as tech unemployment back in 30s.. not because that hadn’t occurred.. but because it did occur but that people had essentially made-up jobs.. that our econ is org’d in such a way that we simply can’t redistribute or chose not to redistribute the available leisure hours..
29 min – and it seemed to me that this situation is extraordinarily convenient politically.. as george orwell put it: a population busy working even at completely useless occupations doesn’t have time to do much else..t
so i wrote this as a political piece.. and said.. if nothing else.. this is the reason nobody wants to do anything about the situation.. it’s awfully convenient to people in power.. i mean look at what happened in the 60s .. in 68 in fact.. where there was a relatively secure population w a certain amount of leisure time on their hands and it does seem like people were terrified at the time that robots were going to replace workers.. everyone was going to turn into hippies.. the existing social order was under terrible threat..
30 min – so perhaps this is part of the key to the question.. i was of course accused of being a conspiracy theorist in this regard.. but i thought of it more of a kind of anti conspiracy theory/speculation.. because what i was really trying to understand was not why this (so many useless jobs) happened.. but why no one did anything about it.. you’d think this would be considered a social problem.. but it’s never discussed as a social problem at all
what really surprised me after i wrote this piece.. was the reaction.. it was written as almost an experiment and i really didn’t have any idea how many of these bs jobs there really were.. but i wrote the piece in a relatively/very obscure venue.. strike magazine.. a newly founded anarchist online mag.. w/in a week.. this piece had been translated into 12 diff languages.. it went viral across the world.. i was getting messages from everywhere saying.. ie: i’m in the financial services industry i got this across my desk 20 times today.. which if nothing else.. shows people in that industry aren’t really doing very much..
31 min – before long i seeing in newspapers .. blogs.. where people were making these terrible confessions .. ie: yes it’s true.. i’m a corp lawyer.. i contribute nothing to society.. i’m miserable all the time.. this sort of thing
so i realized that something was going on.. eventually there were surveys.. and there’s been one survey based on the piece in the uk and another one in holland.. and both came up with almost identical results.. between 37-40% of all employees actually agree that their jobs are completely pointless and shouldn’t exist..
32 min – if you think about the actual number of useless employment is probably even higher.. because.. think of all the people who are cleaning the offices where people are doing nothing.. or watering the plants.. providing security and pest control.. they’re doing real work but they’re doing real work in support of nothing.. so that work could be eliminated as well.. so i think we could easily get rid of 50% of the work we do.. no ill offense..
so what are the reasons this happened..
33 min – i think they are complex.. but i think they are directly related to financialization.. i myself have coined the term managerial feudalism.. to describe the endless multiplication of intermediate levels of admin.. whether it’s the dramatic increase of admin staff in unis.. since re org ing ed on corp grounds has largely meant shifting power to a kind of faux executive class of admin.. who immediately insist.. you know if i’m an important person i should have a little army of flunkies.. 4-6 people.. who’s main job seems to be to make them look important.. but they hire them and then they figure out what they are going to do.. right.. so then they produce all sorts of forms/surveys/time-allocation-studies.. for people like me to fill out.. which leads to this sort of bs-ization of real jobs.. which is another really significant matter.. i’ve seen one survey say that about less than 1/2 of what the avg american job worker does during the day actually relates to what they consider their real work..
in addition to that.. you could think of corp middle management.. the creative industries where you have producers/curators.. all of these intermediary ranks being created between the people with the money and the people who actually do the work..t
34 min – and.. one of the really surprising things of my research.. because i ended up gathering 100s of accounts of people w bs jobs.. and the fascinating thing was the intensity of the misery and social suffering these jobs create.. the clearest indication that economistic theories are wrong.. essentially these people should be incredibly happy.. they’re getting something for nothing.. they walk in and half of them are just playing.. whatever.. distributing cat memes.. they’re getting paid good salaries and they’re utterly miserable..
