fuck work

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History professor James Livingston (author of No More Work: Why Full Employment is a Bad Idea) suggest a fuck work mindset, writing that "'full employment' is not the way to restore our faith in hard work, or in playing by the rules, or in whatever else sounds good:"

The official unemployment rate in the United States is already below 6 per cent, which is pretty close to what economists used to call 'full employment', but income inequality hasn't changed a bit. Shitty jobs for everyone won't solve any social problems we now face.

Livingston reminds us that "Oxford economists who study employment trends tell us that almost half of existing jobs, including those involving 'non-routine cognitive tasks' - you know, like thinking - are at risk of death by computerisation within 20 years:"

But that is why it's also an intellectual opportunity: it forces us to imagine a world in which the job no longer builds our character, determines our incomes or dominates our daily lives.

What would you do if you didn't have to work to receive an income?

In short, it lets us say: enough already. Fuck work.

He continues, "I know what you're thinking - we can't afford this!"

But yeah, we can, very easily. We raise the arbitrary lid on the Social Security contribution, which now stands at $127,200, and we raise taxes on corporate income, reversing the Reagan Revolution. These two steps solve a fake fiscal problem and create an economic surplus where we now can measure a moral deficit. [...]

Taxing the profits of corporations to finance a welfare state that permits us to love our neighbours and to be our brothers' keeper is not an economic problem. It's something else - it's an intellectual issue, a moral conundrum.

"Character can be created on the job," he writes, "only when we can see that there's an intelligible, justifiable relation between past effort, learned skills and present reward:"

When I see that your income is completely out of proportion to your production of real value, of durable goods the rest of us can use and appreciate (and by 'durable' I don't mean just material things), I begin to doubt that character is a consequence of hard work.

When I see, for example, that you're making millions by laundering drug-cartel money (HSBC), or pushing bad paper on mutual fund managers (AIG, Bear Stearns, Morgan Stanley, Citibank), or preying on low-income borrowers (Bank of America), or buying votes in Congress (all of the above) - just business as usual on Wall Street - while I'm barely making ends meet from the earnings of my full-time job, I realise that my participation in the labour market is irrational. I know that building my character through work is stupid because crime pays. I might as well become a gangster like you.

That's why an economic crisis such as the Great Recession is also a moral problem, a spiritual impasse - and an intellectual opportunity. We've placed so many bets on the social, cultural and ethical import of work that when the labour market fails, as it so spectacularly has, we're at a loss to explain what happened, or to orient ourselves to a different set of meanings for work and for markets. [...]

Though work has often entailed subjugation, obedience and hierarchy [...], it's also where many of us, probably most of us, have consistently expressed our deepest human desire, to be free of externally imposed authority or obligation, to be self-sufficient. We have defined ourselves for centuries by what we do, by what we produce.

Livingston finally asks, "How would human nature change as the aristocratic privilege of leisure becomes the birthright of all?"

So the impending end of work raises the most fundamental questions about what it means to be human. To begin with, what purposes could we choose if the job - economic necessity - didn't consume most of our waking hours and creative energies? What evident yet unknown possibilities would then appear? How would human nature itself change as the ancient, aristocratic privilege of leisure becomes the birthright of human beings as such?

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This page contains a single entry by cognitivedissident published on November 25, 2016 8:44 AM.

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