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Post-work: the radical idea of a world without jobs

Post-work society

Part of the appeal of a post-work society is that it is meant to resolve conflicts between different economic interest groups, in the hope that exploitation can finally be ended.

The role of work has changed before and will change again. In some ways, we're already in a post-work society, albeit a dystopic one.

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Post-work: the radical idea of a world without jobs

Post-work: the radical idea of a world without jobs

https://www.theguardian.com/news/2018/jan/19/post-work-the-radical-idea-of-a-world-without-jobs

theguardian.com

6

Key Ideas

Our culture of work

Our culture claims that work is unavoidable and natural. The idea that the world can be freed from work, wholly or in part, has been suppressed for as long as capitalism has existed.

Exploring the abolition of work

  • In 1885, socialist William Morris proposed that in the factories of the future, employees should work only four hours a day.
  • In 1930, John Maynard Keynes predicted that advances in technology would lead to an age of leisure where people might work 15 hours a week.
  • Since the early 2010s, these ideas have been developed further, creating a growing critique of work as an ideology, and exploring alternatives to work.
  • Post-work offers enormous promises: In a life of much less work, life would be calmer, more equal, more communal, more pleasurable, more thoughtful, more politically engaged, more fulfilled.

Work ideology

The work ideology is not natural nor very old.

  • Before the modern era, all cultures thought of work as a means to an end, not an end in itself.
  • Once the modern work ethic was established, working patterns started to shift. Between 1800 and 1900, the average working week shrank from 80 hours to 60 hours, and in the 1970s to roughly 40 hours.
  • In 1979, Bernard Lefkowitz related in his book that people who had given up their jobs reported feelings of "wholeness." During the same period, because wages were high enough, it became possible for most people to work less.
  • During the 80s, work ideology was reimposed by aggressively pro-business governments who were motivated by a desire for social control.
  • By the early 21st century, the work culture seems inescapable.

    The work culture

    The work culture has many critics now. 

    Ideas that are challenged are the assumptions of modern employers. Another is the American notion that the solution to any problem is to work harder. In the UK, the extent of the work's crises is raised. In France in 2000, a 35-hour week for all employees was introduced with the slogan, "Work less - live more."

    Life without work

    Post-workists, like David Graeber, argue that the absence of work would produce a richer culture. With people having more time, private life could also become more communal like ‘Red Vienna’ in the early 20th century, when the city government built housing estates with communal laundries, workshops, and shared living spaces that were quite luxurious.

    People might at first be unable to organize their unstructured free time, but our capacity for things other than work can be build up again.

    Post-work society

    Part of the appeal of a post-work society is that it is meant to resolve conflicts between different economic interest groups, in the hope that exploitation can finally be ended.

    The role of work has changed before and will change again. In some ways, we're already in a post-work society, albeit a dystopic one.

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