they talk about psycho somatic illnesses.. terrible workplace conditions where people keep using each other.. as suffering all the more acute because there’s almost no acceptable way to talk about it .. or to even tell people why it feels bad
35 min – this raises very interesting questions also about popular theories of value.. because obviously if a worker believes that a well compensated admin position is socially worthless .. and people will talk about it as another social value.. they’ll often use that phrase.. *it means that she believes there actually is some standard for measuring worth other than the market.. in fact.. that the market can get it extraordinarily wrong
*or perhaps that we shouldn’t be measuring value
in fact not only does the market value assessment of forms of work not correspond to popular conceptions of what they actually contribute to society.. there actually seems to be an inverse relation.. and this is very important.. w few exceptions.. the principle seems to be that the more one’s work is socially useful or seen to be socially useful by the people doing it.. the more it’s recognized as helping others.. the less one is likely to be paid for it..t.. there are a few well known exceptions.. but the rule does generally hold
36 min – i should emphasize that this is not simply an effect of supply and demand.. when i first pointed this out some people said well that’s just the diamonds in water paradigm.. a matter of supply/demand dynamics.. but that’s not in fact the case.. if society really was governed by a market logic.. for ie.. the us for last few years has been experiencing an acute shortage of trained nurses and an actual glut of corp lawyers.. on the other hand.. this has really not affected the salaries that each get at all.. so supply/demand doesn’t seem to have to do w it
clearly the real reasons for the price of labor.. as actually the price of most things.. is only marginally related to the market.. they say the market determines about 20% of the price of most commodities.. and that’s probably true of jobs as well.. it’s much more a matter of institutional and class power..
37 min – but really what struck me as interesting is the degree to which so many people seem to feel.. that this was right.. that people who do socially useful work should be paid less.. there’s a kind of confusion about it.. i mean they felt bad when it happens to themselves.. but when talking in the abstract.. there did seem to be a sense that.. as a well articulated ie would be attitudes toward primary/secondary school teachers.. who it’s often said should not be paid too much money because you don’t really want people motivated primarily by money to be teaching our children.. this is seen to be extended more generally as .. not just that employers feel.. and this is increasingly true in many places.. feel that if there’s a task that anyone would conceivably do for any reason other than money.. even if it’s something like graphic design or translation work.. there should be some way they can figure out how not to have to pay for it
38 min – but there’s also a feeling that those who enjoy their work.. are able to take satisfaction in the fact that their work does indeed help others.. shouldn’t be paid.. or at least shouldn’t be paid very much.. it’s only people who are working only for the money who actually deserve to get a lot of money.. it’s almost as if the old stoic dictum.. that virtue is its own reward or should be its own reward has become a guiding principle.. of econ life
it seems to me that these sentiments have dramatic political repercussions..
i genuinely believe it’s impossible to understand the politics of austerity w/o understanding these dynamics.. so.. in the uk for ie.. we’ve had 8-9 yrs of austerity now.. which have seen effective pay cuts to almost all of those who provide immediate/obvious benefits to the public.. whether nurses, bus drivers, firefighters, railroad info booth workers, emergency medical personel…
39 min – it’s come to the point where there are full time nurses who are actually dependent on charity food banks.. yet.. creating the situation has become such a point of pride for the party in power.. parliamentarians often have been known to give out collective cheers on voting down bills which have been proposed to give nurses or even police.. a raise.. the same party.. of course.. took a notoriously indulgent view of the sharply rising compensation for city bankers who had just crashed the world econ in 2008.. yet that govt remained highly popular
there is a sense it would seem that an ethos of collective sacrifice for the common good should fall disproportionately on those who are already.. by their choice of line of work.. engaged in sacrifice for the common good
40 min – one result is that national politics in most countries.. and this result is very very insidious… have come to be org’d around a complex play of often unstated resentments.. they say that societies are increasingly held together by resentments of certain kinds..t
those stuck in bs jobs resent those sections of the working class who have traditionally productive labor or whose work clearly helps others.. ie: the strange antithesis.. the anger directed in the us against unionized auto workers.. not against auto execs.. when bailed out banks .. bankers didn’t take any pay cuts.. when bailed out auto industry.. they made the workers take a pay cut.. and there seemed to be a lot of support for this.. and people were saying: what are they getting paid $42 an hour to make cars.. there seemed to be this sense that.. you get real work.. you get to make cars.. shouldn’t that be enough for you.. you want like benefits and vacations too
41 min – similarly w teachers.. i’ve actually talked to right wing organizers who said when we started the ed campaigns we tried to target school admin but that didn’t really take.. then we started complaining about the teachers and everybody got really excited.. teachers actually teach.. it’s a rewarding activity and there seemed to be a sense that for them to demand other things as well seemed unreasonable..
so there’s a resentment on part of people who have bs jobs of people who have real/actual/productive/helping jobs
at the same time.. there is a resentment on the part of the working class.. many of whom do have real productive jobs.. for what they call the liberal elite.. and this is very dramatic in america.. why we have people like bush and then trump.. but it is a phenom that can be observed in most places..
