refusal of work
Refusal of work is behavior in which a person refuses to adapt to regular employment.
As actual behavior, with or without a political or philosophical program, it has been practiced by various subcultures and individuals. Radical political positions have openly advocated refusal of work. From within Marxism it has been advocated by Paul Lafargue and the Italian workerist/autonomists (e.g. Antonio Negri, Mario Tronti), the French ultra-left (e.g. Échanges et Mouvement); and within anarchism(especially Bob Black and the post-left anarchy tendency
The concept of wage slavery
Wage slavery refers to a situation where a person’s livelihood depends on wages, especially when the dependence is total and immediate.. rt..
from harold‘s quoted tweet
It is a negatively connoted term used to draw an analogy between slavery and wage labor, and to highlight similarities between owning and employing a person. The term ‘wage slavery’ has been used to criticize economic exploitation and social stratification, with the former seen primarily as unequal bargaining power between labor and capital (particularly when workers are paid comparatively low wages, e.g. in sweatshops), and the latter as a lack of workers’ self-management. The criticism of social stratification covers a wider range of employment choices bound by the pressures of a hierarchical social environment (i.e. working for a wage not only under threat of starvation or poverty, but also of social stigma or status diminution).
earn a living ness
Similarities between wage labor and slavery were noted at least as early as Cicero.….Historically, some labor organizations and individual social activists, have espoused workers’ self-management or worker cooperatives as possible alternatives to wage labor.
Paul Lafargue and The Right to be Lazy
The Right to be Lazy is an essay by Cuban-born French revolutionary MarxistPaul Lafargue, written from his London exile in 1880. The essay polemicizes heavily against then-contemporary liberal, conservative, Christian and even socialist ideas of work. Lafargue criticizes these ideas from a Marxist perspective as dogmatic and ultimately false by portraying the degeneration and enslavement of human existence when being subsumed under the primacy of the “right to work”, and argues that laziness, combined with human creativity, is an important source of human progress.
…And so he says “Proletarians, brutalized by the dogma of work, listen to the voice of these philosophers, which has been concealed from you with jealous care: A citizen who gives his labor for money degrades himself to the rank of slaves.” (The last sentence a quote from Cicero.)
Raoul Vaneigem, important theorist of the post-surrealist Situationist International which was influential in the May 68 events in France, wrote The Book of Pleasures. In it he says that “You reverse the perspective of power by returning to pleasure the energies stolen by work and constraint … As sure as work kills pleasure, pleasure kills work. If you are not resigned to dying of disgust, then you will be happy enough to rid your life of the odious need to work, to give orders (and obey them), to lose and to win, to keep up appearances, and to judge and be judged.”
Autonomist philosopher Bifo defines refusal of work as not “so much the obvious fact that workers do not like to be exploited, but something more. .. More simply he states “Refusal of work means … I don’t want to go to work because I prefer to sleep. But this laziness is the source of intelligence, of technology, of progress. Autonomy is the self-regulation of the social body in its independence and in its interaction with the disciplinary norm.”
André Gorz ..His central theme was wage labour issues such as liberation from work, the just distribution of work, social alienation, and a guaranteed basic income.
The Abolition of Work, Bob Black’s most widely read essay, draws upon the ideas of Charles Fourier, William Morris, Herbert Marcuse, Paul Goodman, and Marshall Sahlins. In it he argues for the abolition of the producer- and consumer-based society, where, Black contends, all of life is devoted to the production and consumption of commodities. Attacking Marxist state socialism as much as market capitalism,
Black argues that the only way for humans to be free is to reclaim their time from jobs and employment, .. t ..
instead turning necessary subsistence tasks into free play done voluntarily – an approach referred to as “ludic”. The essay argues that “no-one should ever work”, because work – defined as compulsory productive activity enforced by economic or political means – is the source of most of the misery in the world. ..He views the subordination enacted in workplaces as “a mockery of freedom”, and denounces as hypocrites the various theorists who support freedom while supporting work. Subordination in work, Black alleges, makes people stupid and creates fear of freedom. Because of work, people become accustomed to rigidity and regularity, and do not have the time for friendship or meaningful activity. Most workers, he states, are dissatisfied with work (as evidenced by petty deviance on the job), so that ..
what he says should be uncontroversial; however, it is controversial only because people are too close to the work-system to see its flaws..t
jobless law et al
Play, in contrast, is not necessarily rule-governed, and is performed voluntarily, in complete freedom, as a gift economy. He points out that hunter-gatherer societies are typified by play, a view he backs up with the work of Marshall Sahlins; he recounts the rise of hierarchal societies, through which work is cumulatively imposed, so that the compulsive work of today would seem incomprehensibly oppressive even to ancients and medieval peasants.
h g ness
He responds to the view that “work,” if not simply effort or energy, is necessary to get important but unpleasant tasks done, by claiming that first of all, most important tasks can be rendered ludic, or “salvaged” by being turned into game-like and craft-like activities, and secondly that the vast majority of work does not need doing at all. The latter tasks are unnecessary because they only serve functions of commerce and social control that exist only to maintain the work-system as a whole.
The anti-work ethic states that labor tends to cause unhappiness, therefore, the quantity of labor ought to be lessened. The ethic appeared in anarchist circles and have come to prominence with essays such as In Praise of Idleness and Other Essays by Bertrand Russell, The Right to Useful Unemployment by Ivan Illich, and The Abolition of Work by Bob Black, published in 1985.
