"The question I am raising is why this life goes on--what purpose it serves, and who wants it to continue."
September 10, 2012 7:44 AM   Subscribe

Abolish restaurants.
posted by Catchfire (220 comments total) 36 users marked this as a favorite

 
No.
posted by maryr at 7:47 AM on September 10, 2012 [38 favorites]


.
posted by Omon Ra at 7:47 AM on September 10, 2012


This is the thinnest post I've ever seen on mefi.

Fuck it though. I'm in.
posted by broadway bill at 7:47 AM on September 10, 2012 [6 favorites]


If you're confused, as I was, keep clicking on the image, it auto advances to the next one.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 7:48 AM on September 10, 2012 [4 favorites]


It's a zine, folks. Pretend it's a book and the mouse pointer is your finger.
posted by Catchfire at 7:49 AM on September 10, 2012 [8 favorites]


Somebody got a big table and a small tip recently.
posted by xingcat at 7:49 AM on September 10, 2012 [12 favorites]


"The question I am raising is why this life goes on--what purpose it serves, and who wants it to continue."

1) Because it's a needed service
2) To feed people
3) Hungry people who can't/don't have time to cook or who just want to spend time with friends; people who need a job
posted by mazola at 7:50 AM on September 10, 2012 [29 favorites]


*Picks up a magazine, pokes it with his finger*

This one must be broken.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 7:50 AM on September 10, 2012 [47 favorites]


God I'm slow this morning.

Thanks for the explanation Brandon!
posted by broadway bill at 7:51 AM on September 10, 2012


It's a zine, folks.

It is! I read this when it was in print, back when it was still cool.
posted by GenjiandProust at 7:51 AM on September 10, 2012 [4 favorites]


This all about solving the wrong problem. I get where some of this is coming from, but it all it makes me think is "wah fucking wah".
posted by charred husk at 7:52 AM on September 10, 2012 [9 favorites]


When we go to sleep, we hope we won't dream about forgetting an order or being yelled at by the boss.

When I worked for Mickey D, I had job-related anxiety dreams every night without fail. It was by far the worst part of being employed there.
posted by Egg Shen at 7:52 AM on September 10, 2012 [4 favorites]


I'm not sure what the point of the comic strip is. The first page is a graphic of complaints that any one who has waited tables is familiar with. I made the same complaints, even as I asked for another 10am-8pm shift, so I could make mad dollars over the lunch and dinner rush, while not having open or close the restaurant. It was exhausting sure, so I only did it twice a week, but damn the money was crazy good.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 7:52 AM on September 10, 2012 [3 favorites]


Bonus points for using the cybermen, though.
posted by charred husk at 7:53 AM on September 10, 2012 [3 favorites]


In before privileged comments. Oh, too late.
posted by polymodus at 7:53 AM on September 10, 2012 [17 favorites]


Why bother making this a "comic" at all? It's a rant with pictures.

(Said the guy who makes a comic about a restaurant.)
posted by beaucoupkevin at 7:54 AM on September 10, 2012


A Polish restaurant.
posted by mullacc at 7:55 AM on September 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


"Essentially a "smart" hotel is a place where a hundred people toil like devils in order for two hundred to pay through the nose for things they do not really want." - Down And Out In Paris And London, arguing for more efficiency and automation in the restaurant industry.

Or to mis-quote an equally venerable author "The food industry is ethically between three card monte and straight up daytime flashing."
posted by The Whelk at 7:55 AM on September 10, 2012 [3 favorites]


So instead of "I don't like this job, I think I'll go do something else" it's "no one gets to eat at restaurants"?
posted by DrLickies at 7:56 AM on September 10, 2012 [11 favorites]


We sure do have some fast readers around here.
posted by enn at 7:56 AM on September 10, 2012 [37 favorites]


Last time I checked, food service was not the only sector where difficult, stress-laden jobs are poorly compensated. Can't muster much sympathy here. I know many people who'd kill to have a job, any job. Life is tough sometimes.
posted by kinnakeet at 7:56 AM on September 10, 2012 [4 favorites]


You know what bothers me most?

None of those people have eyes.
posted by HuronBob at 7:57 AM on September 10, 2012 [6 favorites]


It is important to note that the pamphlet is subtitled a workers critique of the food service industry.

So the author does not literally mean "abolish restaurants". And to complain about it being to ranty/complainy is missing their point.
posted by polymodus at 7:57 AM on September 10, 2012 [9 favorites]


Life is tough sometimes.

I know! Let's just give up trying to make it any better!
posted by enn at 7:57 AM on September 10, 2012 [25 favorites]


1) Encounter new idea
2) Reject it as untenable
3) There is no step 3
posted by DU at 7:57 AM on September 10, 2012 [11 favorites]


And some of them that don't have eyes, are wearing glasses.
posted by HuronBob at 7:58 AM on September 10, 2012 [3 favorites]


Pretend it's a book and the mouse pointer is your finger.

I kept trying to mash the pages of this book on my desk but they just wouldn't advance and I think I sprained my finger. Hope me MeFi!
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 7:58 AM on September 10, 2012


So the author does not literally mean "abolish restaurants". And to complain about it being to ranty/complainy is missing their poin

It, and this post, are crappily presented.

Just sent it back to the kitchen and demand it be redone.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 7:59 AM on September 10, 2012 [6 favorites]


This is "class struggle" in the twentyfirst century - overthrowing capitalism - with a comic book about the evils of the restaurant industry. Heck they even got the obligatory reference to the Spanish civil war in somehow. I am sure Mcdonalds management is quaking in their boots.
posted by Another Fine Product From The Nonsense Factory at 8:01 AM on September 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


If it wasn't for restaurants, my father, who is spoiled on his (passing away from cancer) wife's cooking, wouldn't eat anything but microwave meals and fast food.

Restaurants are important for a lot of reasons.

I also know several people who enjoy waitressing. They take it lightly and it's just a job to them, they don't stress about it.

I was reading a Reddit thread about what Japanese people find weird about America, and one thing that resonated with me is that Americans always think they're on their way UP from where they are. They don't take any pride in their work. They always think everything is holding them back from greatness, rather than appreciating that they even have a job at all.

I personally liked waitressing when I did it, but hated being a busser. So I just didn't keep the busser job.
posted by Malice at 8:01 AM on September 10, 2012 [18 favorites]


tl;dr: The workers should control the means of production.
posted by tyllwin at 8:01 AM on September 10, 2012 [25 favorites]


Don't worry, it'll all be done by robots in 20 years.
posted by Potsy at 8:01 AM on September 10, 2012


No time to worry about relationship problems, or whether you fed your cat this morning, or how you're going to make rent this month, a new order is up

I am totally in favor of trying to improve our society/world/universe, but I don't know that "my work doesn't allow me time for non-work activities" is the most compelling critique...
posted by dubold at 8:02 AM on September 10, 2012 [18 favorites]


The proletarians have nothing to lose but their chains
posted by ninjew at 8:02 AM on September 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'd like my social commentary medium well-done, please.
posted by maryr at 8:03 AM on September 10, 2012 [2 favorites]


From the same people who brought you The Housing Monster and Work, community, politics, war. It's just a propaganda pamphlet.
posted by charred husk at 8:03 AM on September 10, 2012 [3 favorites]


It's not a very good one.
posted by cribcage at 8:03 AM on September 10, 2012 [5 favorites]


I am totally in favor of trying to improve our society/world/universe, but I don't know that "my work doesn't allow me time for non-work activities" is the most compelling critique...


It is extremely compelling—the nytimes Philosophy column covered this issue today.
posted by polymodus at 8:04 AM on September 10, 2012 [11 favorites]


Don't worry, it'll all be done by robots in 20 years.

Enough of it will be done by robots in 5-10 years that the most of food service industry will collapse. I'd peg it to within a few years on either side of commercially available self-driving cars
posted by crayz at 8:05 AM on September 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'm almost afraid to flag this - if it is deleted we'll probably have to suffer through a "the mods are keeping the people down" Meta.
posted by charred husk at 8:05 AM on September 10, 2012 [7 favorites]


It is super easy to imagine reading this comment thread as being attached to any labor-related story in the Washington Post.
posted by DU at 8:06 AM on September 10, 2012 [6 favorites]


The author's example of what they want in a "world without restaurants," is, apparently, the Spanish Civil War.
posted by Kadin2048 at 8:07 AM on September 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'm almost afraid to flag this - if it is deleted we'll probably have to suffer through a "the mods are keeping the people down" Meta.

You don't have to suffer through anything. It's a choice on whether to read any MeTa or not.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 8:09 AM on September 10, 2012 [2 favorites]


I hear the paella was to die for
posted by East Manitoba Regional Junior Kabaddi Champion '94 at 8:09 AM on September 10, 2012 [5 favorites]


The author's example of what they want in a "world without restaurants," is, apparently, the Spanish Civil War.

(cue theme from Pan's Labyrinth)
posted by Sticherbeast at 8:10 AM on September 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


Little context, maybe? No? Too much to ask of today's on-the-go posters, I guess.
posted by Aquaman at 8:10 AM on September 10, 2012 [5 favorites]


As previously seen in this comment.
posted by TedW at 8:13 AM on September 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


So the way to abolish restaurants is to... restore the monarchy?

F*ck that noise.
posted by valkyryn at 8:14 AM on September 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


I wanted to make a post about my friend Iliana, who is opening a restaurant here in Chicago soon, but I felt like I didn't want to seem like I was promoting her? But here is a woman who is starting a restaurant with other women, many who previously also run underground supper clubs, doing many of the jobs herself and running an egalitarian kitchen producing food there is no way most of us could make at home. She started at the bottom of the fine dining hierarchy and worked her way up, eventually running her own little restaurant in her apartment before she got people willing to invest in a real restaurant. Many customers moonlight as workers, including those that trade some work for a meal. I would love to see a post on alternative restaurant culture that's not controlled by some profit chasing businessperson sitting on their ass.

