The Anti-Work Workshop (Text Version)

Hey everyone, as the title implies this is just the text version. The audio version of my presentation will be put up tomorrow and will be via my Youtube channel. Thanks!

Snazzy!

Introduction

My name is Nick Ford and for around a year now I’ve been running a site called AbolishWork.com. In that time I’ve been reading, analyzing, researching discussing and overall bit by bit immersing myself in the literature of anti-work. I find the subject of work massively important to anyone of any ideology because our work takes up most of our lives. Our lives are sometimes even defined by what we do and not what we desire or even what we want. Our lives are sometimes only discussed in terms of what’s going on now and whatever else we want is inconsequential to the “real world”. And maybe they’re right. Maybe the “real world” doesn’t care about our dreams and wants us instead to be deprived of our goals and to have us work 9 to 5s or work in cubicles, factories, under bosses, for pitiful wages and in sorry conditions where our bargaining power is next to nothing a lot of the time.

If this is the case, then so much the worse for the “real world” because that means it needs replacing.

I took a particular interest in work partly because an anarchist comrade of mine named David S D’Amato had bought a domain called AbolishWork.com on a whim because he liked the idea behind it. He then asked around an email list that we both frequent if anyone was interested in using it. David explained his original idea with Abolish Work was, “…to bring together resources (already existing & original) from across the anarchist spectrum (egoist, communist, individualist, mutualist, whatever) on the idea of work abolitionism.” And so after a little deliberation on my part I decided to take the domain off his hands and follow through on David’s ideas for the site.

So, in January of 2014 I wrote my first post introducing the site as such:

Abolishwork.com is aiming to be a sort of home for “work and its discontents”. A place where you can find essays, blogs, observations, songs, poems and whatever else you can imagine about ending or at the very least reducing the amount of work that exists in society. We welcome everyone from the hardened abolitionists to the reformers and the ones in between.

And ideologically I welcome everyone from egoists to anarcho-communists to mutualist and individualist anarchists and hell; sometimes I’ll have totally non-radical folks if I feel like they’re making good enough points about why work is bad or what an alternative may be, etc.

So if you would like to contribute something to the website then it makes my life a bit easier and helps me do longer and more intensive projects for the site.

But don’t worry, this isn’t work to me.

What is Work?

Part of my interest in work and abolishing it comes from the definition wars that can be fought over what is meant. I know semantics isn’t everyone’s favorite thing to do and it certainly isn’t mine but more of what I mean to say is that it’s interesting to me that so many people see work so differently. The fact that so many people see things like anarchism, capitalism, socialism as worthy of discussion, analysis and debate makes a lot of sense to me, but this is even truer of work, since it is such a tangible and real part of our lives. I am amazed at the extent to which we view work as inevitable and take it for granted. Especially since it makes up most and some might even argue all of our lives. Whatever you want to say about a given ideology it’s hard to argue that work isn’t going to be a big factor in how that system plays out.

There are some definitions of work that would make me not a work abolitionist. For instance if we took Oscar Wilde’s definition in The Soul of Man Under Socialism that work is “…activity of any kind…” then I am certainly not against that. I don’t want people to be useless automatons who never do anything and I’m not advocating pure idleness. Though I think idleness should be more emphasized in today’s world and it’s generally a good thing to be able to do.

Another, more reasonable and less overly-inclusive definition of work has been given by John Danaher over on his Philosophical Disquisitions blog:

Work: The performance of some skill (cognitive, emotional, physical etc.) in return for economic reward, or in the ultimate hope of receiving some such reward.

Danaher explains that this definition remains broad, including paid and unpaid labor but not overly inclusive because unlike, say, Bertrand Russell’s definition of work in his In Praise of Idleness it doesn’t suggest that anything is work. It only suggests that what is work would be activities that include putting energy towards some economic reward. So, although unpaid labor doesn’t have a monetary benefit in mind immediately, in the long term that is what the goal of doing these internships or apprenticeships is. Danaher thinks he has captured “the core phenomenon of interest in the anti-work literature” but is that correct? I’m not convinced.

