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Mythology of Work: How Capitalism Persists Despite Itself by Peter Fleming
1960s counterculture, anti-work, call centre, clockwatching, corporate social responsibility, David Graeber, Etonian, future of work, Goldman Sachs: Vampire Squid, illegal immigration, late capitalism, Mark Zuckerberg, market bubble, market fundamentalism, means of production, neoliberal agenda, Parkinson's law, post-industrial society, profit maximization, profit motive, quantitative easing, Results Only Work Environment, shareholder value, The Chicago School, transaction costs, working poor
They even suggest that organizations ought to design their offices after warehouse apartments, to mimic the creativity, comradery and ethos of people driven by a labour of love. But workplace informality has a dark side; namely, the potential for authoritarianism to take on a rather sadistic and perverse quality. Informality and power do not go well together. Under such circumstances we are not only paying for the elite’s freedoms, but being callously toyed with to boot. Hence Jez’s rancour. And herein lies the problem with anti-work arguments that evoke Parkinson’s Law. The idea behind the law is simple. If we are given eight hours to perform a task, it usually takes eight hours to do so successfully. If we are only given three hours to do the same task, it typically takes three hours to do so successfully. Therefore, we could spend much less time on the job whilst maintaining the same level of productivity achieved by the 40-hour work week.
Rationalization is thus a question of perspective or standpoint rather than numerical formulation, and that standpoint is completely determined by class politics. The ‘waste’ that managerialism so meticulously identifies is often simply our freedom to act in concert to achieve self-determined ends. Or, our freedom to do nothing (although it should be remembered that, unlike Bertrand Russell, most successful anti-work advocates hate ‘doing nothing’ per se, which is more akin to life in the post-industrial office than anything else). But most importantly, neo-capitalism views the freedoms of worker democracy as the clearest manifestation of wastefulness. Workplace democracy is technocratic capitalism’s greatest fear and enemy for obvious reasons. The computer says ‘no’. Private corporations, in tandem with the neoliberal state, play a powerful part in shaping the nature of modern work patterns today.
Thompson (1967) noted how the legendary ‘Saint Monday’ binges became the enemy for early industrialists and government officials. The customary practice consisted of workers dropping their tools, vacating the factory and getting extremely inebriated on Monday mornings just as the workday was formally beginning. A raft of disciplinary measures was hurled at the working class to stamp out this reverential tribute to Saint Monday. The anti-work connotations of boozing on the job continued through the Fordist period under Western capitalism. For employees, drinking was not only a moment of escape, but also a sign of triumphant insubordination in the face of sobering discipline, as epitomized by Hamper (1992) in his tale about working on the line at General Motors. The relationship between alcohol and authority takes on an important political dimension in societies governed by prison-like regimentation and disciplinary power.
Inventing the Future: Postcapitalism and a World Without Work by Nick Srnicek, Alex Williams
3D printing, additive manufacturing, air freight, algorithmic trading, anti-work, back-to-the-land, banking crisis, battle of ideas, blockchain, Bretton Woods, call centre, capital controls, carbon footprint, Cass Sunstein, centre right, collective bargaining, crowdsourcing, cryptocurrency, David Graeber, decarbonisation, deindustrialization, deskilling, Doha Development Round, Elon Musk, Erik Brynjolfsson, Ferguson, Missouri, financial independence, food miles, Francis Fukuyama: the end of history, full employment, future of work, gender pay gap, housing crisis, income inequality, industrial robot, informal economy, intermodal, Internet Archive, job automation, John Maynard Keynes: Economic Possibilities for our Grandchildren, John Maynard Keynes: technological unemployment, late capitalism, low skilled workers, manufacturing employment, market design, Martin Wolf, means of production, minimum wage unemployment, Mont Pelerin Society, neoliberal agenda, New Urbanism, Occupy movement, oil shale / tar sands, oil shock, patent troll, pattern recognition, post scarcity, postnationalism / post nation state, precariat, price stability, profit motive, quantitative easing, reshoring, Richard Florida, rising living standards, road to serfdom, Robert Gordon, Ronald Reagan, Second Machine Age, secular stagnation, self-driving car, Slavoj Žižek, social web, stakhanovite, Steve Jobs, surplus humans, the built environment, The Chicago School, Tyler Cowen: Great Stagnation, universal basic income, wages for housework, We are the 99%, women in the workforce, working poor, working-age population
The difference between a populist movement and folk-political approaches lies in this stance towards differences: whereas the former seeks to build a common language and project, the latter prefers differences to express themselves as differences and to avoid any universalising function. The mobilisation of a populist movement around anti-work politics would require articulating a populism in such a way that a variety of struggles for social justice and human emancipation could see their interests being expressed in the movement. Importantly, anti-work politics provides such resources: for example, it is perhaps the best option for a red-green coalition, insofar as it overcomes the tensions between an economic programme of jobs and growth and an environmental programme of decreased carbon emissions. The post-work project is also an inherently feminist one, recognising the invisible labour carried out predominantly by women, as well as the feminisation of the labour market, and the necessity of providing financial independence for women’s full liberation.