42 min – i was wondering for years why so many working class people .. you know they don’t like rich people that much .. but.. they seem to hate intellectuals more.. and i thought about this for years.. and then i thought there’s 2 slogans that seem to most motivate people.. most effective slogans of right wing populists.. and one is.. we hate the liberal elite and the other is support to the troups.. there’s this idea that you must give unwavering loyalty to soldiers.. esp foot soldiers.. officers.. never quite so sure..
why is that.. they don’t seem to have much to do w each other.. and i suddenly realized.. it does make a certain amount of sense.. say you are an air conditioner repairman in nebraska.. you can imagine a situation which a child of yours could become rich.. it’s not very likely.. you know that.. but it could happen.. but basically there is just no way.. no matter how smart your kid is.. they will ever become drama critic for the nyt.. or an international human rights lawyer.. it’s not gonna happen.. the barriers are much much higher
43 min – on the other hand.. and if you look at the kind of jobs from which people call the liberal elite.. and from which people are locked out.. they’re basically jobs which involve the pursuit of some value other than money.. in which you do actually get well compensated.. it’s an argument about nobility.. if you look at the pursuit of truth (as in journalism) beauty (as in the arts) .. charity work.. almost anything involving values as opposed to econ value.. higher ed, literature, activism in human rights.. any of these things.. if you want to actually do that and get paid.. well there’s this whole rigamarole you have to go thru of .. uni training; unpaid internships; live in city like san fran or ny on no money for 2 years.. basically.. unless you are part of that class of people who are already doing that.. forget it.. you can’t
44 min – this is why i think hollywood has become the sort of symbol of the liberal elite.. there was a time people believed hollywood was the land of the opportunity.. i don’t know if it was true.. but it was a commonly believed idea.. ie: farm girl could go be discovered.. now you look at a movie and everybody in it has a genealogy 3 generations back of actors/producers.. inter marrying cast.. then those guys go off to claim they care about the common man.. you know .. come on.. you begin to understand right wing objections
so if you are that air conditioner repairman’s child from nebraska and you want to get well paid and benefits to do something nobel.. what can you do.. you can join the army.. that’s basically true.. so the idea.. support the troops and we had the liberal elites is actually the same concept
45 min – so these kinds of resentments.. resentment of people in bs jobs.. of professional managerial classes of working class people .. resentment of working class people for liberal elite.. and other resentments as well.. sort of hold society together and you can’t really understand the rise of right wing populism w/o that
for ie in us it becomes very much racialized.. because immigrants and african americans are among the only of working class people who aren’t anti intellectual and do see the ed system as means as advance rather than resenting it.. so it re enforces a kind of populist racism..
46 min – anyway.. the question then becomes.. how can you reconstitute working class politics in this situation ..it’s clearly a disastrous state of affairs..
but i also think that for the most part intellectuals have done an extremely poor job in analysing these dynamics.. let alone engaging in work that might contribute to supporting an effective opposition
some key elements in the picture.. such as the growth of useless employment has barely been id’d as a social problem or been the object of any sustained analysis in their own right..
so let me devote the rest of this exposition to thinking about how we might do a better job of thinking our way out of this..
i think everything really revolves around diff conceptions of value.. and i don’t think we can fully understand how we come to accept the idea of there being a moral value in useless employment and the various types of resentment that ensue about (without?) it..
47 min – crucially i think we need to consider the history of the conceptions of work in what we sometimes dubiously call the western tradition.. you go back both to the garden of eden in genesis and the hesiotic of prometheus.. they’re actually very similar.. work in either case is seen as the punishment of humans for their defiance of a devine creator.. but at same time.. work is a more modest instantiation of the devine power of creation itself.. that is.. we are both punished for defying god .. but punished by being forced to imitate god in an incredibly unpleasant way.. to wield the power of creation against our own will.. in a way guaranteed to produce misery
one could argue that this is simply a kind of poetic extrapolation on the two key defining aspects of what we have come to define as work: 1\ something we would not ordinarily wish to be doing for its own sake.. hence punishment 2\ that we do it anyway to accomplish something beyond the work itself.. creation..