Many new restaurants I know are owned and run by people who are also restaurant workers and work as much on sometimes tedious jobs as everyone else does (the last issue of Lucky Peach has a harrowing article about the Joe Beef proprietors cleaning out the grease trap, a job so awful that they don't want to make their employees do it). Schwa, for example, there is almost no division of labor, with the cooks doing almost everything. These are people who legitimately love food, so the dirty work is worth it to them.
posted by melissam at 8:14 AM on September 10, 2012 [20 favorites]


The post is fine, the user interface on the site is anti-web. 50,000 cronkites to whoever dares to redo it in proper html.
posted by furtive at 8:14 AM on September 10, 2012 [2 favorites]


This is "class struggle" in the twentyfirst century - overthrowing capitalism - with a comic book about the evils of the restaurant industry.
Surely not much of a surprise to discover that places of work are one site where the class struggle plays out.
posted by Abiezer at 8:14 AM on September 10, 2012 [3 favorites]


I think it's an interesting critique that I hadn't thought of, and don't really understand the need for context. I clicked the link, noticed the picture was a hyperlink so I clicked that as well. The second page gave all the context I needed (it is, you note, a table of content - it summarizes the content).

I have friends who are 'actors' aka waiters, so it's odd that I've listened to their labor complaits for years and years without examining the fact that restaurants don't have to operate the way they do.
posted by muddgirl at 8:14 AM on September 10, 2012 [4 favorites]


I could respect this if it was called Stop Going To Or Being Employed By Restaurants. The idea that anyone can or should impose a restaurant-free utopia on anyone else is, like, doubleplusungood
posted by East Manitoba Regional Junior Kabaddi Champion '94 at 8:14 AM on September 10, 2012


[To be super clear, this is a comic displayed one page at a time. Click on the image for the next page.]
posted by cortex at 8:15 AM on September 10, 2012 [2 favorites]


As the local economy crashes, impromptu roadside restaurants -- what the Kinois call Malewa -- have spread at an amazingly rapid rate throughout Kinshasa, according to this article from Le Potentiel (in French). One local mechanic reports that he can get a filling hot meal for 500 CDF -- or about 50 cents.
via
posted by infini at 8:16 AM on September 10, 2012


None of those people have eyes.

Most of them also don't have mouths, so restaurants seem especially superfluous and cruel.
posted by kmz at 8:17 AM on September 10, 2012 [15 favorites]


Little context, maybe? No? Too much to ask of today's on-the-go posters, I guess.

It's a link on the internet. You click through and read whatever is on the other side of the link, or you can refrain from doing so. Hope that helps! Let me know if you have any more problems.
posted by Greg Nog at 8:20 AM on September 10, 2012 [13 favorites]


polymodus: And to complain about it being to ranty/complainy is missing their point.
It's possible to see their point, and still find it ranty/complainy.
posted by IAmBroom at 8:20 AM on September 10, 2012 [4 favorites]


Could we get one of those reminders from a mod that it's better to flag and move on or just shut up when you have nothing to add but a steaming pile of [redacted]? Because as thin as the comic may be, it's freaking Moby Dick raised to the power of War and Peace compared to half of the comments in this thread.
posted by jsturgill at 8:20 AM on September 10, 2012 [10 favorites]


Yeah, the facelessness - along with the flat hectoring prose - reminded me of Gang of Four's Entertainment!.
posted by Egg Shen at 8:20 AM on September 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


Let's get drunk on cheap wine, then.
posted by The Whelk at 8:21 AM on September 10, 2012 [4 favorites]


Let me know if you have any more problems.

I left my wallet at home.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 8:21 AM on September 10, 2012 [2 favorites]


But seriously, the whole tipping institution is just bollocks. Abolish that, if you have to abolish anything. It's all kinds of messed up. Customers are supposed to figure on an expense that isn't scheduled anywhere, workers' wages are suddenly discretionary, and the cash basis of the enterprise makes money laundering and tax evasion trivially easy.

If you still want to have server compensation based on service somehow, give them commission, i.e., some fixed percentage of all the food they move. But include that in the price on the menu.
posted by valkyryn at 8:24 AM on September 10, 2012 [15 favorites]


50,000 cronkites to whoever dares to redo it in proper html.

You'll have to remit your cronkites to these guys.

There's a text version and also a whopping 13MB downloadable PDF, in case you want to print it out and poke it with your finger the old-fashioned way.
posted by Kadin2048 at 8:24 AM on September 10, 2012 [2 favorites]


I left my wallet at home.

Not to worry!

*stitches together makeshift wallet out of pieces of old leather*

Here you go, scout!

*tosses wallet, disappears into vapor, to re-emerge wheresoever I am needed next*
posted by Greg Nog at 8:25 AM on September 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


The first restaurants began to appear in Paris in the 1760s

The Pompeii museum exhibit I just visited is a lie!

Seriously, this is ridiculous, if for no other reason that if restaurants are abolished, people who entertain ideas like "Abolish restaurants!" will have no place to work. I'm all about the slow/local/organic food movement, but get rid of restaurants? Please.
posted by Rykey at 8:26 AM on September 10, 2012 [4 favorites]


I am totally in favor of trying to improve our society/world/universe, but I don't know that "my work doesn't allow me time for non-work activities" is the most compelling critique...

It's one of the original points of contention for the then-nascent labor movement, probably because of the obvious negative psychological effects of not having time for anything besides work and sleep. I'm confused about what the other issues are that you're thinking about that dwarf this one into irrelevancy.
posted by invitapriore at 8:26 AM on September 10, 2012 [5 favorites]


"A can of beans comes into a restaurant with a value based on how much work time was necessary to produce it."

I appreciate what the comic is trying to do, and I actually kinda like its 1-bit style, but the labor theory of value has been thoroughly debunked.
posted by Sticherbeast at 8:27 AM on September 10, 2012 [5 favorites]


It's possible to see their point, and still find it ranty/complainy.

Not when one raises the latter but not the former. That amounts to biased thinking. And to "find" is quite different from to "complain".

Anyways I am more interested in this issue as a domain-specific case study.

Schwa, like other famous/high-end restaurants, took the time to figure out their business model. I find it a saddening reality that the vast majority of restaurants don't try to actualize themselves in this way. And the consequence is the ideological exploitation of the workers.

No, none of this is new, nor is it unique to the restaurant setting. But the discussion needs to be kept alive, or change will never come.
posted by polymodus at 8:27 AM on September 10, 2012


I am totally in favor of trying to improve our society/world/universe, but I don't know that "my work doesn't allow me time for non-work activities" is the most compelling critique...

Sorry, my phrasing was unclear: I meant "my work doesn't allow me time for non-work activities while at work".

The NYT piece - What Work Is Really For - makes some interesting points though.
posted by dubold at 8:28 AM on September 10, 2012 [2 favorites]


I have never worked in food service.

About a third of the time I go out, I think to myself, "Thank God I've never had to work in food service" - simply because I see the wait staff is having a very bad time (or deduce that the cooking staff is).

I know a lot of people who have done this at various times - but not recently, this is (in the United States) a young person's game - an older person simply wouldn't put up with it.

My friends in food service have had a much, much higher percentage of serious mental and physical health issues - substance abuse being the #1, but terrible repetitive strain injuries, insomnia, and what seems to be a lowered immune system (I believe it's simply that you're exposed to such a variety of germs that you come down with a lot more).

This article should make it clear why it's so. I found it short and fast and easy to read.

And for those of you who complain it's a rant - people won't read your balanced, well-argued essay any more, so you need to rant or everyone will turn off almost immediately.

(By the way, I spent the summer in Europe, and I got the impression that things were better there, but I don't know anyone in food service there - anyone have any real information?)
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 8:28 AM on September 10, 2012 [3 favorites]


I've just started reading this, but does it ever move beyond Marxism 101 as studied through restaurants? 'Cause I'm seeing a lot about the labor theory of value and how exploitation by capitalists, and not a lot that is specifically about restaurants.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 8:29 AM on September 10, 2012 [6 favorites]


The purpose of the service industry is to provide young people with drugs and partying opportunities, and give them plenty of war stories for their adulthood. If they survive that long.
posted by clvrmnky at 8:29 AM on September 10, 2012 [5 favorites]


my work doesn't allow me time for non-work activities while at work

I think what's interesting is that my white-collar job DOES allow time for non-work thoughts/activities while at work, and I get paid way more to boot. The hardest job I ever worked, physically and mentally, gave me the worst paycheck.
posted by muddgirl at 8:30 AM on September 10, 2012 [7 favorites]


Ah, the sound of the labour aristocracy finding the class struggle hitting slightly close to home, infringing on their own priviledges.

I like this; a restaurant is one of the clearest examples of the extraction of labour's surplus value in action. You start with a pile of raw ingredients, you end up with dinner, with all the value added by labourers who do not reap the full value of their labour, who may not even earn enough to be able to afford the same meals they cook and serve.

It's anthesis is of course the hideous ineffeciency of letting each individual cook for themselves, wasting labour and ingredients; synthesis would lead to communal kitches, where shared labour would provide a cornucopia all could benefit from, without exploitation or waste.
posted by MartinWisse at 8:31 AM on September 10, 2012 [27 favorites]


invitapriore: I am totally in favor of trying to improve our society/world/universe, but I don't know that "my work doesn't allow me time for non-work activities" is the most compelling critique...