The Idler is a bi-yearly Britishmagazine devoted to promoting its ethos of “idle living” and all that entails. It was founded in 1993 by Tom Hodgkinson and Gavin Pretor-Pinney with the intention of exploring alternative ways of working and living.
Refusal of Work in Practice
The term slacker is commonly used to refer to a person who avoids work (especially British English), or (primarily in North American English) an educated person who is viewed as an underachiever.
NEET is an acronym for the government classification for people currently “Not in Employment, Education or Training”. It was first used in the United Kingdom but its use has spread to other countries, including Japan, China, and South Korea.
“Freeters” and parasite singles
Freeter (フリーターfurītā) (other spellings below) is a Japanese expression for people between the age of 15 and 34 who lack full-time employment or are unemployed, excluding homemakers and students. They may also be described as underemployed or freelance workers. These people do not start a career after high school or university but instead usually live as so-called parasite singles with their parents and earn some money with low skilled and low paid jobs.
The word freeter or freeta was first used around 1987 or 1988 and is thought to be an amalgamation of the English word free (or perhaps freelance) and the German word Arbeiter (“worker”).
Parasite single (パラサイトシングル, parasaito shinguru) is a Japanese term for a single person who lives with their parents until their late twenties or early thirties in order to enjoy a carefree and comfortable life. In English, the expression “sponge” or “basement dweller” may sometimes be used.
The expression is mainly used in reference to Japanese society, but similar phenomena can also be found in other countries worldwide. In Italy, 30-something singles still relying on their mothers are joked about, being called Bamboccioni (literally: grown-up babies) and in Germany they are known as Nesthocker (German for an altricial bird), who are still living at Hotel Mama.
Such behaviour is considered normal in Greece, both because of the traditional strong family ties and because of the low wages.
A vagrant is a person in a situation of poverty, who wanders from place to place without a home or regular employment or income. Many townsin the developed world have shelters for vagrants. Common terminology is a tramp or a ‘gentleman of the road’.
Laws against vagrancy in the United States have partly been invalidated as violative of the due process clauses of the U.S. Constitution. However, the FBI report on crime in the United States for 2005 lists 24,359 vagrancy violations.
Cynicism (Greek: κυνισμός), in its original form, refers to the beliefs of an ancient school of Greek philosophers known as the Cynics (Greek: Κυνικοί, Latin: Cynici). Their philosophy was that the purpose of life was to live a life of Virtue in agreement with Nature. This meant rejecting all conventional desires for wealth, power, health, and fame, and by living a simple life free from all possessions. They believed that the world belonged equally to everyone, and that suffering was caused by false judgments of what was valuable and by the worthless customs and conventions which surrounded society. The first philosopher to outline these themes was Antisthenes, who had been a pupil of Socrates in the late 5th century BCE. .. The name Cynic derives from the Greek word κυνικός, kynikos, “dog-like” and that from κύων, kyôn, “dog” (genitive: kynos). It seems certain that the word dog was also thrown at the first Cynics as an insult for their shameless rejection of conventional manners, and their decision to live on the streets. Diogenes, in particular, was referred to as the Dog.
the dog.. who we’ve domesticated
In Hinduism, sadhu is a common term for a mystic, an ascetic, practitioner of yoga (yogi) and/or wandering monks. The sadhu is solely dedicated to achieving the fourth and final Hindu goal of life, moksha (liberation), through meditation and contemplation of Brahman. Sadhus often wear ochre-colored clothing, symbolizing renunciation.
“Hobos”, “tramps”, and “bums”
A hobo is a migratory worker or homeless vagabond, often penniless. The term originated in the western—probably northwestern—United States during the last decade of the 19th century. Unlike tramps, who worked only when they were forced to, and bums, who didn’t work at all, hobos were workers who wandered.
In British English and traditional American English usage, a tramp is a long term homeless person who travels from place to place as an itinerant vagrant, traditionally walking or hiking all year round.
While some tramps may do odd jobs from time to time, unlike other temporarily homeless people they do not seek out regular work and support themselves by other means such as begging or scavenging. This is in contrast to:
- bum, a stationary homeless person who does not work, and who begs or steals for a living in one place.
- hobo, a homeless person who travels from place to place looking for work, often by “freighthopping”, illegally catching rides on freight trains
- Schnorrer, a Yiddish term for a person who travels from city to city begging.
Both terms, “tramp” and “hobo” (and the distinction between them), were in common use between the 1880s and the 1940s. Their populations and the usage of the terms increased during the Great Depression.
Like “hobo” and “bum,” the word “tramp” is considered vulgar in American English usage, having been subsumed in more polite contexts by words such as “homeless person” or “vagrant.” In colloquialAmerican English, the word “tramp” can also mean a sexually promiscuous female or even prostitute.
Tramps used to be known euphemistically in England and Wales as “gentlemen of the road.”
Tramp is derived from the Middle English as a verb meaning to “walk with heavy footsteps”, and to go hiking. Bart Kennedy, a self-described tramp of 1900 US, once said “I listen to the tramp, tramp of my feet, and wonder where I was going, and why I was going.”