Let’s look at one of my personal favorite short-hand definitions of work by the post-left Anarchist Bob Black in his The Abolition of Work:

My minimum definition of work is forced labor, that is, compulsory production. Both elements are essential. Work is production enforced by economic or political means, by the carrot or the stick. (The carrot is just the stick by other means.) But not all creation is work. Work is never done for its own sake, it’s done on account of some product or output that the worker (or, more often, somebody else) gets out of it. This is what work necessarily is. To define it is to despise it.

I suspect Danaher would claim that this definition is too value laden to be useful because it inherently positions work as something that is irredeemably bad and needs to be abolished as a matter of necessity. I think Danaher is right to think that this puts a bigger burden on us in terms of argumentation and evidence but that’s not necessarily a bad thing in of itself. And more to the point I think it’s precisely because it’s a value-laden definition that it’s much more useful than Danaher’s. Danaher’s seems to ignore the political, economic and cultural complexities of work and the factors that go into this production that people do for certain ends. For instance, when they do those things for the economic ends what if they are doing it just for those ends and not for themselves? What if they actually want to do something else but are working because there aren’t many choices? Danaher’s definition seems to be less value-laden for sure but is this necessarily a good thing when it seems to be compromise and sabotage any sort of attempt at meaningful change in the way we view work?

If we are working for simply the economic goal and not for ourselves then as the post-Marxist Andre Gorz says in his Critique of Economic Reason: Summary for Trade Unionists and Other Left Activists, we are engaging in work for economic ends. It’s work done only with those economic rewards in mind and not actually done because you value the act intrinsically. The happiness or self-satisfaction you get from this work is secondary to the economic rewards you get from it. Think of your typical retail or minimum wage job that you have for a good example of the sort of work that Gorz is discussing.

Gorz also discusses other types of work that I think help us broaden our discussion and while Danaher may be right that his definition cuts to the core of the dispute I’m not sure he’s the only one doing it or the best at it. To find out though let’s consider Gorz’s other definitions of work.

I think Gorz is smart to try not to just accept work as just one thing and instead splits it up into many different kinds. Because, of course, stripped of any context I have no real issue with someone working towards an economic return. But the real question is who could? If all the anti-work position is saying is that attempting to achieve some economic reward should be eliminated from the range of options in society then to me it’s inane at best and dangerous at worst.

Instead, I think the anti-work position largely takes issue with work for economic ends and extends this criticism to domestic labor and work for oneself which Gorz defines as still working towards economic ends to some extent. Though, there is also some genuine self-interest involved that comes from the activity itself. This interest, however, is mostly made up of necessities like taking out the trash, doing the dishes or things like that. These things aren’t inherently bad but they seem de facto questionable, especially if there are better ways of doing them so we can reduce this sort of work. Overall I’m not so much interested in abolishing this type of work as much as I’d like to reduce and reform it while making it more equitably shared among the people who need to do it. So rotating the duties of things like garbage collection and washing dishes in a collective house is a good example of something I’d favor becoming more of a regularly accepted thing in society.

The last type of work Gorz considers is called autonomous activity which is a form of action wherein you produce a good for some reward but do so freely. In other words you do it both because you want to and not out of necessity but out of a desire for the things in of themselves.

I think Gorz wraps up our discussion on how to define work and why making our definitions non-value laden is problematic.

All these activities require `work’ in the sense that they require effort and methodical application but their meaning lies as much in their performance as in their product: activities such as these are the substance of life itself. But this always requires there to be no shortage of time. Indeed, the same activity – bringing up children, preparing a meal or taking care of our surtoundings, for example – can take the form of a chore in which one is subject to what seem like oppressive constraints or of a gratifying activity, depending on whether one is harrassed by lack of time or whether the activity can be performed at leisure, in co-operation with others and through the voluntary sharing of the tasks involved.

What Does it Mean to be Anti-Work?