It's one of the original points of contention for the then-nascent labor movement, probably because of the obvious negative psychological effects of not having time for anything besides work and sleep. I'm confused about what the other issues are that you're thinking about that dwarf this one into irrelevancy.
I believe invitapriore meant, "my work doesn't allow me time for non-work activities while at work" - at least, that's how I read it.
posted by IAmBroom at 8:32 AM on September 10, 2012 [3 favorites]


The purpose of the service industry is to provide young people with drugs and partying opportunities, and give them plenty of war stories for their adulthood. If they survive that long.

All the undocumented immigrants in the back making 3 dollars an hour and working 14 hour shifts aren't invited to the party I guess?
posted by The Whelk at 8:32 AM on September 10, 2012 [16 favorites]


Tips are interesting. In an sense, the server is actually working for the diners. I'm sure there a deep roots to this, but I can't help but imagine there was a time before servers, when the servers were a standin for servants, who wouldn't be travelling with you. Isn't it true that there are parts of the world where servers act as independent contractors and pay the restaurant to serve?
posted by Ad hominem at 8:32 AM on September 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


Little context, maybe? No? Too much to ask of today's on-the-go posters, I guess.

It's a link on the internet. You click through and read whatever is on the other side of the link, or you can refrain from doing so. Hope that helps! Let me know if you have any more problems.


I do not think that word means what you think it means.
posted by Aquaman at 8:33 AM on September 10, 2012 [2 favorites]


I saw a post last night on Reddit that amounted to "people who are dicks to restaurant staff suck", and the comments were a wall of "you're being paid shit wages, so down on your knees and open your mouths, scum". I was so angry I began to shake, and had to close the tab before long.

I have no sympathy in any event for those who see people who do low-paying work as beneath them. I have no sympathy- no care- no empathy- for those who abuse service workers. And those who think that it's okay because that's just how it is? Find a cross and lash yourselves to it, and improve the world.
posted by Pope Guilty at 8:34 AM on September 10, 2012 [23 favorites]


All the undocumented immigrants in the back making 3 dollars an hour and working 14 hour shifts aren't invited to the party I guess?

I've never worked in restaurants, but I've known people that do, and my understanding is that everyone parties, it's just that front of the house and back of the house people don't mix. This is consistent with the number of waiters/cooks I defended on DUI charges back when I was a public defender.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 8:36 AM on September 10, 2012 [2 favorites]


hared labour would provide a cornucopia all could benefit from, without exploitation or waste.

And interminable "discussions" about who should do the washing up, while flies breed like mad in the sink.

I do not yearn for that semester spend in a "collective" house.
posted by bonehead at 8:37 AM on September 10, 2012 [5 favorites]


THANKLESS, UNPLEASANT WORK FOR LOW PAY MUST BE ABOLISHED

Where will we work -- what other unskilled or transient jobs are available for us? I actually like preparing food and meeting customers so---

DIDN'T YOU HEAR ME? YOUR JOBS WERE THANKLESS AND UNPLEASANT, SO WE GOT RID OF THEM.

But, what about the needs of travellers, or people with inadequate kitchens, or people wanting to celebrate--

YOU REALLY DON'T GET THIS, DO YOU -- SOME PEOPLE WHO WORK IN RESTAURANTS ARE VERY UNHAPPY WITH THEIR JOBS, SO WE DESTROYED THE PARADIGM TO MAKE THINGS BETTER FOR YOU. IT IS MUCH SIMPLER TO DEMONIZE A WHOLE, RATHER THAN ADDRESSING SMALL OR DIFFICULT PROBLEMS DIRECTLY. YOU'RE WELCOME.
posted by AzraelBrown at 8:37 AM on September 10, 2012 [21 favorites]


So the author does not literally mean "abolish restaurants".

Actually, I read to the end, and if this isn't what they meant they sure did a good job of implying it IS what they meant.

There are people who do genuinely enjoy restaurant work. There are people who do genuinely enjoy being a cook, being a sommelier, being a bartender, being a maitre'd, being [insert here]. I definitely see a huge need in improving working conditinos, and smacking the "you're being paid shit wages so deal with it" self-entitled diners across the face. But abolishing restaurants entirely (as, yes, the piece DOES imply we should do, at the end) is...somewhat lacking in nuance, I feel.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:37 AM on September 10, 2012 [7 favorites]


Isn't it true that there are parts of the world where servers act as independent contractors and pay the restaurant to serve?

In the US we have 'shots girls', who are basically contractors who buy liquor from the bar at cost and then keep whatever profit they can make by selling it to customers.
posted by muddgirl at 8:37 AM on September 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


But, what about the needs of travellers, or people with inadequate kitchens, or people wanting to celebrate

People managed to buy prepared food before the existence of what this author defines as a restaurant.
posted by muddgirl at 8:38 AM on September 10, 2012


On a tangent, it was REALLY interesting reading this at my desk at a corporate job where a lot of my time is spent processing receipts from client dinners on different people's expense accounts.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:39 AM on September 10, 2012


All the undocumented immigrants in the back making 3 dollars an hour and working 14 hour shifts aren't invited to the party I guess?

Once they finish their work and whatever is randomly assigned to them, sure!
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 8:39 AM on September 10, 2012


I wonder if an alternative to restaurants might be a plaza, ringed with booths, each of which create one or two items? That way, people could go to the plaza, choose what they will from each booth, and have a whole meal a la carte, with the booth-employees each controlling their own specialized dish. Sometimes food-trucks converge at Grand Army in Prospect Park, and it kind of works like this. Or the Reading Terminal Market in Philly, that's kind of similar. I wonder if that could be a viable alternative to restaurants as currently set up.
posted by Greg Nog at 8:41 AM on September 10, 2012


It's a link on the internet. You click through and read whatever is on the other side of the link, or you can refrain from doing so. Hope that helps! Let me know if you have any more problems.


But it isn't the "unwashed internet", it's Metafilter. Hope that helps!
posted by Brocktoon at 8:41 AM on September 10, 2012 [3 favorites]


Okay, totally worth it for the picture of the waiters running from the Cybermen.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 8:42 AM on September 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


Tips are interesting. In an sense, the server is actually working for the diners.

(Also, I just got to the chapter on tips, which demonstrates that they are a good way for the business owner to transfer some profit risk to their employees.)
posted by muddgirl at 8:42 AM on September 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


Right, so we abolish restaurants. Now, what are these workers who, we are told, are only working in restaurants in order to make a living, going to do in order to make a living? I have heard plenty of horror stories about the drudgery of working in restaurants but if the solution to drudgery is to abolish all such forms of labour I fear we are going to have to close down most of the work infrastructure of our societies.

Another thought: raise prices, and wages. Move away from over-reliance on tipping and pay a decent wage instead. Maybe try the automatic addition of an optional service charge (which is is the norm in UK restaurants and seems to work quite well. Restaurant eating used to be considered a bit of a luxury. Maybe the moral thing to do is to go back to that attitude.
posted by Decani at 8:43 AM on September 10, 2012 [4 favorites]


muddgirl:
"People managed to buy prepared food before the existence of what this author defines as a restaurant."
Or just rely upon the rules of hospitality. That's why they were so damn important in ancient times (and the real reason Sodom was destroyed by some readings). Hell, the first resident of the town I grew up in was a "tavern" in the 1600's - basically a guy's house where people could stop by and share dinner while on their way somewhere else.
posted by charred husk at 8:43 AM on September 10, 2012


synthesis would lead to communal kitches, where shared labour would provide a cornucopia all could benefit from, without exploitation or waste.

Even if this was remotely feasible for most people in Western capitalist countries, where do you get the idea that it would necessarily circumvent exploitation and waste?
posted by Rykey at 8:44 AM on September 10, 2012 [8 favorites]


I wonder if that could be a viable alternative to restaurants as currently set up. Let us bend the powers of scale and mass production to our whims, largely automated, semi-self service Pay-what-you-like pizza places. We can call it RED SLICE.

The rise of the Pizza Party is a historical inevitability.
posted by The Whelk at 8:44 AM on September 10, 2012 [6 favorites]


I believe invitapriore meant, "my work doesn't allow me time for non-work activities while at work" - at least, that's how I read it.

Yeah, sorry, I misread that. There's room for debate as to the benefits of giving people more frequent breaks on the job, but that's a different argument.

But abolishing restaurants entirely (as, yes, the piece DOES imply we should do, at the end) is...somewhat lacking in nuance, I feel.

I think the relevant part is where it talked about collectively-owned restaurants and how they are still embedded in a problematic system even if they don't replicate the class hierarchy within their own scope. You're right that the piece does imply that we should abolish restaurants, but only insofar as it recommends that we abolish all capitalist structures, of which restaurants are a paradigmatic example according to the pamphlet.
posted by invitapriore at 8:45 AM on September 10, 2012 [2 favorites]


I don't know how far on average one has to read before one realizes that the thesis is not 'abolish restaurants but preserve our capitalist system' - I realized it sometime during the historical summary in Chapter 1.
posted by muddgirl at 8:47 AM on September 10, 2012 [3 favorites]


In the US we have 'shots girls', who are basically contractors who buy liquor from the bar at cost and then keep whatever profit they can make by selling it to customers.