A gutter punk is a homeless or transient individual, often through means of freighthopping or hitchhiking. Gutter punks are often juveniles who are in some way associated with the anarcho-punk subculture. In certain regions, gutter punks are notorious for panhandling and often display cardboard signs that make statements about their lifestyles. Gutter punks are generally characterized as being voluntarily unemployed.
adding page while reading David (@theworkdogma) Frayne’s 2015:
the work dogma
we might say that the appeal of the autonomists was not just to the injustices of exploitation, but also to he worker’s diminished sensory experience of the world.
for today’s students, who find themselves pushed thru an ed system focused largely on socializing the young for a future job role, to read these critiques is to receive an ed in desire, and a reminder that time could be spent differently.. .. whilst important issues like pay inequalities and poor working conditions are still discussed, it is rarer for social commentators to question the ethical status of work itself..t
their (popular critiques as self help books) mistake has been to approach the domination fo work as primarily a problem of individual habits,
conventionally, govts have treated economic growth and life satisfaction as one and the same thing, measuring both of these via .. gdp.. total amount of earning/spending in a given year.. it is tacitly accepted that rising gdp indicate overall improvement in national prosperity
aristotle suggested humans flourish when they live wisely, justly, and in harmony w the world.. according to his notion of eudaemonia..
what most people crave is more free time and a greater investment in the social aspects of life, but a growing awareness of this fact has done very little to upset the mainstream political agenda.. t
the ethical superiority of work seems almost untouchable.. t.. paid jobs continue to be promoted as a vital source of good health and character, the media continues obsessively to demonise the nonworking ‘scrounger’ and an old fashioned work ethic maintains its anchorage in policies designed to force people of welfare and into employment..
my central goal in this book is to argue that the time has come to challenge the work centred nature of modern society.. t.. as it stands, work represents a highly naturalised and taken for granted feature of everyday life..
gratifying *work is a fantasy that we have all been trained to invest in, ever since our teachers/parents asked us what we wanted to ‘be’ **when we grew up, yet most of us are confronted w ***scant opportunities to consolidate our ambitions in the world of paid employment – a world whose signature features are often drudgery, subordination and exhaustion..
***let’s try our cure ios cities..
as the ethic of hard work tightens its grip once again, *employability becomes the motivating force of our ambitions, interactions and ed system.. a side effect of this is that we, as a society, may be losing our grip on the criteria that **judge an activity to be worthwhile and meaningful, even it it does not contribute to employability or the needs of the economy. ***those activities and relationships that cannot be defended in terms of an economic contribution are being devalued and neglected..
rather… assuming we need to **judge anything
even beyond ie: ***interpretive labor.. we need to go sans money and get back to our undisturbed ecosystem: ‘in undisturbed ecosystems ..the average individual, species, or population, left to its own devices, behaves in ways that serve and stabilize the whole..’
the storm may be rising, but the work dogma still huddles safely in its bunker..
between 2009-2014 i spent time w a range of people who were taking significant steps to reduce the presence of work in their lives.. overall, were these people successful..? over the course of the book we will see that resisting work does carry significant financial and psychological risks.. this is definitely not another one of those sugary books that tells its readers they can lead richer and freer lives by doing more of x and less of y..
in ch 3 – the colonisation of our lives by economic demands – to work, to recover from work, to spend income, to cultivate employability – leaves a dwindling segment of life free for activities whose value transcends the economic..
ch 4 – exploring the ways in which the work ethic continues to militate against the possibility of re evaluating work..t
ch 7 – half a person brings the investigation to a close by examining the experiences of shame and isolation that can arise w attempts to resist work..t
final ch – from escapism to autonomy.. i suggest that a transition to a less work centred existence could represent a more robust and authentic form of freedom than the superficial escapes and liberties granted to us by the present social system..
escape from freedom et al
the question that hangs in the balance, however, is whether people’s growing disenchantment w work can be harnessed and developed into a genuine political alternative..
1 – a provocation
studs terkel: this book (working), being about work, is, by its very nature, a book about violence – to the spirit as well as the body.. it is, above all (or beneath all), about daily humiliations..t
His 1974 book, Working, in which (as reflected by its subtitle) People Talk About What They Do All Day and How They Feel About What They Do, also was highly acclaimed. Working was made into a short-lived Broadway show of the same title in 1978 and was telecast on PBS in 1982. I
the book talks about coping strategies people use to get thru day or work.. as well as people who are in flow (ie: piano tuner) at work .. this pleasure unfamiliar to most people
terkel: the jobs are not big enough for people’s spirits..
it may feel like there is little incentive to reflect critically on work from a position where most of us, irrespective of our attitudes towards work, are pretty much obliged to perform it anyway..t
the connection between identity and occupation is forged from a young age..t
this moralisation of work has been enshrined in the latest social policies.. a key function of the state..t
in this book i will follow andre gorz’s observation that the prevailing cultural understanding of ‘work’ in modern capitalist societies is that it is an activity carried out for a wage.. ‘work in the economic sense’ vs ‘working for ourselves’
third category via gorz: ‘autonomous activities’ self-initiated and stem from a conscious choice which nothing forces the person to make.. pursue the good, true, beautiful, as defined by the subject performing them.. can’t be measured..
for rest of book.. i will use ‘work’ ‘labour’ and ’employment’ interchangeably .. to refer to the phenom of paid work.. it is important to make this distinction here, in order to recognise from the outset that the critique of work does not amount to a refusal of productive activity in any general sense..
in 1883.. paul lafargue (son in law of marx).. wrote.. the right to be lazy.. reference to the ‘delusions’ of workers and their apparently crazy desire for work… i would suggest that to work diligently is not necessarily to labour under a delusion.. via social system.. working is often the only way most people can meet their needs.. material and psychological.. attempts to live w/o work.. often carry significant financial and psychological risks
to speak of the ‘delusions’ of workers, as lafargue did, is to pull the critique in the wrong direction.. .. not a critique of workers.. not a set of judgements about attitudes of workers..