So here is the definition of work that I think we can take away from our very non-exhaustive study:

Work: The constrained performance of some skill (cognitive, emotional, physical etc.) in return for substituting your own ends with an economic reward, or in the ultimate hope of receiving some such reward.

I’m not working to rid the world of effort or trying to stop scientists from spending forty hours in their lab over the weekend. The anti-work position isn’t fueled, in my opinion, by telling people who are having a good time that they aren’t. This is a popular thing to do when you’re opposing a system and especially when you’re coming from, for example a Marxist perspective. The Marxists will sometimes claim that “mystification” and other phenomenon explain why workers act outside their own interests or why the state and the capitalists sometimes don’t get along. But this conflict of interests between parties and themselves or other groups that have similar interests isn’t new or particularly a radical thing to witness within the realm of history. And telling people that they just simply don’t believe what they say are in their interests probably isn’t going to be the best way to counter this phenomenon even if it’s true.

This isn’t to say that the Marxist notion of false consciousness has no weight to it. There are certainly times we fool ourselves into believing something and psychological theories. And there are terms about people who trick themselves into liking what they actually don’t or liking something that they know is bad for them but do anyway. And they keep doing it either out of some sort of social pressure, cultural obligation, sense of moral duty, the implied threat of force, the actual use of force and other factors. There are plenty of things to make people falsely believe things or believe things that they themselves deep down may not believe. But this line of intrigue isn’t what anti-work is going to focus on, in my mind.

Because to convince people that work, as I’ve just defined it, needs to be abolished we need to do much more than just tell them that they have a false idea what is “good” and what is “bad”. We need to show them that there are better alternatives to work. This, to me, seems to be the better way to bring about a more leisurely society that is more open to flexibility and social mobility. It’d be quite similar to the society Karl Marx discusses in his The German Ideology, that we’ll be able to, “…do one thing today and another tomorrow, to hunt in the morning, fish in the afternoon, rear cattle in the evening, criticise after dinner, just as I have a mind, without ever becoming hunter, fisherman, herdsman or critic.”

But I’m getting ahead of myself, if something like that may be the goal how do we intend to get there?

While I’m sympathetic and certainly advocate things like cooperatives, collectives and socializing the means of production and access to capital more widely (indeed perhaps as widely as possible) I don’t think this in of itself solves the problems associated with our definition of work. You can have the worker cooperatives in Argentina, for instance, where the workers work their normal shift and then need to go to a four hour meeting before they can spend some time to themselves. And in such a scenario I think work is still operating in a fairly problematic context.

All of which is to say that we shouldn’t see democratizing of the economy as some sort of golden key to our problems with work. Meetings can be an oppressive environment where social conformity can be expected instead of deemed irrelevant or damaging to strong cooperative social dynamics. And even without the pre-screens or danger of groupthink (here, I am using the term as it’s used in psychology, not the conservative buzzword) these hours could still make an otherwise pleasant structure of work be terribly monotonous and restrictive of people’s times and needs. Of course, the workers can innovate; I wouldn’t claim that this is some inherent problem for cooperatives or collectives. As I mentioned before, I think you can have a collective house where duties are rotated and roles are shifted randomly or person to person to not only make work easier but to also make specialization less rampant and diversification more possible.

After all, as Robert Heinlein said, “specialization is for insects”.

So sure, democratization of the economy, education, building alternative structures are all good ideas of trying to fix society’s backwards views about work and how it should operate. But these are all long-term projects which are nice as far as it goes, but what do we do for people now? There are surely vulnerable and economically impoverished people who deserve our attention now and we shouldn’t just hide in our collectives, cooperatives or Ivory Tower intellectual groups doing nothing material about it. So what is to be done in the short-term about this unfortunate phenomenon we call work?

