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On the first day of May, it is traditional for the conservative left to rally for more Work and workers' rights. Work and Jobs, full-time no less, is all that they can see. We find the right and the businessmen agreeing, that more Work is needed, but they'll only "give" (more like take!) more of it, if taxes are lowered, diminishing the workers' already non-existent bargaining position even further.

Ideologies from state socialism to capitalism, are all ideologies of Work (that is, forced labour). The left, knowing little else, and the right, of necessity, of the "grow or die" dynamic of capitalism, and of their bodily functions and parts being all the dispossessed have to sell. Authoritarians on the left want full employment to control people with the mind-numbing qualities of forced and atomised labour. The right prefers subtler economic control; engagement in this mental anaesthesia in factory fascisms and office oligarchies (that the majority of workplaces are best described as) becomes a privilege to compete for. The left prefers to use political violence, the right has no problem with additional economic violence.

With the huge increase in our productive capacities during the last century by means of science and technology, only a small fraction of Work is spent in tasks that are relevant to producing the basic necessities and small luxuries of life. In more recent years, the full labour force has become unnecessary for even fuelling the blight of consumerism, one of the holy sacraments of the religion of Economic Growth. More and more Jobs only serve to keep the Work Society from collapsing on itself. Especially this holds true in the so-called developed nations, where day by day, less and less production goes on anymore, as corporations and their stockholders are able to reap higher profits by hauling products and raw matter around the world (from formerly impoverished colonies, among others) and destroying the planet in the process. Not being able to think outside the box (or, should I say, cube), it has thus become a prime purpose of mankind to invent new Jobs just for the sake of there being more Work. This can be seen in the adoration of the service industry and entrepreneurship, hyper-consumerism, and, perhaps to some extent, in imperialist wars.

Oftentimes, the small entrepreneur is even more severely enslaved by the Work idol, and a professor of the protestant Work ethic, than the wage slave is. Besides the actual productive or service Work, one has to engage in marketing and extra administrative bureaucracy. Unless one has found a suitable niché without much competition, simply surviving in the market also demands a lot of Work (which many right-wing apologists see as justification for the oppressive hierarchical structures of most workplaces). Now, if one happens to come by a new idea that has some merit in being developed into a product or a service, it may be warranted to start some form of business around that. Such is not yet worship of Work, although in a world designed around Work, the permeation of Work and its worship tends to be the outcome. In a less Work-ridden society, besides such endeavours being more playful, economical and social survival not depending on personal economic "success", one would also expect less resources wasted on ideas with little merit to them. But the reversed situation, the pushing entrepreneurship as the solution to all the ills of the labour market; that is simply a form of worship of Work, where the invention of new Work for the sake of Work becomes the supreme goal of mankind.

In the case of the service industry, the same creation of new Jobs for the sake of Work is seen. Everyone is to be turned into a discardable Tool whose purpose in life is to perform just a single monotonous task in the machinery of the Work Society, and spend the few remaining hours of the day being served by other Tools, instead of doing something for oneself. That is the logic and ideal of the service economy; the ultimate passivisation and optimisation for a single task, of the human being. Even small everyday tasks are to be subjugated into commodities to be bought and sold in a market. The execution of those tasks is to be turned from activities that could even be pleasant in moderation, into demeaning Work. However, most of the labourers welcome this, having grown up in a world designed for Work. The highly stressed and paid "specialists" (simply another name for a highly optimised Tool) also praise this change. Having to work their own ass off in a labour market that is increasingly becoming a market for right of survival (both economical and social), they no longer have the energy for anything else. To quote the "Manifesto against Labour", "The children in Third World countries who wash windscreens at polluted crossroads are depicted as the shining example of 'entrepreneurial initiative' and shall serve as a role model for the jobless in the respective local 'service desert'". That is not to say that every possible service is entirely harmful and only created as a consequence of the worship of Work. Certainly services that help to reduce the overall amount of Work needed to perform would be beneficial. But the adoration of the service industry as artificial respiration for the Work Society, that can only serve to further enslave the human being.

The artificial remedies to this "crisis" in increased productive capabilities do not end here. There are other indications of the unwillfullness of the world to let go off the age where everybody had Jobs that wasted most of their waking hours. These include all kinds of job training schemes, subsidised wages for doing nothing of any importance, and other forms of slave labour that primarily serve to beautify (uglify, I say!) the unemployment statistics, and to further subjugate the leftover people of the labour market.

The humankind should re-evaluate its position to Work. The age of eight-to-four Jobs and wage slavery must come to an end. To quote Bob Black, "No one should ever work. Workers of the world… relax!". It is time that everybody started enjoying the most important fruit of improved productive capabilities: that very little labour is needed for survival, other basic needs and even small luxuries, and there should be more time for everyone, and not just a privileged few, to pursue their own interests. In this world designed for Work, however, people are still forced to do tremendous amounts of Work as a group (there's always loopholes for a few individuals), to even meet their basic needs, let alone for even a little bit of economic security. This coercion is made possible by maintaining artificial scarcity, to which the capitalist property regime greatly contributes. The incentive for socially beneficial activities (that comprise just a fraction of Work and have a lot of redundancy at times), should eventually be found elsewhere; not in coercion, neither economical nor political. It is time to start taking steps towards that direction, instead of the prevailing opposite. Free software developers have found such incentives, and to some extent such incentives have always existed in the sciences and in the arts. There's no reason why non-coercive incentives could not develop in a wide variety of other fields, if free'd from the tyranny of Work and Jobs, of the authority of bosses and the clock. Many other tasks could simply vanish through automation when human-automatons become too expensive, and much of the rest may simply not be worth doing at all.


Here's some further relevant reading for the interested (ordered by year of publication). I especially recommend The Abolition of Work.

The Eulogists of Work, Section 173 from "The dawn" by Friedrich Nietzsche (1881)

The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism by Max Weber (1904)

In Praise of Idleness by Bertrand Russell (1932)

Homage to Catalonia by George Orwell (1938)
[Not directly relevant to the anti-work message as such, but to other touched issues, and a good read anyway.]

Work and Life, Chapter 9 of "Workers in a Labyrinth: Jobs and Survival in a Bank Bureacracy" by Robert Jackall (1978)

The Abolition of Work by Bob Black (1985)
[Finnish translation]

Manifesto against Labour by Gruppe Krisis (1999)
[German original, Finnish translation]

The Hacker Ethic and the Spirit of the Information Age by Pekka Himanen (2001)
[dead-tree format only]