Very true. I knew a girl who did that with champagne in Miami. She had a vested interest in selling so she came up with all sorts of complex schemes to sell the most number of bottles possible, often to the detriment of the customer. They did things like have other champagne girls converge and ask for a glass of champagne. One thing that is true of people getting bottle service in a club, they don't tell people fuck off, get your own bottle.
posted by Ad hominem at 8:48 AM on September 10, 2012 [2 favorites]


I wonder if an alternative to restaurants might be a plaza, ringed with booths, each of which create one or two items? That way, people could go to the plaza, choose what they will from each booth, and have a whole meal a la carte, with the booth-employees each controlling their own specialized dish.

uh, i've been to the food court at the mall.
posted by ninjew at 8:49 AM on September 10, 2012 [18 favorites]


This has a wonderful style to it and almost makes me forget that having food and endless coffee brought to me and then the debris taken away without any effort of my own is very probably my favorite thing in the world.
posted by Corduroy at 8:50 AM on September 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


I think the relevant part is where it talked about collectively-owned restaurants and how they are still embedded in a problematic system even if they don't replicate the class hierarchy within their own scope. You're right that the piece does imply that we should abolish restaurants, but only insofar as it recommends that we abolish all capitalist structures, of which restaurants are a paradigmatic example according to the pamphlet.

The friend of mine who is most knowledgeable about Marxism told me once that the logical final step, in order for Marx's theory to actually work, would be that once the old capitalist system was overthrown, and once a new system had set itself up and was running for a few years - long enough that there were now people using the new system who'd never lived or worked under Capitalism - that all the people who had lived under the old system should kill themselves, so as to remove any temptation of going back to the old Captalist system. And he based this on a close reading of Marx.

I'd be curious to see if any of the treatises on this site mention that.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:51 AM on September 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


uh, i've been to the food court at the mall.

I've seen a few examples of high-end, slick food courts and I've really enjoyed eating in. The price was about the same.
posted by The Whelk at 8:52 AM on September 10, 2012



"The question I am raising is why this life goes on--what purpose it serves, and who wants it to continue."

1) Because it's a needed service
2) To feed people
3) Hungry people who can't/don't have time to cook or who just want to spend time with friends; people who need a job


1) No it isn't
2) DIY is easier
3) If you have time to wait for your food to be cooked, you have time to cook it (or eat something less time-consuming), and spending time with friends is hardly restaurant-exclusive; people who work in restaurants are people who need better jobs
posted by Sys Rq at 8:53 AM on September 10, 2012


According to this guide, restaurants are sure thing reliable source of profit$$$. Looks like I have my ironclad small business investment plan sorted out now!!!
posted by Bwithh at 8:54 AM on September 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


THIS MACHINE KILLS PEOPLE WHO ORDER SUBSTITUTIONS ALTHOUGH THE MENU CLEARLY SAYS 'NO SUBSTITUTIONS'
posted by thelonius at 8:54 AM on September 10, 2012 [16 favorites]


One thing that is true of people getting bottle service in a club, they don't tell people fuck off, get your own bottle.

One thing that is true of people getting bottle service in a club is that they deserve almost any bad thing that happens to them.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 8:54 AM on September 10, 2012 [7 favorites]


In the US we have 'shots girls', who are basically contractors who buy liquor from the bar at cost and then keep whatever profit they can make by selling it to customers.


Very true. I knew a girl who did that with champagne in Miami. She had a vested interest in selling so she came up with all sorts of complex schemes to sell the most number of bottles possible, often to the detriment of the customer. They did things like have other champagne girls converge and ask for a glass of champagne. One thing that is true of people getting bottle service in a club, they don't tell people fuck off, get your own bottle.
posted by Ad hominem at 8:48 AM on September 10 [2 favorites −] Favorite added! [!]



this would make a great post!
posted by Bwithh at 8:55 AM on September 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


And he based this on a close reading of Marx.
Fuck knows how, Marx even once famously wrote that he wasn't about writing "recipes for the cook-shops of the future" (here).
posted by Abiezer at 8:55 AM on September 10, 2012 [3 favorites]


This comic does a good job of picking apart the perverse incentives that make restaraunt jobs unpleasant.

It grudgingly acknowledges the existence of non-perverse incentives that may mitigate the problem for a while.

It appears to imply a solution of sorts at the end: abolishing capitalism and serving each other "directly". I guess that means barter? Or, like, a gift economy?

The quotations make this seem more like a communist sort of publication. But, as China and the USSR demonstrate, being communist doesn't really stop capitalism, it just changes the power structure. On the occasion that the workers really do control the means of production, they now share the collective burden of being managers--which the comic correctly observes happening in worker-owned restaurants, and correctly concludes doesn't solve the problem.

I'd be happier with it if the last chapter were simply left out. Giving examples of some revolutions that didn't work doesn't imply that the ones that work make economic problems go away.

The comic seems to believe that with enough revolution, economic problems will just stop being problems. I find this implausible.
posted by LogicalDash at 8:56 AM on September 10, 2012 [5 favorites]


All the undocumented immigrants in the back making 3 dollars an hour and working 14 hour shifts aren't invited to the party I guess?

They have their own parties, to which the other staff are generally not invited.

I know some people who worked in various restaurants (mostly as line or prep cooks) in DC and Philly, and getting to know the Salvadorans (they inevitably were Salvadoran, never Mexican) well enough to get invited to drinking with them after hours was a pretty rare thing.
posted by Kadin2048 at 8:57 AM on September 10, 2012 [2 favorites]


Boy, Gordon Ramsey would be seriously berating these guys for their fucking lack of fucking commitment.

But yeah, the tipping system is moronic.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 9:00 AM on September 10, 2012


I'm sympathetic to the plight of workers who are grossly underpaid for difficult jobs, but for some reason, the sort of activism that often manifests itself in fighty zines and the like has never really managed to resonate with me.

(Like the comment above succinctly pointed out -- these guys love recycling old ideas that didn't work, but somehow try to lend themselves credibility by acknowledging that they don't work. If you want to improve labor conditions in the US, you'll need to try a new approach, because this one has been around forever, and it's not working)
posted by schmod at 9:01 AM on September 10, 2012 [2 favorites]


I'd be happier with it if the last chapter were simply left out. Giving examples of some revolutions that didn't work doesn't imply that the ones that work make economic problems go away.

I kind of like the implicit message that there are no easy answers.
posted by muddgirl at 9:01 AM on September 10, 2012


And fucking passion, too, because if you don't have fucking passion for your demeaning, underpaid, stressful job, Gordon thinks you're a bad person.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 9:02 AM on September 10, 2012



Boy, Gordon Ramsey would be seriously berating these guys for their fucking lack of fucking commitment.


This zine is raw! Did you even read it? You fucking muppets!
posted by curious nu at 9:03 AM on September 10, 2012 [8 favorites]


But, as China and the USSR demonstrate, being communist doesn't really stop capitalism, it just changes the power structure.

I think the author's sympathies are more anarchist than communist. China and the USSR are/were statist communist regimes (insofar as China is actually a communist state, which is certainly less and less true).
posted by en forme de poire at 9:05 AM on September 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


I've seen a few examples of high-end, slick food courts and I've really enjoyed eating in. The price was about the same

my statement was directed at the proposal of an idea that's been around forever. not that it can't be done well. i also think that eating at a food court takes away the rhythm of a restaurant meal. you know it will be about an hour, and that you do a majority of conversing over drinks before the food arrives, etc.. it isn't just about the meal it is also the restaurant experience.

my favorite food court is mitsuwa
posted by ninjew at 9:05 AM on September 10, 2012 [2 favorites]


1) Encounter new idea

What was the "new" part of this? Haven't we seen this exact set of complaints uncountable times already, just on Metafilter alone?

All customer service related work is horrible a lot of the time. People can be assholes and having to deal with anyone who fronts up to your place of work means dealing with your share of assholes. The restaurant biz seems to be the only one of these jobs, though, that generates quite so much in the way of angst-laden commentary. We don't seem to see the 'zines about the poor mechanic who has to deal with some privileged asshole going on and on about how they're sure that the repair job they just had done was a rip off or the cosmetics counter saleswoman who has to deal with some ghastly harridan tearing strips off her for no good reason. No, it's only waiting jobs that seem to generate this rich vein of complaint.

I think the reason is that waiting is one of those jobs where there's a weird tension between the work being performed and the class backgrounds of the workers performing it. Typically the "omg, waiting is the worst job ever" screeds are not written by someone working in a greasy spoon diner; they're written by people serving in restaurants with at least some pretensions to being a proper "dining out" experience. That means that these restaurants are looking to employ people as waitstaff who "present well"--that is, who have a certain cultural capital to trade upon: they're well-spoken, they know how to make the proper polite noises etc. They are, indeed, the kinds of people with the education and class backgrounds that make them more likely to be the kinds of people who will write 'zines or blogs about the crappy hand that life has dealt them in forcing them to turn to waiting jobs to make a buck.

And there's the rub, because the very cultural capital that they are trading on to get these jobs (and which means that they earn somewhat disproportionate amounts of money relative to the actual skills required on the job) also means that they come from a class background in which service work of this kind is seen as inherently shameful or declasse. Sure, you hold your nose and take the work because you're putting yourself through college or because you're waiting for that big acting break or because you're working on that screenplay/novel/play or what have you, but you know in your heart that you weren't born for something as menial and degrading as serving food to people. You should be the one sitting there being waited on, not the one doing the waiting.

So you turn to your blog or your zine or what have you to vent your frustrations over living this class contradiction. And you speak with tones of horror in later life about the dreadful indignity of your period of waiting tables back in your 20s, and you're always careful to tip well and to remind others to tip well. But, unsurprisingly, this concern for the miseries of service jobs continues to extend only to these "class anomalies"--there's no concomitant concern for all those myriad people working service jobs just as hard and just as frustrating as waiting if the people working those jobs are from class backgrounds where those jobs are not seen as temporary indignities but simply as ways of making a living.
posted by yoink at 9:05 AM on September 10, 2012 [39 favorites]


a familiar image
posted by rebent at 9:05 AM on September 10, 2012 [4 favorites]


I hope s/he's not thinking of changing career to web development.
posted by humph at 9:06 AM on September 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


Bwithh: According to this guide, restaurants are sure thing reliable source of profit$$$. Looks like I have my ironclad small business investment plan sorted out now!!!