48 min – but .. the fact that this something beyond the work itself should be conceived as creation is not self evident.. in fact.. it’s somewhat odd.. since after all when you think about it.. most work doesn’t really create anything.. most of it is a matter of maintaining and rearranging.. ie: a coffee cup.. produce it once and wash it a ton of times.. most of the labor we do is the washing of the cup
even work we do think of as production.. growing potatoes, forging a shovel, assembling a computer.. could just as easily be seen as tending/transforming/reshaping/rearranging materials that already exist.. this is why i would agree w prof descolad.. that our perception of consumption and our perception that work is defined by its productivity is essentially theological
49 min – judeo christian god created universe out of nothing.. something unusual in itself.. most gods work w existing materials.. but later days worshipers have come to think of themselves as cursed to imitate god in precisely that act of creating things out of nothing.. there’s a certain slight of hand involved.. i would say the way that most human labor.. which can’t be considered production in any sense.. washing/moving of cups.. is made to disappear.. and that slight of hand is largely affected thru gender
if we look at story of the fall in genesis.. we have god condemning men to till the soil.. by sweat of brow will eat your food.. and women to bear children in similar unhappy circumstances.. i will make your pains in childbearing very severe.. w painful labor you will give birth to children.. fact that it’s the same word is quite significant
50 min – male productive labor is thus being framed as the equivalent of child birth.. which from a male pov.. not so much a female one.. can be seen as close to pure creation.. appears fully formed out of nowhere.. as close to devine creation but also incredibly painful.. this conception is still w us i think in the way the social sciences speak of production and re production.. i don’t think reproduction is just a coincidence .. that’s the word we use
animalogically the word produce actually comes form the latin word which means to bring forth or to put out.. in english you can still say.. she produced a wallet from her handbag.. so get idea of factories pushing out.. and of consumption you eat it up
51 min – both terms production/reproduction based on same core metaphor 1\ jump fully formed out of factories 2\ babies jump fully formed out of women’s bodies.. and neither is actually true.. right.. but in so many patriarchal social orders.. men like to conceive of themselves as doing socially/culturally.. what they like to think of women as doing naturally
production is thus simultaneously a variation of a male fantasy of childbirth and the action of male creator god who similarly created the entire universe w the sheer power of his mind/words.. just as man sees himself as creating the world from their minds/strength/muscles.. and see that as the essence of work.. leaving to women the actual labor of tidying and maintaining things.. to make this illusion possible..
so these two elements.. work as suffering ..work as creation.. have interacted in a variety of ways over the last 2000 yrs or so.. but.. in n europe esp.. there’s a third element
52 min – i think this is typically but not correctly id’d w protestantism/puritanism.. which is a sense of work as educational self discipline/motivication.. which is subtly diff than the suffering.. its origins are actually not theological at all..
and here i think it’s crucial to understand that from at least the high middle ages onward.. n europe was characterized by a phenom often called life cycle service.. it’s surprising how rarely people talk about this.. where almost everyone.. whatever their social class was expected to spend their youth (14-28/30).. working as a paid servant in the household of someone.. generally unrelated of a slightly higher social class.. true across the social spectrum.. obviously we know about apprentices and journeymen..but it was also true of peasants.. servants in husbandry/milkmaids.. and also true in nobility.. pages/ladies-in-waiting.. royal courts had gentlemen waiters.. waiter actually comes for servants of king.. cleaning toilets and what not.. both waiting on the king and waiting for their inheritance
53 min – so wage labor was seen as a stage of life in which one devoted oneself to service but simultaneously learned the self discipline and acquired the skills/capital required to eventually marry and set up an autonomous household of one’s own.. women acquired a dowry.. men acquired a capital.. and eventually to employ servants in one’s turn
it’s no coincidence i think.. that the parts of europe where life cycle service was the norm are precisely those that did embrace protestantism.. and that the emergence of capitalist social relations in those regions was also marked by self conscious movements of social reform
54 min – it’s interesting .. as soon as capitalism emerges the bourgeoisie suddenly becomes obsessed w the manners and morality of the working classes.. they didn’t seem to care much before.. it makes a lot of sense when you consider the fact that the proletariat.. which appropriately means people who breed.. those who have children.. happens when people basically despair of ever being able to acquire the means to be a fully autonomous adult and get married.. they start marrying young and having lots of kids is seen as a social scandal..