Part of what we can do is instilling a culture of solidarity and mutual aid in our local communities. For those who have the time, energy and people’s skills it may be a good idea to start up organizations around supporting the homeless. Especially when increasingly the state keeps criminalizing the act of trying to feed people who are homeless, which, just makes the struggle that much more important. Things like the Boston Solidarity Network and the one in Seattle are great ideas for building connections between concerned people who are having problems with work, rent and any other problem that state-capitalism creates. In general creating affinity groups that are made up of other anti-work or anti-work sympathetic people could be a much better way of dealing with the way things are then yelling, “Jobs not jails”. Especially when a lot of people feel like their jobs are jails.

Now, to be clear, I’m not saying it’s somehow virtuous to abstain from working and leech off friends or that if you’re dying on the streets that being in jail would better than a job. Or that taking a job would be non-virtuous. Obviously the prison system is far worse than the way jobs operate on average. But that doesn’t mean that jobs are the solution to the problems of prisons. Especially when so much sexual harassment, exploitation of power differentials, injuries and even death can happen in the workplace.

Minimalism is another possible short-term goal for individuals and perhaps even more strongly for collectives. Just focusing on your needs and minimizing how many costs you need to pay can help you access unconventional forms of “employment” that you may be more likely to enjoy. Helping these sorts of people when they need it may help the rest of us be able to do much the same if it helps those forms of work become more and more popular. The end goal being something like a future where we’re all looking very weirdly at any sort of corporate job that’s left standing.

Another form of anti-work activism may be highlighting just how much damage work in its present form does. For example, Disinformation.com back in 2010 gives some alarming statistics on just how common global injuries and deaths related to work were as of 2002:

The [International Labor Organization] estimates that approximately two million workers lose their lives annually due to occupational injuries and illnesses, with accidents causing at least 350,000 deaths a year. For every fatal accident, there are an estimated 1,000 non-fatal injuries, many of which result in lost earnings, permanent disability and poverty.

The death toll at work, much of which is attributable to unsafe working practices, is the equivalent of 5,000 workers dying each day, three persons every minute. This is more than double the figure for deaths from warfare (650,000 deaths per year). According to the ILO’s SafeWork programme, work kills more people than alcohol and drugs together and the resulting loss in Gross Domestic Product is 20 times greater than all official development assistance to the developing countries.

Since then the Journal of Safety Research summarized in 2009 that,

The total number of occupational accidents and fatal work-related diseases has increased, but the fatality rates per 100,000 workers have decreased. There were almost 360,000 fatal occupational accidents in 2003 and almost 2 million fatal work-related diseases in 2002. Every day more than 960,000 workers get hurt because of accidents. Each day 5,330 people die because of work-related diseases.

On that note it’s worth noting that our anarchism comes into play alongside the anti-work position where we point out that state-controlled regulations like OSHA just aren’t going to cut it. If we’re looking for real protection of workers then building work solidarity through wildcat non-state unions is much more important. Though either way, if you’re not fundamentally improving work itself then you can smash all of the gears you want but it won’t change anything in the end.

What are we Working Towards?

What sort of world could we expect to create through anti-work advocacy and a consistent opposition to work as it stands look like? I believe that the world would largely be populated with autonomous activity. With people doing things because they wanted and not doing, as the anthropologist David Graeber terms it, “bullshit jobs”. Bullshit jobs are the jobs that are superfluous and could be easily automated and are largely inconsequential to a functioning and healthy society.

Instead, our time would be taken up by what Bob Black termed in his essay, Smokestack Lightning, “productive play”:

My proposal is to combine the best part (in fact, the only good part) of work — the production of use-values — with the best of play, which I take to be every aspect of play, its freedom and its fun, its voluntariness and its intrinsic gratification, shorn of the Calvinist connotations of frivolity and “self-indulgence” which the masters of work, echoed by the likes of Johan Huizinga and David Ramsey Steele, have labored to attach to free play.

Activities which are, for the time and the circumstances and the individuals engaged in them, intrinsically gratifying play yet which, in their totality, produce the means of life for all.  The most necessary functions such as those of the “primary sector” (food production) already have their ludic counterparts in hunting and gardening, in hobbies.