second contentious element of lafargue’s is his title’s reference to a right to be lazy.. .. critique of work is not a defence to laziness.. but because obligation to paid employment so often precludes the possibility of engaging in activities that are genuinely creative, collaborative and useful..
indulgence and escapism, far from being cultural taboos, are relentlessly encouraged in modern capitalist societies, but always w the drawback that their enjoyment requires us to heighten our commitment to work. in this account, mass consumption has not killed the work ethic but simply augmented it, taking the place of religion as society’s chief distraction from work’s more troubling realities..t
escape from freedom ness
what really defines gorz’s thinking is its unswerving commitment to human freedom.. the right of each person to his/her own autonomous self development
underlying coherence of gorz’s project lies in his promotion of a politics of time.. what should be done w the time being saved by these gains in productivity.. unless humans can acquire the scope to direct them towards humane, societal ends, the savings in free time provided by capitalism’s productive development are essentially meaningless…. a politics of time is necessary because ‘the development of the productive forces may, of itself, reduce the amount of labour that is necessary .. but it cannot, of itself, create the conditions of which will make this liberation for them a liberation for all.. for gorz, the purpose of a policy of shorter hours should be to channel the free time saved .. to humane ends..
graeber bs jobs
graeber’s bs jobs
all these things require us to accept an alt vision of human progress and felicity, based on non material goods such as well being, free time and the right to realise our human capacities..t.. all these require a radical departure from the outdated thinking which accepts that the prosperity of a developed country can still be measured in terms of economic growth
2 – working pains
in many modern workplaces, computer techs are not used to enhance the worker’s capacities, but to enforce new extremes of work intensification and control..t
the humanisation of the working day may bring its own superficial pleasures, but it certainly does not guarantee that the job will serve humane, socially valuable ends
if modern forms of work invite us to be active, expressive and collaborative, we are only invited to be these things w/in the confines of the goals that the company has set for us.. t
same w school.. et al
even if work is pleasant, it will still usually confine us to a prescribed and delimited role w/in the economic system, silencing those parts of ourselves that do not serve our allotted position in the capitalist process of production. .t..the term role itself ‘borrowed from the domain of the theatre, suggests that the existence foisted upon people by society is identical neither w people as they are in themselves nor w all that they could be – adorno, 2001
begs means to hear all the (authentic) voices.. everyday
renata salecl: there will always be something w/in him that cannot be defined by an external identity..t
3 – the colonising power of work
andré gorz: economic rationality has no room for authentically free time which neither produces nor consumes commercial wealth..t
this chapter: leisure, or more precisely, why we seem to have so little leisure, and why the leisure time we do have is so often suffused w a sense of responsibility and anxiety.. the degradation of leisure needs to be understood as a symptom of the broader tendency of economic demands to colonise everyday life..t
theodor adorno: free time is not free at all, but a mere ‘continuation of the forms of profit oriented social life’ .. t.. – 1970 essay free time
by draining people’s physical and mental energies, work that is alienating ensure that much of he worker’s non work time is spent winding down, retreating to escapist forms of entertainment, or consuming treats which compensate for the day’s travails..
adorno: free time is not really free at all, so long as it remains guided by the forces that people are trying to escape..t
true leisure.. that sweet oasis of unmediated life in which people detach from economic demands and become genuinely free for the world and its culture.. adorno argues that it is the degraded form – free time, rather than true leisure.. which prevails in affluent societies.. in this degraded free time.. the self defined activities performed outside employment tend to be restricted to ‘hobbies’: trifling activities performed in order to pass the meagre time which is our own.. adorno passionately rejected the term hobby, believing that it trivializes the value of unpaid activities..
same w after school ness
adorno: i have no hobby.. as far as my activities beyond the bound of my recognised profession.. i take them all, w/o exception, very seriously.. making music, listening to music, reading w all my attention.. thee activities are part and parcel of my life; th call them hobbies would make a mockery of them..
adorno often charged w elitism for adopting a rather militant distinction between high/low culture.. ie: his music classical.. not defending that.. but rather. significance in broader point about siege on people’s time..
the point is not that drinking wine or watching tv are ‘low’ activities, but that the worker has been deprived of the time and energy to choose otherwise..
the concern here is that the enjoyment of life is increasingly being subordinated to personal cultivation for the labour market..
the discipline demanded by employability is continuous and requires a constant self policing.. employability represents a ‘decentred’ form of exploitation that people are forced to submit to in an almost voluntary fashion..t
perhaps nowhere is the colonisation of life by work related demands more evident and disconcerting than in the mainstream ed system..t
ed, *defined in the broadest possible sense, has the capacity to deliver a wide range of personal and public benefits..
*only if we let go enough for it to be equity: everyone getting a go everyday.. so.. not an ed system..
ed might also *teach the broad sets of practical skills that people require in order to become mire empowered, less dependent
see.. that’s not in the broadest sense.. teach skills that are required? .. no train man
this is same eliteness you sense in adorno
all of these are *valid and valuable goals for educator, yet the most widely accepted goal of ed today is the much narrower one of stratifying the population into groups of **employees, preparing and certifying young people for the assumption of a work role..
like.. a **teacher.. ?
russell is among a number of radical authors who have defended the value of abroad and general ed, rather than a narrower one, geared towards the prep and certification of students for work
another supporter .. was erich from. who made an illuminating distinction between learning in the ‘having’ mode and learning in the ‘being’ mode.. the pressures of employability may be encouraging students to approach their learning in the having mode.. the main context of learning is anxiety..
at present, the kind of broad ed that russell describes tends to be closeted in unis, or confined to the more privileged members of society – groups of people who can study freely because they are unrestricted by the urgent need to make a living..