so all these people are sort of trapped in permanent adolescence.. so there’s all these movements of social reform.. ie: puritan movement was called the reformation of manners in england.. which is essentially about teaching these people proper work discipline.. so that they can become self sustaining adults.. even though they will never become self sustaining true adults in the medieval sense of the term.. on being autonomous heads of households not dependent on others.. no longer doing wage labor
55 min – now if we examine how these three elements work together.. work as punishment/imitation-of-devine-creation/educational-self-discipline.. played off one another over course of last couple of centuries.. it becomes much easier to see how it’s become impossible for us to see the current situation.. however absurd.. as a problem..
summary of my findings
one of the remarkable things if you go thru 19th cent text is just how universally accepted the labor theory of value really became.. t
first embraced by emerging industrial bourgeoisie around the time of the industrial revolution to deploy against the aristocracy and rentie classes.. but then even more avidly by the working classes against them..
56 min – over the course of the 19th cent the labor theory of value came to be almost universally accepted in working class circles and even in politicians ie: speeches by abraham lincoln.. he sounds like a marxist.. but it took this very masculine/productivist kind of form.. perhaps not surprising considering the generalization of industrial capitalism at the time and the fact that the first workers’s struggle actually took the form of demands at male heads of household rather than women/children.. to be employed in the factories..
but in america for instance.. where industrial capitalism arrived fairly late.. they did nonetheless embrace the labor theory of value very much.. it was called the gospel of work.. however.. this productivism.. that fact that it did focus on laborous creation as opposed to other forms.. i think was its achilles heal .. because it allowed a skewed vision of what the working class actually was and what its work largely consisted of
57 min – even today.. if you invoke the term working class.. it drives up images of guys in overalls.. working on production lines.. and it’s common to hear .. otherwise intelligent middle class intellectuals say.. ‘w the decline of factory works is there really a working class anymore in countries like britain, france, america..’ as if it were somehow ingeniously constructed androids that were driving their buses, trimming their hedges, installing their cables.. or changing their grandparents bed pans..
58 min – in fact.. there never was a time most workers worked in factories.. even in the days of marx or dickens.. working class neighborhoods housed far more maids/dustmen/cooks/nurses/cabbies/teachers/prostitutes/care-takers.. than employees in coal mines.. textile mills or iron factories.. are these jobs productive..? i mean you could twist it around to say that they are but it takes a lot of work
and it’s because of such ambiguities that these issues are regularly brushed aside when people are arguing about value.. but i think doing so blinds us to the reality that most working class labor.. carried out by men or women.. course most working class people are women.. because most people are women.. looking after people.. seeing to their wants/needs.. explaining/reassuring/anticipating.. what a boss wants or is thinking.. not to mention caring-for/monitoring/maintaining plants/animals/machines and other objects.. working class labor is always involved more than hammering/carving/harvesting things
it’s this framing of labor as being basically production and particularly factory production which really allowed the ideological counter attack ..and there was a very self conscious one.. which started in the 1890s in america.. coincident w the rise of corp bureaucratic capitalism ..
59 min – which really developed in germany and america first.. carnegie led the charge .. counter posing gospel of work what he called the gospel of wealth.. and insistence that value springs from the minds of entrepreneurs.. workers are a little diff than the machines they operate.. and self realization should line out not in what work and production but in consumption
over the last century this counter attack has been so successful that when you say .. wealth creator.. at least in the english speaking world.. people just automatically assume you’re talking about rich people and not about workers.. in the 19th cent it would have been exactly the opposite..
1:00 – so this leads to the question of how to validate work.. if work is not producing value.. if you’re not supposed to find your meaning in life thru what you produce.. why work at all.. how do you tell people that work is good .. and moral.. because you still want to do that
and i think the result was a fall back on the synthesis of the work.. once you drop out the theology of creation.. you still have the theology of punishment and still have notion of work as educational/self-discipline..
and i think this explains an apparently contradictory situation.. i call it the paradox of modern work.. it’s revealed by almost every study in sociology of work.. has to grapple with the fact that every survey of work always finds the same thing:
1\ most people’s sense of dignity/self-worth is indeed caught up in working for a living.. if they’re unemployed they just lose a sense of self..
2\ most people hate their jobs.. t
so how do you reconcile these two things..