The problem is that work by definition is almost never done for its own sake. Play is. Play is almost always done for its own sake, with the users’ self-interest in mind. It doesn’t have to do with the capitalist’s intent or the government’s need for more jobs or work. Play just has to do with the participants and what they want to do and how they want to do it. If you don’t want to play then you simply don’t. Most of us don’t have such a choice when we engage in work. This is largely because of limited access to capital, credit, land and ideas. The monopolies on land, money and intellectual endeavors are created through things like eminent domain, outlawing alternative currencies and intellectual property. All of this ratchets up the costs of competing with the already ingrained privileged elite.

And while smashing the state may be a lot of effort, I believe it will lead to a world where that sort of effort won’t be needed anymore, if it is done properly. Sure, there will still be struggles and oppression to be fought after the state, capitalism and all of the other intersecting systems of power and privilege such as patriarchy and heteronormativity are abolished. But ideally we’ll have incentive structures, affinity groups and cultural norms that consistently challenge, uproot and abolish if necessary things that give rise to non-anarchic dynamics.

This has the effect of making life a lot less burdensome for the least advantaged and having interest tending towards zero, credit being much more freely accessible, wealth disparities being largely ended or cut down to size the economics of work will be completely changed. It’ll become a lot more possible to do things that you want on your own, with friends, with neighbors, with your family, with total strangers, with people online and so on and so forth. There won’t be burdensome government regulations or a culture that reinforces ideas that workers can’t do it on their own or that we somehow needs bosses and politicians to order our lives. We’ll know that we don’t need licenses to braid hair or the bosses permission to organize in a union or a politician to organize our communities in response to situations we find problematic.

The world we are looking at is one that isn’t going to have us under constant surveillance or subjected to the type of subordination that makes them feel as if they’re children. Speaking of which, the whole notion that children’s play-time activities are unrealistic or irrelevant to their future should probably be reconsidered too. Teaching children to play is widely regarded as a very important part in their development and helping them reach their fullest cognitive potential. But why do we give that up when we get older? Why do we stop playing? Not all of us do of course. Many of us still do board games, video games, use our imagination in RPGs and generally have to be creative to come up with solutions to our adult problems. But a lot of these playful situations, including ones that beckon our intelligence and creativity are highly confined, sterilized and restricted by far too many rules and side-constraints. The benefits of being a child is that you don’t even think about these restrictions or can even conceive of them. And if you can then you find the best way to route around them so that you don’t have to deal with them in any substantial way.

Of course, that doesn’t mean when we engage in productive play we should just pretend the world around ourselves doesn’t exist. We should still respect and abide by the rules and ideas that make up reality. And play has its consequences too. Play can be fun but challenging and have rewards that come from the play itself. But we can also love playing not because of the rewards but because of the process that got us to the rewards in question. Hell, why not both? Ideally, we’ll be both enjoying the process and the end result and that’s what productive play is all about: Replacing a lot of the current work schemes with productive play, leisure or nothing at all if it’s just another bullshit job.

Another question is what the role of technology would be in a less work-filled world. Technological unemployment is part of this discussion and is a phenomenon that I, overall, find to be a benefit and something that’d have its place in a freed society. But, to be fair, it’s not a clear cut benefit. I wouldn’t claim that the people who become unemployed are always going to find other jobs or that somehow AI isn’t going to eventually just take over the world. I don’t study AI and I have no idea how likely it is that something like that could happen. But I do know that I’m all in favor of less bullshit jobs and more technological unemployment. In the short term it’ll certainly hurt people and that’s bad and should be mitigated as much as possible. But in the long run if we are pushing towards a more anarchic future then I believe we’ll be able to harness these technological developments so that we’re going to either have less of a need for an income as we understand it today or use these advances to go into new fields that require our expertise.

But an important part of that harnessing is making sure this technology remains open, democratic and as free to possible to use for anyone. Not having the capitalists, government or upper-class yuppies from the tech bubble hold some sort of intellectual stranglehold on it via patents and copyrights.