furthermore ..student debt..may be tying young people to need to earn, long before they have had a chance to reflect on the trade off between the benefits of a good income and the sacrifices of work.. in exchange for *knowledge and credentials, students agree to a debt that will end up regulating their actions and shackling them to a future obligation to work..
long before they realize that paying for ed is not a necessity.. ie: starts when they are 5.. getting prep’d for capitalistic/marketed/whatever ness..
like the competitive graduate, the indebted graduate is more easily cajoled into doing more for less, making him ideal fodder for the thousands of unpaid internships available in today’s labour market, many of which offer no guarantee of skills development or future employment
going deeper.. the fact that they/we are now looking for skills development for future employment .. no..?
ultimately the pressures of employability are bringing to fruition max horkheimer’s lamentation on the ‘loss of interiority’ in advance capitalist societies: societies in which ‘the wings of the imagination have been *clipped too soon’, as individuals are increasingly forced to adopt a more **practical and instrumental orientation to the world and others..
only those wings should never be *clipped.. and it’s definitely not more **practical/instrumental..
a side effect of this loss of interiority is that we as a society may be losing our grip on the criteria that judge an activity to be worthwhile and meaningful, even if it does not contribute directly to the project of employability or the needs of the economy..
wtf..? i don’t get how you’re saying that..?
gorz: when am i truly myself.. not a tool or the product of outside powers and influences
in a society where non work is often merely an extension of work – time for recupe, consuming anaesthetising products, or sensibly cultivating one’s employability – i contend that this question has become worryingly difficult to answer.. t
it seems that prediction for a reduction of work, from keynes and others, had drastically overlooked the extent to which the agents of capitalism would force us to accept the dividend of growing productivity not in the form of more leisure time, but in the form of more consumption..the story of capitalism in the 20th cent and beyond was thus not to be a story about the liberation of humans from the need to work; it would instead be a story about the creation of an enormous range of dubious, previously unnecessary work tasks, based around the manufacture, distribution and marketing of disposable consumer goods..
hunnicutt 1988: leisure was seen to be valuable, not because it perfected work or led to higher things, but because it was helpful in promoting consumption and more employment.. productivity was valued, not because it reduced the burden of working , but because it allowed industry to progress to new frontiers of goods and services..
hunnicutt’s account of the abandonment of shorter hours in favour of the gospel of consumption allows us to clearly see capitalism for what it really is: a system which aims to produce needs rather than satisfy them once and for all.. t.. the ongoing challenge that the market always faces is to keep consumers wanting and desiring
marx: not of adjusting supply to demand, but demand to supply (gorz)..t
hunnicutt quotes charles kettering, director of the general motors research lab, who admitted as much when he said that the aim of businesses must be the ‘organised creation of dissatisfaction’ (kettering, 1929)..t
in gorz’s phrasing, capitalism’s’ stakeholder would set out to promote a cultural ethos of ‘the more the better’ undermining people’s ability to decide and stick to their own defn’s of sufficiency (gorz 1989)
tweet while reading:
@JonMalesic I wonder if a job guarantee also constitutes bad faith – a lack of belief that people could self-organise productive activities outside the economic sphere, if they were just given time, UBI and decent civic spaces
Original Tweet: https://twitter.com/TheWorkDogma/status/989144291275628544
yes.. bad faith.. so too ubi.. unless it’s designed as temp placebo..
justin lewis has referred to modern capitalism as ‘the insatiable age'” an age that is ‘oozing w gratification and yet underpinned by a permanent discontent’
the boundless desire for consumer goods has become one of western societies’ hallmark features. the question we are left w is how. how has the capitalist system persuaded us to sacrifice the fight for shorter working hours and more leisure time to a desire for more stuff? what is it that motivates consumer spending today.. perhaps most obvious answer is advertising..
actually.. it’s that we have neglected our basic needs..
perhaps a more accurate way of understanding modern advertising is not as something which produces false needs, but as something that strives to promote commodified means of meeting true needs.. like social acceptance, respect, self esteem and cultural identity.. trying to persuade us that these things can be purchased..
let’s go deeper – 2 needs
in world of adverts.. a clothing range that donates a portion so fits profits to charity not only will see you dressed smartly, but will also help you show the world that you are an ethically conscious consumer
kate soper recalls the aftermath of 9/11 and the ways in which american consumers were beckoned by the govt to shop ‘patriotically’.. pleas for people to stop mourning and start shopping.. a remarkable reminder of the dependency of corp power on the people’s loyalty to consumerism (soper 2008).. when trying to understand what motivates consumers, we need to take this on board.. we do not need to resort to an account of the consumer as a manipulated dope in order to accommodate the idea that capitalism is a system which manufactures needs..
kim humphery proposes we can come to an enlightened understanding of what motivates consumers by observing the various ways in which the market has come to encircle us.. making it feel difficult or unnatural to meet many needs w/o recourse to spending..t
humphery’s idea of encirclement is faithful to gorz’s suggestion that most consumer transactions are not produced by the hidden persuasions of advertising but are actually best understood as obligatory, or made objectively necessary by capitalism.. as far as the production of needs is concerned gorz argued that advertising and other techniques of cultural persuasion are just the icing on the cake, operating on people who are already compelled to consume due to the alienation of labour.. this is to say that participating in paid employment, as well as allowing us to fund our consumption w income, also tends to encourage us to spend our money.. the full time working week encourages spending because it tends to devour people’s time and energy, resourcing them w cash, but depriving them of the capacity for autonomy and self production (lodziak 2002)
gorz: spending might be explained as an effort to find solace and compensation for misery at work
luxury goods provide consolation for the ‘unmet needs of the spirit’ – soper
consumer motivations.. not the consumer’s materialism, simple mindedness, or narcissistic hunger for distinction.. but the gradual reshaping of society’s conventions, temporal rhythms, and built environments in ways which construct commodity intensive lifestyles as the norm
gorz: people produce none of the things they consume, and consume none of the things they produce..