While 90 percent of restaurants don't fail in the first year, 57 to 61 percent failure for a three year period is still not a great recipe for success, but at least it's on par with most other businesses.

Some places, the staff are a commodity, to be replaced as needed. Others, the waitstaff know the usual customers, the chefs come out and chat, and everybody seems to enjoy the job.

Universally bleak pictures are as unrealistic as universally positive ones.
posted by filthy light thief at 9:06 AM on September 10, 2012 [5 favorites]


[bad link, should go Here]
posted by rebent at 9:07 AM on September 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


The sense of entitlement restaurant staff have about the world in general is, quite frankly, hilarious. Restaurants are not an essential service. Restaurants are a luxury.
posted by KokuRyu at 9:07 AM on September 10, 2012 [2 favorites]


The friend of mine who is most knowledgeable about Marxism told me once that the logical final step, in order for Marx's theory to actually work, would be that once the old capitalist system was overthrown, and once a new system had set itself up and was running for a few years - long enough that there were now people using the new system who'd never lived or worked under Capitalism - that all the people who had lived under the old system should kill themselves, so as to remove any temptation of going back to the old Captalist system. And he based this on a close reading of Marx.

I respectfully suggest that your friend is an idiot. There is nothing in Marx to even hint at such a stupid suggestion. As Abiezer points out, Marx had almost nothing to say about a future communist society.


Logical dash
- I, and many other people like me have never seen the Soviet Union or China as communist. They didn't abolish wage labour, swapped one ruling class for another, and if you're into your marxist economics continued the extraction of surplus value. As Castoriadis put it "USSR: Four words, four lies". Arguably both regimes were state capitalist, but that's a whole other argument.
posted by spectrevsrector at 9:09 AM on September 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


Restaurants are not an essential service. Restaurants are a luxury.

Indeed. It's outsourcing your servants.
posted by Sys Rq at 9:10 AM on September 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


Arguably both regimes were state capitalist

Aah, fourth international SWP (UK) stylee Had you'd been CWI you'd called them degenerate workers states.

Leftist trainspotters represent!
posted by MartinWisse at 9:13 AM on September 10, 2012 [5 favorites]


We need a Posadist to argue they lacked the necessary intergalactic backing.
posted by Abiezer at 9:16 AM on September 10, 2012 [2 favorites]


So you turn to your blog or your zine or what have you to vent your frustrations over living this class contradiction. And you speak with tones of horror in later life about the dreadful indignity of your period of waiting tables back in your 20s, and you're always careful to tip well and to remind others to tip well. But, unsurprisingly, this concern for the miseries of service jobs continues to extend only to these "class anomalies"--there's no concomitant concern for all those myriad people working service jobs just as hard and just as frustrating as waiting if the people working those jobs are from class backgrounds where those jobs are not seen as temporary indignities but simply as ways of making a living.

This strikes me as a strange criticism because whatever the faults of this comic may be, the author actually does go out of his/her way to make this very distinction -- the distinction between the "front" and "back" restaurant workers and their class backgrounds and "cultural capital" -- and to talk about how this actually reinforces class divisions.
posted by en forme de poire at 9:16 AM on September 10, 2012


It said: "The History of every major Galactic Civilization tends to pass through three distinct and recognizable phases, those of Survival, Inquiry and Sophistication, otherwise known as the How, Why and Where phases. "For instance, the first phase is characterized by the question How can we eat? the second by the question Why do we eat? and the third by the question Where shall we have lunch?"
posted by blue_beetle at 9:26 AM on September 10, 2012


This strikes me as a strange criticism because whatever the faults of this comic may be, the author actually does go out of his/her way to make this very distinction -- the distinction between the "front" and "back" restaurant workers and their class backgrounds and "cultural capital" -- and to talk about how this actually reinforces class divisions.

Fair enough--and good on this writer for doing so. But I was talking of the generality of these pieces, and about what actually generates this discourse. On various websites over the years I have stumbled over dozens of passionate discussions about the indignities and humiliations and trials of waitstaff. I have never found such a discussion about the indignities and humiliations and trials of bussers or the dishwashers. Yes, I've seen the bussers and the dishwashers mentioned in an ancillary way to the discussions about the waitstaff, but never a discussion which is primarily about them. And why? Because the kinds of people who are likely to be engaging in a discussion like this on Metafilter or other such sites are highly likely to have spent some time as waitstaff (though relatively unlikely to be doing it for a living over the long haul), and highly unlikely to have ever spent a lot of time bussing tables or dishwashing. And if they did buss tables or wash dishes, the experience isn't fraught with that same sense of contradiction: on the one hand getting recognition (and pay) for your class competencies and on the other hand performing a personal service which is radically incompatible with your normal class identity.
posted by yoink at 9:26 AM on September 10, 2012 [3 favorites]


Them's fighting words. State capitalism as a concept goes back to before 1917 I think. Certainly the SPGB used it, as did the Russian Communist Left, to describe the bolshevik regime. Council Communists and Left Communists used it too, as do some anarchists. This is all where I'm vaguely coming from, though I think there's something to be said for the various ideas around the dominance of a bureaucratic/management class.

Abiezer wins the left trainspotter award for the Posadist reference.
posted by spectrevsrector at 9:26 AM on September 10, 2012


I should also mention that when I was in my early twenties, I worked as a line order cook.
posted by KokuRyu at 9:27 AM on September 10, 2012


I respectfully suggest that your friend is an idiot. There is nothing in Marx to even hint at such a stupid suggestion. As Abiezer points out, Marx had almost nothing to say about a future communist society.

*snerk* He has indeed been wrong before...I don't know jack about Marxism, so I wasn't in a position to pass judgement.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:27 AM on September 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


The funny thing is that this zine looks like it was pretty hard to make and required many many hours on a computer. I did restaurant work for awhile, but all the repetitive stress injuries I have now (I'm in physical therapy) are largely a result on computer graphics/web dev work. Restaurant work was harder in some ways, but it was also more social and fun in other ways.
posted by melissam at 9:29 AM on September 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


1) No it isn't
2) DIY is easier
3) If you have time to wait for your food to be cooked, you have time to cook it (or eat something less time-consuming), and spending time with friends is hardly restaurant-exclusive; people who work in restaurants are people who need better jobs


You could certainly be doing something more productive and better with your time than browsing MetaFilter but you're doing it because it's entertaining and you enjoy it.

Ice cream is also a luxury. We don't have to eat it. And if we do want to eat it, guess what? We don't have to milk the damn cow ourselves either.

Get over it.
posted by Malice at 9:42 AM on September 10, 2012 [10 favorites]


No one ever gets over ice cream.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 9:44 AM on September 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


Boy, Gordon Ramsey would be seriously berating these guys for their fucking lack of fucking commitment.

I'm pretty sure if the arguments in this zine came to pass, Ramsey would be the first lined up against the wall and shot.

Though I may not support every argument they make, I would be totally okay with that.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 9:44 AM on September 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


tyllwin: tl;dr: The workers should control the means of production.

Of course, you could just move next to me in the U District in Seattle where just about every restaurant is owner-operated by someone and their extended family. Which is, of course, why "abolish restaurants" is silly when "restaurant" is everything from the burger place with plastic trays I go to once every two weeks, to Denny's, to the 100 year old family owned restaurant I went to as a kid, to a Michelin star chef's creation in the south of France. Some of those are probably bad places to work, but some of them are places where you do a reasonable and dignified job and then get paid money for it.
posted by Apropos of Something at 9:45 AM on September 10, 2012 [7 favorites]


Also, only on the Internet could someone be forced to defend the notion that there should be indoor public spaces where people can meet one another and converse.
posted by Apropos of Something at 9:46 AM on September 10, 2012 [5 favorites]


Ramsey would be the first lined up against the wall and shot

Funny you should employ that metaphor—the conventional kitchen brigade and hierarchy is completely modeled after military processes and structure.
posted by polymodus at 9:47 AM on September 10, 2012 [3 favorites]


I prefer my zines to be simple and rustic.
posted by Tanizaki at 9:49 AM on September 10, 2012 [3 favorites]


I'm now at page 30 where it has a uniformed man in combat fatigues remarkably reminiscent of an SS officer replete with menacing arm symbol, headgear and belt - and I think this is a preposterously pedantic, hilariously hysterical piece of writing. I worry that they may have peaked too soon and that they can't possibly get any more outrageous from here but I have hope
posted by deo rei at 9:55 AM on September 10, 2012 [5 favorites]



The plongeur smiles, he thinks that the chef de cuisine is his friend.
The chef smiles, he is glad the plongeur is fooled.
Now he can exploit him.
 
posted by Herodios at 9:58 AM on September 10, 2012 [7 favorites]


I got to the part where it explained that restaurants came into being because of demand creating by a growing middle class and lost the plot. Aren't we supposed to be worshipping at the altar of That Which Pleaseth The Middle Classes?
posted by prefpara at 9:59 AM on September 10, 2012


I don't understand why people don't get that the argument isn't abolish restaurants' and keep society the way it is. It's using restaurants as an example of a workplace. No one is saying there shouldn't be indoor public places where people can meet one another and converse. I would imagine in a socialist society we'd be more likely to eat communally. The pamphlet itself describes the collective running of restaurants in revolutionary Spain.
posted by spectrevsrector at 10:04 AM on September 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


Don't worry, it'll all be done by robots in 20 years.

Yep. Robots and the customers.