Conclusion: Work: What is it Good For?

In this presentation I’m not trying to close the conversation on work so much as open it up again and challenge our preconceptions of what it means to work and what it means to be against and for that. I don’t mean to suggest that anyone who supports work necessarily supports what I’m talking about. Some people mean work when what they mean is “give effort” and some people are talking about “yard work” when they talk about work. Other people are talking about the 9 to 5 situation and still others are speaking more broadly about capitalism, corporations, wage labor, etc. So there’s a lot of different definitions to wrestle with and figure out what works best for the society we live in. I don’t claim mine is the best we can do but I think it was an appropriate synthesis of the definitions we saw in this presentation. There are certainly others I did not go over or review mostly for time constraints and because I didn’t want to act as if I’m the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy and list 15 definitions of one term and 20 different people who argued over it.

Nevertheless, I fully admit that my definition came from a very non-exhaustive search through a handful of definitions and authors who come from fairly different political perspectives on the matter. There are other people on work to consider besides the people I’ve mentioned such as Claire Wolfe and her piece, “Dark Satanic Cublicles: Smash the Job Culture” or the classic by Paul LaFargue, “The Right to be Lazy”. And there are plenty more where that came from and many of the pieces on work you can find can be found on AbolishWork.com in the “recommended” section.

I want to close this presentation by asking a fairly simple but honest question:

What is work good for?

We can see it’s good for getting things done but isn’t work more than that? It has to do with what we get out of it, sure. But it also matters what conditions are involved in us choosing to get those things done. What forces contribute to us deciding we want to get A done and that A is worth X amount of energy and worth the B reward? And where does the reward come from? Is it something that we should be getting the full amount of but are getting skimmed on by those who claim to be better than us?  These conditions and other cultural, economic and political factors matter a great deal when we talk about work. And if we want to talk about it in the right way and get to the important parts of it then we’re going need to challenge the cultural norms about work, such as the Puritan Work Ethic. We’re going need to challenge the economic factors of work, like the concentration of wealth into the hands of privileged elites. And finally we’re going to have to challenge the political elements and that means challenging the state at every turn, so we can claim our autonomy for ourselves.

Let’s go back to Danaher’s essay, Should we Abolish Work? because while I have my disagreements with it, it definitely is an interesting, informative and well-written essay worth checking out. Danaher talks about two different kinds of arguments for the abolition of work; he mentions the “work is bad” arguments and the “opportunity cost arguments”.

The “work is bad” arguments say that because work is bad, and bad things should be abolished, that work should be abolished. I’m not convinced that most work abolitionists believe that bad things should always just be abolished and never just reformed, but let’s accept this for sake of argument. More charitably Danaher revises it to if something is intrinsically and overwhelmingly bad then it should be abolished. This makes much more sense to me and I agree with him that it seems to fall more in line with the anti-work literature in general. But Danaher has some problems with this:

…it is not true that all workers are coerced into work. Some people are independently wealthy and have no need for the economic rewards that work brings, and some countries have sufficiently generous welfare provisions to take work out of the “coercion” bracket (as noted previously, the basic income guarantee could be game-changer in this regard). Similarly, while it is true that some forms of work are humiliating, stultifying, degrading, tiring, and deleterious to one’s health and well being, this isn’t true of all forms of work. That’s not to say we should do nothing about the forms of work that share these negative qualities; but it is to say that the complete abolition or diminution of work goes too far. We should just focus on the bad forms of work (which, of course, requires a revised argument).

While it is true that not all people aren’t coerced into work we could also denote that the people who largely aren’t coerced are either doing the coercing themselves (bosses, management, etc.) or greatly benefiting from the coercing (capitalists, CEOs, investors, etc.) to the point that they are either said to be complicit or at the very least reliant on a coercive system. Regardless of whether #notallworkers are coerced or not doesn’t mean much if a lot of the workers are poor and tend to be coerced to a greater extent than people who have options. This then may boil down to an interesting epistemological question and I don’t have data one way or the other to say which way it goes. But I just don’t think the reply of #notallworkers goes very far here.