Finally, the post-work project builds upon postcolonial and indigenous struggles with the aim of providing a means of subsistence for the massive informal labour force, as well as mobilising against barriers to immigration.26 Articulating the character of a movement that can bring together such differences helps to emphasise the importance of demands to any proper populism. Demands form a key medium for building unity, and must therefore connect in multiple ways with different people.27 Such demands do not presume to know in advance who will be called into action by them, but they allow people to see their own particular interests within them while nevertheless maintaining their differences from each other.28 For example, the demands of an anti-work politics have different meanings for a university student, a single mother, an industrial worker, and those outside the labour force; but in spite of these differences, each of them can find their own interests represented in the call for a post-work society. Mobilising these people together and under the name of a demand then becomes the work of on-the-ground politics. A movement predicated on a populist logic can therefore give consistency to a series of diffuse grievances and requests, without necessarily negating differences.29 Particular demands are inscribed into a coherent narrative articulating how various demands share a common antagonist.
A quick overview of how such an ecology might operate will offer some sense of how these proposals might work together. This can only be highly schematic, given the particularities of any given struggle and the complexity of the issues at hand. Inevitably, an ecosystem of organisations is forged in specific circumstances, with different decisions being made in the face of different political contexts. That said, a broad social movement would be essential to any anti-work politics, affording a wide range of different organisational and tactical compositions. At one end of the spectrum, there are transient bursts of political energy, in the form of riots and spontaneous protests. Urban unrest in America, for instance, was a key motivating factor behind elite support for a basic income in the 1960s.39 Such eruptions may not make intricate demands, but they demand a response.
Buyology by Martin Lindstrom
He sued Warner Brothers, and the filmmakers, claiming that the subliminal images of a demon’s face flashed throughout the movie had caused him to pass out.4 And in 1999, some viewers accused the makers of the film Fight Club of subliminal manipulation, claiming they had planted pornographic images of Brad Pitt in the movie in a deliberate attempt, according to one Web site, to enhance the film’s “anti-work message and revolutionary tone.” Accusations of subliminal manipulation have been leveled at musicians from Led Zeppelin (play “Stairway to Heaven” backward and you’ll supposedly hear “Oh, here’s to my sweet Satan”) to Queen (“Another One Bites the Dust” played backward allegedly yields “It’s fun to smoke marijuana”). And in 1990, the parents of two eighteen-year-old boys from Nevada who had attempted suicide took the British heavy-metal band Judas Priest to court, charging that the band had inserted subliminal messages—including “Let’s be dead” and “Do it”—inside its song lyrics.
The Road to Wigan Pier by George Orwell
All of these people have the same interests and the same enemies as the working class. All are being robbed and bullied by the same system. Yet how many of them realise it? When the pinch came nearly all of them would side with their oppressors and against those who ought to be their allies. It is quite easy to imagine a middle class crushed down to the worst depths of poverty and still remaining bitterly anti-working class in sentiment; this being, of course, a ready-made Fascist Party. Obviously the Socialist movement has got to capture the exploited middle class before it is too late; above all it must capture the office-workers, who are so numerous and, if they knew how to combine, so powerful. Equally obviously it has so far failed to do so. The very last person in whom you can hope to find revolutionary opinions is a clerk or a commercial traveller.
The Victorian City: Everyday Life in Dickens' London by Judith Flanders
For public figures in the first half of the nineteenth century, the ceremonial of death was a street event in which outsiders and passers-by were expected to take part. In 1831, an American tourist noticed a funeral procession in the yard of Westminster Abbey. There were just seven official mourners, but, he was happy to see, they were trailed by ‘a respectful multitude’ of strangers. in 1847, the 3rd Duke of Northumberland died. He had attempted to wreck the Slave Trade Abolition Bill, was vehemently anti-Catholic and anti-working-class, as well as being considered rather stupid and extremely arrogant by the public and his peers alike. Yet ‘crowds of persons’ lined the streets to watch his funeral procession travel from Northumberland House to Westminster Abbey. It was after the mass orgy of ostentatious ceremonial that was the Duke of Wellington’s funeral in 1852 (see pp. 335–46) that funerals of the great, the good and the not-so-good became for the most part quieter events, with less public participation.