losziak: children are no longer surrounded by adults who have the time, energy and know how to do things for themselves.. ..’you work to earn money in order to buy the things you needs/want’
4 – the stronghold of work
russell: the joys of idleness have been unjustly confined to an elite class of other people’s labour. against this tendency, russell believed that leisure was a privilege that ought to be extended to everybody
the biggest obstacle to he expansion of leisure, according to russell, was society’s stubborn attachment to the belief that paid work is a noble duty.. his call for the expansion of leisure ‘shocks the well do to who have historically doubted the ability of the poor to use their leisure time wisely (russell 2004)
hunnicutt in work w/o end.. in the 1920s when shorter working hours seemed like an increasingly realistic possibility, business leaders reacted by developing prowork propaganda, convincing people that paid employment was a fundamental human need: work as joy, dignity, that tired feeling, developer of character.. et al
in all its forms the work ethic has promoted ‘the identification w and systematic devotion to waged work, the elevation of work to the centre of life and the affirmation of work as an end in itself’ – kathi weeks, the problem w work 2011 p 46
in today’s affluent societies, holding down a job is still commonly heralded as a signal of independence maturity and good character, and hard work continues to represent a proper way of living and proof of a commitment to the prosperity of one’s nation
cameron 2010: this is a govt for the hard working people
imogene tyler: issues such as poverty and workless ness continue to be framed by govt as cultural or behavioral issues – ‘culturalisation of poverty’.. poverty becomes regarded as a deserved result of poor self management
in this new framing, society’s main enemies are no longer the structural pathologies of inequality , job scarcity and the dearth of attractive jobs, but the personal pathologies inherent in a so called culture of laziness, entitlement and dependency.. aside from personal misery and stigmatisation .. perhaps biggest crime of these cultural explanations is that they keep society’s more structural or systemic issues off the table..
not to mention.. job scarcity .. any jobs.. are part of the disturbance.. not the thing we need to be fixing..
yet even when conducted w the best, humanistic intentions, some strands of this research (sociology) may have unwittingly reinforced the work ethic, in so far as researchers have treated work unquestioningly, as a normal or natural state form which the unemployed person deviates..t
i credit this insight to matthew cole, who has suggested that aside effect of sociological research on unemployment has often been to reinforce the notion of employment as synonymous w a normal, healthy state of being..t
the analytic simplicity of the deprivation model may have a certain appeal but this is also the main source of its problems.. ie: the suffering of the unemployed is taken as evidence that paid work must rep a remedy..
the claim that paid employment is ‘good for us’ is completely w/o context. it is pure ideology..t
in contemporary capitalism, the notion of a public life has become so synonymous w paid work that it has indeed become difficult to imagine other ways in which a person might transcend the isolation of a purely private existence.. no practical alt
and an alt that 7 bn people can leap to.. otherwise.. that isolation still exists.. and the sync is off..
contrary to the convictions of the deprivation model, there is nothing in the human’s innate psychological make up that makes it necessary for him/her to be a paid employee..t
earn a living ness
what if income could be decoupled from work.. financial security..t
what if life could be restored to an undisturbed ecosystem.. sans money/measure..? imagine that..
and what if there were a range of ways to earn respect as a citizen other than thru performance of paid work
what if earning respect was irrelevant
what if a growing abundance of free time gave rise to a flourishing infra of informal social networks and autonomously org’d production..t
the deprivation model must be treated w caution because it draws boundaries around our imaginative capacities..t hamper our ability to think beyond the work centred society.. there might be other ways to meed the needs conventional satisfied (or left unsatisfied, as the case may be) thru paid employment
a consistent them in the works of gorz is the idea that there exists an active, if often unexpressed, disenchantment w work in advance industrial societies..
whilst these critics are confident about the cultural resonance of their ideas, however, it is fair to say that discussion of contemporary refusal and rebellion have tended to remain on the vague side.. my goal in the remainder of the book is to take a tentative step towards remedying this situation..
5 – the breaking point
instead of being grateful that unreflective accommodation allows time to pass, helps us to get thru the day, we become disturbed by the ways in which we can allow ourselves to be swept along so easily by the mundane, the trivial, the readily predictable.. this is the experience we call boredom, monotony, tedium, despair (cohen and taylor, 1992)
adam: if you don’t really know why you’re doing it (job) .. not to know is to admit that you’re wasting your life.. adam said he liked to gently provoke people into clarifying their reasons for working but identified this as an uncomfortable or taboo area of convo: they’re quite happy to talk about other things and engage in small talk but no one really want to talk about these deep issues..
small talk ness
the need to be employed was no longer accepted as a natural law or feature of human nature, but instead represented an object ripe for critical attention .. they (interviewees) spoke out against the prescriptive world of timetables, duties, routines and rules ..t
eleanor chose not to discuss her experience at length. her inability to articulate the experience seemed to frighten or at the very least somewhat embarrass her
matthew: it was so amazing to be walking around, then playing football, and then having the really deep chats. it completely changed me. you just get a taste of what life could be like..