Secondly, the same argument is being made in the second case. If the overwhelming amounts of jobs are degrading and involved unjust relations or power imbalances that we are de facto skeptical about then work as an institution is also at least worth of such skepticism too. Maybe that’s not enough of a solid basis for abolition by itself, but I think it makes a strong case for doing a lot more than minor reform too.

More interestingly though is Danaher’s section on opportunity cost arguments from the anti-work side of things. The opportunity cost argument is merely saying that there are better uses of our time than work and should be preferred over work to the extent that we can do them instead. Danaher goes through the motions again and revises the premise of this argument to a more charitable line of, “If engaging in activity X prevents us from engaging in a more valuable activity, and if X is not necessary for some greater good, then X ought to be abolished.” With work obviously being a thing that stops us from engaging in things we’d rather do but overall doesn’t serve some general good.

There are intrinsic and instrumental reasons for a preference of leisure or play over work. The instrumental reasons being that play or leisure would bring out the best in us and that work won’t and the intrinsic being that these things are more valuable to us than work is. Danaher points out that one benefit of non-work things is that they are less subject to market forces and pending on the context I may or may not be as sympathetic to this point.

But here’s where things get interesting, Danaher lays out three possible critiques:

  1. The “necessity objection”: We do need work for some greater good. People wouldn’t produce as much as we do today without work so while non-work may be, on the whole, better, work is, unfortunately, necessary.
  2. The “idleness” (or “idle hands” in my terms) objection: Without work humans would be far less likely to do good in the world and are much more likely to do evil things.
  3. The “efficiency” objection: Markets force us to do things in an efficient way and giving up work may mean that we have to give up that efficient way of dealing with human labor.

But the interesting part here is that Danaher actually argues against all three of these points; let’s take a look, briefly, at his three responses:

  1. “This is a fair point, but it is worth noting that far fewer people are employed meeting basic human needs now than there were a hundred years ago. Why? Technology has allowed us to automate most agricultural and manufacturing jobs. Machines can now be used to meet our basic needs. Maybe machines could take over all the other socially valuable aspects of economic activity, and free us up to live the ludic life? One can always dream.”
  2. “…it is difficult to determine what is so bad about so-called “vice” and “idleness”. But suppose we could determine this. In that case, I have no doubt that in the absence of work many will succumb to “vice”, but I’m pretty sure they do that in presence of work anyway. It’s not clear to me that things will be any worse in a world without work. People have basic psychological needs — e.g. for autonomy, competence and relatedness — that will drive them to do things in the absence of economic reward.
  3. “I agree that markets can be efficient (though sometimes they aren’t) but, as pointed out above, it’s not clear that humans need to be the ones working to meet market demands. Also, in calling for an abolition or diminution of work, it does not follow that one is calling for the re-installation of centrally planned governments.”

Danaher finds the opportunity cost arguments for the abolition of work much more persuasive than the moral argument. And while I’m not in total agreement with him I think his responses are, on the whole, excellent to the arguments he presented. I believe he gives us good reasons to care about the issue of work and consider whether work is a good thing or not. Even if work doesn’t need to abolished or it doesn’t need anything to be done by certain terminologies standards, it’s still something we, especially we as anarchists, should be talking about and discussing.

My site AbolishWork.com is dedicated to exploring the subject of work and those who are discontent with it in some way. From those who simply want to revise it a little to those who want to throw it completely away and try something new. And whether the revisionists are anarchists and the abolitionists are just radical liberals or something similar, I’m open to having lots of different content on the site. And I’m also interested in hearing a lot of things from the audience here so I hope this presentation has raised a lot of interesting questions for you and maybe if I’m lucky I’ve even convinced you of the necessity to at least seriously reconsider how we look at work.

That is, if I haven’t made you want to smash the whole thing to begin with.

But remember, if you’re going to smash it, do it leisurely.

Haste makes waste after all.

Workers of the World, Relax!

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