Even very nice restaurants will ask you to order ahead of time with a phone app, with special prices and seats for people who order their meals when they reserve their tables. Then let a robotic cart quietly slide out to the table when you signal that you're ready. So the server's main task is essentially automated.

Fewer people using more machines could do a lot more in the kitchen, especially if the orders were scheduled hours ahead of time and cooking was timed and optimized by a program.

And I'm betting that tables will be bussed automatically or with customer assistance.

So there won't be people serving, bussing, or washing, other than as robot tenders.

And there's not a lot of reason to have a person mixing drinks when a machine can also be made to pour exact amounts of liquid into a glass. Hire an actual therapist if your customers need someone to talk to while they take their recreational drugs.
posted by pracowity at 10:06 AM on September 10, 2012


There is nothing in Marx to even hint at such a stupid suggestion.

Not Marx, but Mao. That's the Cultural Revolution he's advocating.
posted by bonehead at 10:07 AM on September 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


Even very nice restaurants will ask you to order ahead of time with a phone app, with special prices and seats for people who order their meals when they reserve their tables. Then let a robotic cart quietly slide out to the table when you signal that you're ready. So the server's main task is essentially automated.

This may happen, but my guess is it would only happen at certain restaurants (maybe only at low-end restaurants) and not at others. One good point from the link is that restaurants are highly dependent on customers, so if customers don't want to eat at high-end restaurants that serve foods via robots, they won't succeed. Or, if customers do want restaurants where they are served food by people, then they will continue to exist.

People may not care if their clothes, cars and electronics are made by machines, but if the ethical food movement has taught us anything it is that people have an emotional attachment to the food they eat.
posted by ultraviolet catastrophe at 10:16 AM on September 10, 2012 [2 favorites]


I think this "zine"'s history is iffy ( and EuroFrancoAmericentric). What about e.g. Ma Yu Ching's Bucket Chicken House , sez Wikipedia
posted by Bwithh at 10:23 AM on September 10, 2012


I saw a post last night on Reddit that amounted to "people who are dicks to restaurant staff suck", and the comments were a wall of "you're being paid shit wages, so down on your knees and open your mouths, scum".

Those must be the swing voters the Obama AMA was aimed at
posted by Bwithh at 10:31 AM on September 10, 2012


Yeah, OK, page 53, here comes the violence. I'm done. This is vile agitprop that has no place on Metafilter. Somebody else can do the MeTa because I'm afraid of being beaten up by goons.
posted by deo rei at 10:31 AM on September 10, 2012 [2 favorites]


"When we go to sleep, we hope we won't dream about forgetting an order or being yelled at by the boss."

I'm an engineer, and I'm not free of those dreams. Welcome to the buyer's employment market.
posted by notsnot at 10:32 AM on September 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


What about e.g. Ma Yu Ching's Bucket Chicken House , sez Wikipedia

The Chinese invented all kinds of stuff before the West did.
posted by Egg Shen at 10:42 AM on September 10, 2012


You are insteadofapricots, somebody who works as a bartender and server in a restaurant, and also occasionally moonlights as that guy who posts his first impressions of a post 150 comments into a thread.

You get paid $30ish/hr, if you include tips, to do cardio and flirt. Your country has health insurance so basically your material needs are more than taken care of.

You work for managers who can be annoying, but who do everything above-board--you may not agree to all their rules, but you know what they are; the environment is sometimes harsh but never capricious.

You learn to slightly vary the same mundane conversations you'll be having for your entire life. You learn to listen to people who are talking superfluously and don't really want to be listened to. You learn to figure out what parts of your personality are most resonant to a given conversation--what parts of yourself to deploy in a randomly determined situation, and which not to in others. You learn, in other words, social skills, and this helps you excel in academics, in your relationships, even with making your mom understand that you care about her, something that was really difficult before you understood more about the banalities of human interaction.

You don't do meaningful work with about 30 hours of your week. You become more and more peace with the idea that not everything you do is meaningful; that the idea that you must earn your living wage exclusively by remaking the world is, in fact, perhaps somewhat noble, but perhaps also in some ways a classicist creation of a culturally saturated and narcissistic age.

You are way more physically fit and graceful, by default, than your office-working friends, even the ones who have the smartest jobs, at art magazines or whatever. You sleep well.

You read an article that starts off with an attempt to rally you to its ideological position with a lazy use of the second-person, and a blanket condemnation of a livelihood that has treated you well.

You dismiss it lazily, not because you imagine that everybody who works in a restaurant is happy--you've heard horror stories, and you do think that the dishwashers and prep cooks should be paid a little more. You dismiss it lazily because it invites lazy dismissal; because it presents a childishly universal understanding as a truth you're already supposed to understand. You dismiss it lazily because you don't think such lazy thought and writing would come so loudly out of someone you'd listen to about a subject so complex as the validity of an entire industry.

You're also just tired as hell of people expecting the name "George Orwell" to be the magic lip gloss that's gonna get me to go on a date with their argument. You're equally tired of the second-person voice, which allows you to drone on at prophetic lengths, so you say peace out for now, comment.
posted by insteadofapricots at 10:43 AM on September 10, 2012 [36 favorites]


What resonated for me was "workers, with no way to live but by working for someone else." I've been a worker. Currently I own a retail store. I work harder for less now. My employees make more per hour than I do. But as the business grows, I hope that will change. As it is, I bear all the risk. I like the idea of co-ops and employee ownership, but it seems like that would make it a lot harder to run. I've been on enough committees to know that if it were more than my wife and I haggling over business ideas it would just not be worth it. Some days I wish I could go back to being just a worker, working for someone else and a (relatively) guaranteed paycheck. Not all employers are heartless bastards just in it for the money. And restaurants are one of the riskiest kinds of businesses to start.
posted by rikschell at 10:44 AM on September 10, 2012 [4 favorites]


I think this "zine"'s history is iffy ( and EuroFrancoAmericentric). What about e.g. Ma Yu Ching's Bucket Chicken House , sez Wikipedia
I reckon no more a restaurant in the sense set out in the article than the street-sellers wandering around Song Dynasty cities with shoulder poles laden with hot cakes,as AFAIK it just sold the one thing, ye olde bucket chicken. Plus I see Chinese sources (e.g. the local government site) reckon it opened it 1864. Though you're probably right they never really considered urban history elsewhere.
posted by Abiezer at 10:44 AM on September 10, 2012


Wikipedia sez current version of bucket chicken house is from 19th century, original from 12th century. Probably was takeout only though
posted by Bwithh at 10:53 AM on September 10, 2012


I don't understand why people don't get that the argument isn't abolish restaurants' and keep society the way it is. It's using restaurants as an example of a workplace.

Agreed that it's not making the argument to simply abolish restaurants and leave the rest of society, but I'm not sure what it's making an argument for. They run through basic Marxist ideas, using the restaurant as an example, and then say "we must abolish work" and leave it at that. I know that describing what replaces capitalism isn't exactly Marxism's strongest point, but they don't even really try.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 10:54 AM on September 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


> And there's not a lot of reason to have a person mixing drinks when a machine can also be made to pour exact amounts of liquid into a glass. Hire an actual therapist if your customers need someone to talk to while they take their recreational drugs.

I'm not disagreeing with you, but the logical endpoint of this scenario - repeated across a great many sectors and industries - frightens and depresses me. In today's local newspaper there are multiple stories about companies laying off workers and/or automating positions - skilled and menial, white collar and blue - in the name of efficiency and saving money, which is great if you're a shareholder in those businesses, somewhat less so if you're a former employee or a member of a society where large swathes of the population are going to be born redundant.
posted by The Card Cheat at 10:55 AM on September 10, 2012


Wikipedia sez current version of bucket chicken house is from 19th century, original from 12th century. Probably was takeout only though
Oh yes, doh - reading right to the bottom of the page was a bit much to ask, mind!
posted by Abiezer at 10:55 AM on September 10, 2012


Hi! I posted this. I'm a Socialist and I eat at restaurants sometimes. I wish that people reacted with the same critical thought and skepticism to phrases like "Coke is it!", "I'm lovin' it!" and "America the brave" as they did with the intentionally provocative (and impossible) imperative to "Abolish restaurants."

But they don't. So what else is going on here? First, it's the predictable backlash against any anti-capitalist critique: replete with allcap caricatures, flat dismissal of "Marxism 101,"* and insipid complaints about the form, voice or genre of the piece--as if this material presented in any way would ever earn a modicum of consensus from those who feel their privilege too-strongly challenged. Second, there's an appeal to liberalist conventions which implicitly or explicitly defend the status quo as unassailable: these workers, however exploited, need jobs, others need to eat and the system we have, albeit with a few wrinkles like no liveable wage, a context which tends to render immigrants, women and the poor especially vulnerable to exploitation, and facilitation for vast problems of environmental waste, malnutrition, obesity and urban planning (sic) catastrophes, is just about perfect.

The reaction to this very simple, low-circulation comic is breathtaking. I don't even know where to start to defend it. Should I begin by saying that nowhere in Marx (and I've read the lot) does he even hint at the possibility that anyone who lived under capitalism must kill themselves in order for socialism to succeed? I mean, I'd be talking against the hearsay of an "expert." It's astonishing to me that such a suggestion would be taken seriously anywhere in the blue and not immediately laughed out of court. Here's a hint: the thing about socialism from those who subscribe to it is that we want it. Because capitalism hurts us. Our interests are the same. What I ask for, you wish it too.