whilst the people i met over the course of my research were highly critical of work, this is not to say that they had successfully escaped its grip
6 – alternative pleasures
he (zygmunt) describes the ‘new poor’ whose suffering in the midst of affluence is twofold: not only deprived of material needs but also excluded from cultural life..
whilst it is important to recognise the material limits to working less, we can also observe the possibility of meeting needs in less conventional ways, outside the realm of exchange relations, and the capacity of people to formulate their own ideas of pleasure, beauty, sufficiency and well being in order to circumvent the pressure to consume.. (bowring, 2000).. t
schor observes that ‘downshifters have experienced a change in which time and the quality of life become relatively more important than money.. (schor 1998)..t
they have decided that they are not prepared to sacrifice their time to working, simply so that they can buy more commodities..
the personal sacrifices involved in earning a wage..
earn a living ness
finn bowring argues that shame is the main marketing tools in advertising.. tries to make us feel ashamed of who we are and what we have..t
consuming less is not necessarily about resigning to the miserable realities of a lower income, but can also be about engaging positively in a process of autonomous reflection on the nature of needs…. trying to live w a greater degree of intention and self control.. feeling less ensnared by the misery and guilt of compulsive shopping.. being less pliable in hands of advertisers…. questioning some of affluent society’s’ most basic assumptions about the nature of wealth, enjoyment and sufficiency..
when free time is scarce it can also become tense and fraught, and w/o time to spare it becomes increasingly tempting to approach leisure w the same sense of efficiency and productivity as we approach our work.. the appeal of a futuristic products such as the xbox one is that promises to tightly schedule our fun..t
the overall point of staffan linder’s book.. written back in 1970, was that affluent societies had reached a situation in which leisure time had stopped being leisurely..t
harried leisure: surrounded by .. netflix account bursting w viewing choices.. fridge full of ingredients that need to be cooked before they go bad.. .. in my less busy periods these are sources of much pleasure, but when i am too busy to enjoy them, they are nothing but sources of frustration.. the possessions of the harried leisure class can all too easily become anxiety inducing reminders of how scarce free time can be.. crippled.. we do nothing..
for full time workers much of free time spent in a state of prep or recovery.. and hence.. still belonged to their employers..t
cheryl believed that having more free time had allowed her to be more spontaneous.. she rediscovered the kinds of unplanned pleasures that tend to be denied in the prescriptive schedule of the working week..t
people i talked to.. seemed to embody and celebrate was a capacity to savour their enjoyment..
on the hidden expenses of the work week.. (pub; coffee; lunch; commute; clothes buying/washing; time saving devices; personal trainers; repair; (child) care; therapeutic consumption; ..)
hannah o’mahoney (researched a community of volunteers 2014): observed that having suddenly been confronted w a setting in which their money was worthless, it was normal for volunteers to leave the project feeling delighted by their own resourcefulness and creativity.. .. forced into a position where reliance on commodities was no longer an option.. people began to develop and eventually celebrate their capacities for self org and self production..t
again.. huge.. begs we try this: short bp
where things became a bit more difficult for people was in relation to society’s commercialised rituals.. from christmases to bdays, weddings, bar mitzvahs.. a whole host of social rituals are now synonymous w expensive gift giving and ostentatious consumption.. when we are so relentlessly encouraged to express our joy and love for others by purchasing costly commodities, it is only the grump or the skinflint who opts out in order to save money..t.. some of the people i met feared social occasions for this very reason,..
more pleasures of the more sublime and enduring kind that can only be realised w an abundance of free time..
whilst it would be absolutely blinkered to deny that the escape to a slower pace of life is a practical impossibility for many people, who would not be able to survive economically, it is equally reckless to accept the idea that high consumption lifestyles are the fixed norm to which everybody should aspire..
7 – half a person
kathi weeks: productivist ethics assume that productivity is what defines and refines us, ..t.. so that when human capacities for speech, intellect, thought and fabrication are not directed to productive ends, they are reduced to mere idle talk/curiosity/thoughts/hands, their non instrumentality a shameful corruption of these human qualities. even pleasure are described as less worthy when they are judged to be idle (weeks 2011)
how the wider moralisation of work might impact upon everyday attempts to resist employment
he feels that his unemployment has dq’d him as a person deserving of equal rights/esteem, and as a result feels worthless, bewildered and isolated..
not rights.. but still
in the context of society where work is the most accepted way to gain status and a sense of identity it is not surprising that the workless life often invites feelings of shame/inferiority, or upsurges of a desire to re establish oneself as a ‘normal’ person by seeking employment.. work is sought after for (besides income) social recognition
via george herbert mead: we might say that the people i met were experiencing shame because they were breaching the expectation of the ‘generalised other’ (mead 1962).. cultural stigmas are internalised and become shame .. t
he believes he really does fall short as a human being.. difficult to shake off the sense of shame that society’s moral authorities have long taught us to feel about joblessness..t
whilst the idlers did not actively campaign for social change, the did work at prefiguring the world they wanted to see on a small scale level.. a world that valued both individuality and commonality.. passion and reason.. a world that made people feel accepted..
‘idling’ is suggestive of a light hearted and humourous kind of resistance.. re appropriates a derogative term and uses it for radical purposes..
ultimately, however, it appears that there exists no social movement w the capacity to knock work from its pedestal at the centre of society..t
perhaps this: next experiment..
the problem i am left with.. is whether and how the individual cases of resistance to work.. observed growing in the interstices of society, can be translated into meaningful and desirable social change for all..t
how: short bp
8 – from escapism to autonomy
so unhappy are many of us w our daily routines, that even illnesses are sometimes greeted as a welcome refrain.. we often crave incapacity as a welcome break from responsibility..
cynicism is form of rebellion that often leaves the foundations of power intact .. superficial freedom.. (ie’s in the office).. provide valuable breathing space in which we can feel less trammelled by work demands and more like ourselves.. yet they also allow us to go on tolerating the confines of our roles..