1:01 – few would seem to draw what i think is the obvious conclusion.. let people increasingly find a sense of dignity and self-worth in their jobs .. because they hate them..
as one of my own informants told me after describing how his co workers would endlessly complain to one another about overwork and office jobs in which they were in fact .. doing almost nothing.. he said.. there’s an intense pressure to value ourselves/others on the basis of how hard we work at something we’d rather not be doing.. if you’re not destroying your mind/body by paid work.. you’re just not living right..t
i would say this is more common among middle class office workers.. than among say migrant farm workers or short order chefs.. but even in the latter case.. there has been some infiltration of this new ethos.. to the degree that in working class environments.. maybe they don’t praise themselves for how much they’re miserable at their job.. but they do believe that.. people who avoid work entirely are rotten people..
1:02 – so.. we’re constantly bombarded by propaganda.. insisting society besieged (surrounded) by those that want something for nothing.. and that the poor.. often conceived in racist terms.. but not always.. are largely poor because they lack the will/discipline to work.. and that only those who have worked harder than they’d like to at something they’d rather not be doing.. preferably under a harsh task master.. deserve respect/consideration from their fellow citizens
as a result .. the sort of sadomasochistic element in work.. which many remark.. becomes ever more pronounced the more the work itself is bereft of meaning/purpose.. there’s a common theme in a lot of the accounts i got.. that *if you work at something that actually means something.. people are relatively civilized to each other.. all this kind of abusive behavior.. calling people out and screaming at people.. it’s like the more meaningless the work the more harsh the actual treatment of people is.. esp of subordinates..
1:03 – so that sadomasochist element.. rather than becoming a predictable side effect of top down chains of command in the workplace.. has actually becoming essential to what validates work itself.. suffering has become a kind of badge of economic citizenship in much the same way as having a home address..t.. w/o it you just have no right to make another claim..
to sum up.. i think bs jobs proliferate today in large part because the peculiar nature of managerial feudalism has come to dominate wealthy economies and to an increasing degree.. all economies.. i got similar accounts to places like india, egypt, brazil, .. they cause misery because human happiness is always caught up in having affects on the world.. a feeling that when most people speak of their work.. express thru a language of social value.. yet at the same time.. people are aware that the greater the social value a work seems to produce.. the less one’s likely to be paid for it..
1:04 – millions are thus faced w this terrible choice.. between doing something useful .. like taking care of children.. but being effectively told that the gratification of helping others should be its own reward and it’s up to them to figure out how to pay the bills .. or.. accepting pointless and degrading work that destroys their mind/body for no particular reason other than a widespread feeling that if one doesn’t do so.. one doesn’t deserve to live
1:05 – in the 19th cent .. the great pioneer of this conception of work i think is thomas carlisle who really talked about work as a value itself.. carlisle believed that god had intentionally left the world unfinished to allow us to partake in the devine nature of work .. in one essay.. he says that the very notion of happiness is kind of a corrupt idea.. only happiness worth troubling self about is happiness to get his work done.. all work is noble.. all dignity is painful.. a life of ease is not for any man.. our highest religion is named the worship of sorrow..
1:06 – to end on a happy note.. caring
i think the very fact that so many see work to be pointless and are so concerned about the matter.. and the indignation over the fact that people are effectively punished for seeking employment that actually helps others can be seen as marking the beginning of a reformulation of the very idea of what a working class actually is and always has been
1:07 – as marx himself pointed out in vol 3 of foreman.. which no one reads.. until the emergence of capitalism it never occurred to anyone to write a book about the conditions that created the most wealth.. they argued about the conditions that would create the best people.. even if one does see the world in productivist terms.. the production of commodities is ultimately a subordinate moment in the production of human beings .. the ultimate pathology of capitalism is actually that is sees social reproduction as an adjunct to material production rather than the other way around ..(we think we have an ed system to help the econ.. really we have an econ to help the ed system).. but increasingly .. social struggles and wealthy countries focus specifically on the terms of human production.. in the us.. the two largest employers are uni and hospitals.. which could be imagined as factories for human production..