Perhaps I should simply point out that the "abolish restaurants" is part of a manifesto register that has a long history in Western literature of all languages. That the assumption that the reader is already slightly on side with the speaker (or in this case, comic book artist) is part of a rhetorical tradition that we experience daily in advertisements, political speeches and religious sermons--yet I don't know any examples of those which incite 150+ comments in an hour. Someone pointed out above that the goal of this pamphlet is to point out that the social and economic dynamics of the restaurant and food industry is paradigmatic of capitalism in the West. Thank you. Somehow, we've developed as a culture the idea that we are entitled to eat whatever we wish whenever we wish; and the fact that countless camouflaged individuals labour under extreme financial and mental duress to make that possible while privileged others enrich themselves doesn't undermine this idea--it supports it!

I can't refute all the nonsense in this thread, since the comment ticker is still clicking like mad, but for crying out loud, if you're going to post more in this thread--a thread about a comic book--at least ask yourself why you are so moved to do so in so virulent and hostile a way. It might make it easier to have a productive discussion without needing to cover the same material over and over again.

* I teach at the university level and I've never seen a Marxism 101, although I'm sure it's out there somewhere. In my experience, if Marxism is taught at all -- and this thread poses powerful evidence to the contrary -- it's taught in upper-level undergraduate courses despite the fact that its fundamentals are quite simple: our economy is based on the mirage that we value things based on how useful it is, when instead we value them by how much we can exchange them for. This (the commodity fetish), combined with the idea that only human labour can increase an object's value, means that those who control the process of exchange, rather than the process of labour, control our collective wealth.
posted by Catchfire at 10:57 AM on September 10, 2012 [25 favorites]


I own this as a zine. If it didn't make it's point so dramatically, no one would read it. And I think its a fascinating perspective. Glad it made it to the web.
posted by agregoli at 11:00 AM on September 10, 2012 [4 favorites]


I wish that people reacted with the same critical thought and skepticism to phrases like "Coke is it!", "I'm lovin' it!" and "America the brave" as they did with the intentionally provocative (and impossible) imperative to "Abolish restaurants."

...Uh, people here on Metafilter react with skepticism to everything. So much so that "Pepsi Blue!" has become group jargon for "I suspect that this particular FPP is a stealth corporate advertisement.

What is leading you to believe otherwise?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:05 AM on September 10, 2012 [3 favorites]


Also, NO ONE actually says "I'm lovin' it."
posted by maryr at 11:10 AM on September 10, 2012


Oppressive capitalist management: I'd hit it!
posted by mazola at 11:11 AM on September 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


flat dismissal of "Marxism 101,"*

I'm the person that used the phrase Marxism 101, and I'm not sure why you're characterizing it as dismissal. Think about every time you see someone use the phrase "Feminism 101" on Metafilter, those people are by and large feminists. There's nothing dismissive about Marxism inherent in saying Marxism 101.

It's just that when the pamphlet is entitled "Abolish Restaurants" I expected it to be more about restaurants specifically than it was. Obviously, it turned out to be an introduction to basic Marxist concepts (hence Marxism 101) in the context of a restaurant, and that's fine, but it just wasn't where I expected to the link to go.

I can't speak for every university in the country, but I where I went to school basically every first or second year student owned a copy of the Marx-Engels Reader*. I didn't go to a super lefty school either, I went to the University of Chicago. My use of "Marxism 101" just means "hey, this is Soc from my first year." No, the class wasn't literally called Marxism 101, but we got basic Marxism. I'm guessing this is unusual, but it also seems unlikely to be completely unique.

*It might literally be impossible to graduate without reading Marx. One of the requirements is one of a set of courses in Social Sciences (you can pick from say a half dozen sequences), and every person I know took a class that read Marx.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 11:11 AM on September 10, 2012 [4 favorites]


Catchfire - I'm a right old commie and thought the article had good passages addressing salient points about the lived experience of alienation that will chime with plenty of readers, but in my view it's not much use criticising the masses (so to speak) for failing to grasp our polemics, or we end up like Brecht's satire wanting to dissolve the people and elect another. Arguments about ideas will include flat dismissals and mischaracterisations, and in my case, a lot of half-remembered nonsense.
posted by Abiezer at 11:15 AM on September 10, 2012 [4 favorites]


That's a fair point, Abiezer. Forgive the antagonistic tone, y'all.
posted by Catchfire at 11:20 AM on September 10, 2012


Catchfire: "our economy is based on the mirage that we value things based on how useful it is, when instead we value them by how much we can exchange them for. This (the commodity fetish), combined with the idea that only human labour can increase an object's value, means that those who control the process of exchange, rather than the process of labour, control our collective wealth."

Thanks a lot for posting this link, Catchfire, and for your excellent comment
posted by rebent at 11:21 AM on September 10, 2012 [5 favorites]


Obligatory Metafilter bourgeois snark here.
posted by dunkadunc at 11:41 AM on September 10, 2012 [7 favorites]


I can't refute all the nonsense in this thread, since the comment ticker is still clicking like mad, but for crying out loud, if you're going to post more in this thread--a thread about a comic book--at least ask yourself why you are so moved to do so in so virulent and hostile a way. It might make it easier to have a productive discussion without needing to cover the same material over and over again.

Metafilter= Posting virulent and hostile comments about comic books without asking yourself why
posted by Bwithh at 11:55 AM on September 10, 2012 [2 favorites]


Glad it made it to the web

It's available on Amazon for $6 if anyone wants a hard copy
posted by Bwithh at 11:56 AM on September 10, 2012


I wish that people reacted with the same critical thought and skepticism to phrases like "Coke is it!", "I'm lovin' it!" and "America the brave" as they did with the intentionally provocative (and impossible) imperative to "Abolish restaurants."

My experience is the reaction here to corporate catchphrases receives far more immediate and sustained opprobrium than this zine / pamphlet.

The pamphlet annoyed me. Not because I think the current arrangements of many or most restaurants are "just about perfect". But wanting better wages and more dignity to people doing shit jobs (and, since I've spent time doing these and other, harder jobs; I know what hard, unpleasant work is) is rather different than thinking that the entire insitution is inherently, incorrigibly evil and necessarily involves exploitation. It isn't, it doesn't.

I'll admit my crime up front here: I'm an overpaid bourgeois slime who enjoys spending discretionary cash on good food prepared and served by experts. I'm that vile gluttonous devil: the foodie. I'm also well aware of how hard the work can be. I've done my time in the dishpit, bailed out backing up septic tanks by hand at the end of the shift, juggled 10 orders as a short order cook, seved wine, bussed tables, served at banquets of thousands, almost the entire gamut save being a 'real' chef. Its funny though, for something apparently so inherently exploitative, that when I dream of quitting my current overcompensated cushy corporate gig, its to work in a kitchen again.

I like restaurants. I also know restaurants: good ones and terrible ones. I guess what annoys me about the pamphlet is that it presents a picture that over-simplifies, brooks no exception to its narrative and slyly insinuates that anyone who might differ is an accomplice to a terrible crime.
posted by bumpkin at 12:02 PM on September 10, 2012 [4 favorites]


at least ask yourself why you are so moved to do so in so virulent and hostile a way

For me, it's because I happen to think that the ideas espoused here are actually incredibly corrosive. I reject the whole alienation paradigm. I reject the idea that capital is unproductive and not deserving of compensation. I reject the idea that "capturing" "surplus" labor is somehow immoral.

Seriously, this is just the flip side of the "You didn't build that!" kerfluffle. If you own a small business, guess what: the infrastructure and legal system which enables your business to operate isn't something you built. But if you show up to work, guess what: the inventory, production system, and management structure that permits you to put your labor to productive use isn't something you built either. Call it the "means of production," if you will. I see nothing inherently wrong or immoral with the means of production being owned by the few rather than the many.

So yeah. That's why I'm moved to reject this bit. I think know what socialism is, I'm pretty sure I understand what it's about, and I'm not a socialist.
posted by valkyryn at 12:04 PM on September 10, 2012 [4 favorites]


Thanks, Catchfire. The response is typical, don't let it get you down.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 12:16 PM on September 10, 2012 [3 favorites]


I will forthwith filet my own mignons.
posted by obscurator at 12:20 PM on September 10, 2012 [2 favorites]


Should I begin by saying that nowhere in Marx (and I've read the lot) does he even hint at the possibility that anyone who lived under capitalism must kill themselves in order for socialism to succeed? I mean, I'd be talking against the hearsay of an "expert." It's astonishing to me that such a suggestion would be taken seriously anywhere in the blue and not immediately laughed out of court.

To be fair, the suggestion basically was laughed out of court.
posted by asnider at 12:36 PM on September 10, 2012


The reaction to this very simple, low-circulation comic is breathtaking

I don't see why any of these criteria are relevant at all. Arguably it underscores the repulsive character. It's a nasty piece of work that associates restaurant owners with nazis and illustrates that violence should be done unto them. Agitprop of this kind is always simple because the people who indulge it are simple-minded. It is low-circulation because most people want nothing to do with this hateful tripe.
posted by deo rei at 12:36 PM on September 10, 2012 [5 favorites]


polymodus: Ramsey would be the first lined up against the wall and shot

Funny you should employ that metaphor—the conventional kitchen brigade and hierarchy is completely modeled after military processes and structure.
It suddenly occurred to me that Chaucer's stereotype image of the Cook was of a hot-headed, red-faced bastard, who was nonetheless an in-demand genius. Plus ça change...
posted by IAmBroom at 12:38 PM on September 10, 2012 [2 favorites]


But wanting better wages and more dignity to people doing shit jobs (and, since I've spent time doing these and other, harder jobs; I know what hard, unpleasant work is) is rather different than thinking that the entire insitution is inherently, incorrigibly evil and necessarily involves exploitation. It isn't, it doesn't

Which neatly encapsulates the essential difference between all forms of socialism/anarchism and reformism (social democracy, left liberalism, certain forms of christian democracy). The first political currents realise that you can't reform capitalism, that even with higher wages and more dignity the working classes are still being exploited and more importantly, still lack true political power, while the latter is more or less content with the status quo (in its broadest sense) and just want to tinker at the edges.