‘the fact that we can regard w amusement the conventions of uni or office life and our roles as teachers or managers, actually ensure that we remain w/in those conventions and these roles’ (cohen and taylor 1992)
mike fisher: a ‘gestural’ type of rebellion – an act of resistance that provides an illusion of empowerment, whist ultimately leaving the world unchanged (fisher 2009)
time is passing us by and our bodies are getting older. the sanctioned escape routes from reality may often be enjoyable and therapeutic, but they are also self negating and temporary, cultivating our tolerance and engraining us more deeply into the very situations from which we are seeking reprieve..
for all the propaganda we hear about work as a source of good health and a way to ‘meet potential’ work so often seems to stand in the way of people realising what they are capable of in terms of their capacities for creation and cooperation..
human felicity depends upon developing a sense of continuity between values and actions..
in the simplest possible terms, we can note that people are happier when they have more time to do the things they want to do.. depending on how seriously we are willing to take it, this relisation has the capacity to be incredibly banal or incredibly profound..t
my hope is that insights contained in these chapters contribute to a denaturalisation of work and its centrality in modern society
no mater how critical we become of today’s work centred society and its hold on the imagination, this does not in itself alter the fact that work is still socially constructed as chief source of income, rights and belonging.. in context of today’s work centred society.. it is fair to say that any substantial resistance to work will likely remain the preserve of the brave.. the determined, people w a contingent source of income, or people whose health and personal circumstance leave them unable to work and w/o much choice..
the question we must ask is whether/how society can be organised so that everybody can benefit from the time saved by capitalism’s productive development..t
andré groz: resistance to work was alway conceived as a collective rather than an individual project.. it follows that any serious attempt to engage in a critique of work must always go beyond questions of individual ethics and enjoyment to consider the prospect for a more widespread revaluation of work.. as well as the establishment of structural changes that might provide the basis for everybody to enjoy a greater degree of freedom.. where to go next is not an individual choice.. but a social choice..
has to be all of us.. in sync.. begs we leap
melissa gregg describes work-life balance as an ‘ideological ruse’ whose overall effect has been to place the responsibility for managing work demands at the feet of the individual.. consistent w neoliberal ideology: everything is on our hands and that we are free to make what we want out of our lives.. so if bad.. you made bad choices
lasting effect of work-life balance campaign has been to depoliticise workers rather than encourage them to demand substantial changes..
if we are to offer up genuine challenge to the work centred society, i believe we need to get beyond telling people about the benefits of ‘balance’ we need to be much bolder and start discussing diff ways of org ing and distributing works.. .. what i am arguing for here is an uptake of what andré gorz called a *politics of time.. allowing everybody more freedom for their own autonomous self development.. t
*as the day.. ness
via self-talk as data
gorz: no longer marginal to society but part of a new blueprint for society.. (gorz 1999)
single most important feature of this society would be society wide policy of shorter working hours.. each would work less so more of us could work
the longer term goal would be to re create society so that work was no longer an inviolable source of income, rights and belongings..
free time longer.. people would use it to perform a wide variety of productive and non productive activity each according to their own autonomous standards of beauty and utility
cities, towns, blocks.. become open spaces..communal areas.. (gorz)
city sketch up.. ness
most popular ie’s .. to decouple work and income.. ubi.. via bertrand russell 1918.. the bi is based on a belief that everyone deserves *access to the resources required to meet **basic needs .. t.. and is designed to establish a baseline below which income would not be allowed to fall
perhaps we simply disengage from both..
just work on *resources.. why even keep income/money..? we need to try ubi as temp placebo.. otherwise.. we’re still stuck in the capitalist/market encirclement.. money as disturbance..
like you’ve said in other chapters.. only now to a higher degree.. if we let go of money.. and focus on **2 (deeper) needs.. imagine the abundance we’d experience from a lifestyle change like that.. from getting back to an undisturbed ecosystem..
let us together begin to dismantle the work dogma..
let’s also dismantle the money dogma
a change in mentality has already taken place, but what is ‘cruelly lacking is a public translation of its meaning and its latent radicalism’ (gorz 1999)
let’s try this man: short\bit
1\ open doors of the discussion.. beyond group of academics et al
2\ take an active interest in society’s outsiders
has to be all the voices.. ie: as it could be..
3\ join the battle of words. and turn up armed..
4\ defend the importance of imagination
all power to the imagination.. be realistic.. demand the (seemingly) impossible..
ie: revolution as instigating utopia everyday
the point of utopian thinking is to remind us that there are always ways of doing things differently..t
it seems to me.. no matter how bad crisis becomes..et al.. a positive social change cannot occur unless we begin actively to entertain and explore the possibility of alternatives.. t.. designed to help us think beyond out all too familiar horizons of possibility..
if others would point out the unrealistic nature of utopian thinking, the critic should retort by pointing out that our notions of what is realistic are socially structured, as well as the deluded nature of believing that things could comfortably go on as they are
why can’t we begin a political discussion by thinking about other ways in which the need for income, rights, and a sense of belonging could be satisfied..
again.. i’d suggest we don’t need income or rights.. in fact i see them as disturbance to the ecosystem we crave.. the ecosystem that would let things be.. as they could be..
karoshi – death by overwork