1:08 – if you look at right wing populism.. taking direct aim at elites who control the elites.. who control hospitals.. ed system.. it’s very strategic if you think about it.. on the other hand it’s also very clear that this is (?) mainstream left in control of apparatus of human production .. as mainstream right in control of apparatus of production of material goods.. a stand off.. (taking control of unis vs taking control of industry).. neither is going to happen
1:09 – in this way situation appears to be a balance of power.. so a strategic question from left (myself).. how could the caring class staff these institutions of human production.. how could they break thru this impasse and effectively become the vehicle for what.. we call.. the recomposition of the working class as a whole
why recompose it..?
it’s certainly true that labor bubblization (?) have increasingly centered on work whose labor involves benevolent shaping of others and the maintenance of benevolence environ (hospital workers, teachers, cleaners, nursing home workers)
1:10 – one might call these the proletariat of these factories for the production of people.. and if it’s really true that digitization and robotization threaten to eliminate an increasing number of jobs.. it’s not in those sections.. and i think this is actually very interesting.. that those kinds of caring class jobs are going to become more important over time in more fields of struggle.. because there is a contradiction in what happens when you digi/robot labor.. it is true that.. if try to involve it in anything what i call caring labor in this more expansive sense.. the exact opposite happens.. helping computer understand would have to be done by human labor
and i don’t believe it could even happen.. ie: understanding
1:11 – nurses have to spend 60% of their time doing paperwork
see.. we don’t need that.. some of it.. but most of it is for insurance//B&b.. no..?
1:12 – the problem in means of social struggle is that this means the real enemies of the caring classes.. their immediate opponents.. are not their bosses.. so much as their admin.. the people who are actually forcing this digitization on them.. but in same unions..
rather.. enforcing the B&b.
1:13 – we need to transcend that very notion of production.. of human beings or otherwise.. t..and move beyond the theology of creation as suffering or otherwise
1:14 – a key aspect of caring is about the creation and maintenance of relationships and a rejection of the patriarchal ideal of autonomy.. caring is not a value.. but the prime means for creation of value..t
1:15 – (my own idio suggestion) it seems to me that caring labor is best conceived as labor that is directed ultimately at maintaining or enhancing another’s freedom..t..
what are you doing with your free dom
the existing literature tends to avoid talking about freedom too much because it sees freedom in patriarchal liberal terms essentially as autonomy and thus opposed to the notion of interdependency.. thus the opposite of caring relations.. but i don’t think that’s the only possible defn of freedom..
1:16 – marx’s vol 3: communism will mean leaving the domain of necessity for the domain of freedom.. freedom is labor/action creative or otherwise .. not as a means to an end but as an end in itself.. but action for its own sake could be considered not only the defn of freedom .. but also a very common defn of play.. an argument could be made that the principle of freedom as the expression of powers for their own sake exists on every level of physical reality and this allow us to extend caring to environ as well.. facilitating such play.. ensuring and maintaining its possibility is the ultimate aim of caring labor.. mothers take care of children.. feed/clean/protect.. in order to provide an environ which facils play.. that is the children’s freedom and also play with them themselves.. an integral part of the caring relation..(play is key to discovery but also an end to itself)
1:17 – where we have an idea of production/consumption which comes out of econ.. is embraced in most of discourses against it.. i think we could re conceive value in creating labor not in terms of production/consumption.. but.. in care as freedom and freedom as play .. such a view is already tacit in people’s sense of social value or lack of it in their own labor..t
already in us.. so..
if teased out and developed in same way theorists like marx..
2 convos as the teasing
teased out and developed occasions of productivist version of the labor of theory of value embraced by working people in his own day.. it could have profound implications for how we view every aspect of the economy .. even more perhaps if translated into a theoretical common sense in the *same way that the productivist labor theory of value was in the 19th cent.. it has potentially revolutionary implications.. in every sense of the term..
indeed.. esp perhaps if in a *diff way – ie: sans money/measuring
1:22 – only bad utopia is one utopia.. multiple utopias are great.. i’m not about telling people what economic/political system to have .. but about creating space where they can choose that for themselves..
1:29 – on ubi – good stuff (reasons against ubi have been proven wrong or less worrisome than and by what we have now.. and .. has to be unconditional.. and i think he even said *transitional)
When I was pregnant with my 4th my ex suddenly realized he should buy health ins for me because if I died, he’d need a nanny.
The cost of a nanny who didn’t do housework was almost exactly the same as his take-home pay.
Original Tweet: https://twitter.com/diygeochemist/status/1010925673769103360
interpretive labor.. et al