Its whether you see it as an inherent problem that some people need never work a day in their lives while others work hard every day and still can't keep their head above the water, or whether you think that as long as the state is there to throw a life buoy to the latter, or they just get a little bit more money, this basic situation is all right.
posted by MartinWisse at 12:38 PM on September 10, 2012 [4 favorites]


Catchfire: Hi! I posted this. I'm a Socialist and I eat at restaurants sometimes. I wish that people reacted with the same critical thought and skepticism to phrases like "Coke is it!", "I'm lovin' it!" and "America the brave" as they did with the intentionally provocative (and impossible) imperative to "Abolish restaurants."
To be fair, McDonald's didn't encourage their customers to kill anyone, and AFAIK Coke commercials haven't compared anyone to Hitler.

Not even as a witty, Marx-savvy metaphor.
posted by IAmBroom at 12:42 PM on September 10, 2012 [3 favorites]


IAmBroom: "McDonald's didn't encourage their customers to kill anyone"

Maybe that's what Grimace is. (I'm pretty sure a purple milkshake would kill somebody.)

Note: even as a jokester, I also wish people would spend more time applying critical thought to restaurant business practices and less time wondering what Grimace is.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 12:45 PM on September 10, 2012


Well, THAT link was communist.



but seriously, you could take that same idea and it works for florists as well, at least the one I work at. So I guess they want us all working from home producing something for ourselves with a little left over? This can't work in modern society. More's the pity.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 12:51 PM on September 10, 2012


Interview with the author

Abolish Restaurants is not primarily a critique of restaurants. It is a critique of capitalism in one specific place: restaurants. A similar critique could be written about most workplaces. The point is to show how the everyday shit that your average worker has to go through is not just someone's bad luck.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 12:58 PM on September 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


MetaFilter: I'm a Socialist and I eat at restaurants sometimes.
posted by modernnomad at 12:58 PM on September 10, 2012 [3 favorites]


No St Alia, that's not it at all. It's not working together that's the problem, it's working for a boss, for a wage.
posted by spectrevsrector at 1:06 PM on September 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


and highly unlikely to have ever spent a lot of time bussing tables or dishwashing.

High school busboy and dishwasher representin'. It was a pretty crappy gig—to this day I want to know why people buy spaghetti for toddlers—but it had its moments.

the intentionally provocative (and impossible) imperative to "Abolish restaurants."

So you present an "intentionally provocative (and impossible) imperative" and then you're surprised by the intemperate responses?

Nicely played, sir. Nicely played.
posted by octobersurprise at 1:27 PM on September 10, 2012 [6 favorites]


From the comic:

But restaurants do make a reliable profit.

lol wut
posted by deadmessenger at 1:43 PM on September 10, 2012 [2 favorites]


according to p45-6, community-focussed/cause-focussed restaurants as well as politically radical restaurants run as vegan organic locavore anarchist/communalist collectives/cooperatives with no bosses are also inherently sites of unacceptable oppression - where often the workers are worse off than in regular capitalist restaurants, and the management has more oppressive control over workers because they believe it's all for a good cause!

Capitalist corporate restaurants are completely unacceptable, state-run restaurants are also completely unacceptable (look at what the Communist govt did in the Spanish Civil War!), as are mom-and-pop operations and anarchist cooperatives and community-run restaurants it seems.

Pizza delivery still OK? I will tip the driver with barter goods
posted by Bwithh at 2:05 PM on September 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


Yeah, OK, page 53, here comes the violence. I'm done. This is vile agitprop that has no place on Metafilter. Somebody else can do the MeTa because I'm afraid of being beaten up by goons.

The images of violence are representative of fighting against the system of restaurants (as a stand-in for the system of capital). I don't really read them as a specific call to actual violence.

I find it somewhat telling that I've been flipping back and forth between this thread and the Chicago teacher's strike thread and getting a bit confused about which I'm on from time to time. The Teacher's Strike is in protest of the attempt to commodify the art of teaching through standardized testing and other extremely poor metrics, thereby wedging it into the same system that evaluates a line chef on the number of entrees per hour they can crank out.
posted by kaibutsu at 2:30 PM on September 10, 2012 [2 favorites]


Should I begin by saying that nowhere in Marx (and I've read the lot) does he even hint at the possibility that anyone who lived under capitalism must kill themselves in order for socialism to succeed?

That idea was raised tentatively and then dismissed. I will, however, note that those who actually try to create marxist societies often do start killing, exiling, and imprisoning large numbers of people upon discovering the difficulties in actually implementing post-capitalist systems. That history colors my reaction to marxist appeals. I'm much more sympathetic to those who wish to raise wages or improve labor laws than to those who wish to throw out the entire capitalist system and replace it with something undefined but utopian. I fear that the would-be revolutionaries will start killing once they realize it is difficult to re-make a society.
posted by Area Man at 2:44 PM on September 10, 2012


deadmessenger:
The link you posted states that there's a 23% chance of failure in the first year, which really isn't anywhere near as bad as the popular perception (often stated at 90%). I'm also curious to see what the failure rates are for franchises as opposed to independent ventures. I know that for some time, Subway (which likely wasn't the only one doing this) was basically spamming the US with franchises as a sort of experimental approach to finding good locations. It was especially worthwhile as the buyers of the franchises were putting up the initial cash investment and thus soaking up the risk.
posted by kaibutsu at 2:48 PM on September 10, 2012


The Teacher's Strike is in protest of the attempt to commodify the art of teaching through standardized testing and other extremely poor metrics, thereby wedging it into the same system that evaluates a line chef on the number of entrees per hour they can crank out.


With regard to the Teacher's Strike, the problem is not the commodification itself, but rather the improper, unfounded reliance on standardized testing. In an adequately run restaurant, a line cook really will be cranking out tasty meals; the "commodification" more or less works. Contrast with teaching, where "teaching to the test" actually impedes education.
posted by Sticherbeast at 3:12 PM on September 10, 2012 [2 favorites]


Absolutely agree, Stitcherbeast; the attempt hasn't been terribly successful.
posted by kaibutsu at 3:21 PM on September 10, 2012


Restaurants don't have to be this way. I've eaten at a bunch of them in central America with just a few people working there, mostly in the same family, and a 'rush' would be a foreign concept to most of them. Of course it takes an hour to get dinner, which most Americans wouldn't put up with.
posted by empath at 3:52 PM on September 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


I will, however, note that those who actually try to create marxist societies often do start killing, exiling, and imprisoning large numbers of people upon discovering the difficulties in actually implementing post-capitalist systems. That history colors my reaction to marxist appeals. I'm much more sympathetic to those who wish to raise wages or improve labor laws than to those who wish to throw out the entire capitalist system and replace it with something undefined but utopian. I fear that the would-be revolutionaries will start killing once they realize it is difficult to re-make a society.

I haven't responded to the straight up "Socialism is evil" propagandists, but this contains some common misconceptions worth rebutting. First, there's no such thing as a "Marxist society," since Marx never offered a model of what a post-Capitalist world would look like. The closest he got was calling for a "free association of men," but didn't really say what that would look like. He was first and foremost a critic (and admirer) of capitalism.

Second, the violent history of socialism you have imagined is false. The two closest examples of what a post-capitalist state might look like of which I am aware--The Paris Commune of 1891 and the May 1968 general strikes--witnessed none of the mass violence you're talking about. I assume you are stenographing for Cold-War era talking points about the Soviet Union, Mao's China and maybe even Pol Pot--it's difficult to tell from the historic perspective you've offered. At any rate, if you can't tell the difference between a revolution that would bring democracy and equality to the masses and one in which a new set of elites replace another in a farcical revolt, I recommend Marx's Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte.

Finally, even if you file the above supervillains of history under "Marxism" in a feat of historical gymnastics, you might do well do compare those to the blood spilled by capitalist states who awkwardly don't have a manifesto easily identifying them. The genocide of First Peoples worldwide, the wars of imperialism in the Middle East and elsewhere, and the status quo immiseration by enforced poverty, pestilence and war are all necessary legacies of the capitalist project. If you find your Marxist history "coloured" by violence distasteful, I encourage you to apply the same critical eye to the violence our culture enacts daily.
posted by Catchfire at 3:57 PM on September 10, 2012 [5 favorites]


page 10 - 'the value of these things is determined by the amount of work time necessary to make them'

You know, I'm a closet Marxist myself, but I do get annoyed whenever someone brings up his 'labor as value' theories, which he took directly from Ricardo, and have been disproved for hundreds of years.

To me, it signals that whoever's speaking is unable to distinguish between Marx's bad economics and his good political critiques, and has swallowed the pill without looking at it first.
posted by justalisteningman at 4:05 PM on September 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


I saw this in book format years ago in that decidedly non-capitalist institution known as Pike Place Market in Seattle, while in town for an academic conference.
posted by raysmj at 4:08 PM on September 10, 2012


Marx never offered a model of what a post-Capitalist world would look like. The closest he got was calling for a "free association of men," but didn't really say what that would look like. He was first and foremost a critic (and admirer) of capitalism.

That, in itself, is a problem. Before deciding whether to replace the current system, it would be good to know about the proposed alternative.

The two closest examples of what a post-capitalist state might look like of which I am aware--The Paris Commune of 1891 and the May 1968 general strikes--witnessed none of the mass violence you're talking about.

If Marx didn't describe a post-capitalist state, how are you suddenly able to determine which examples come closest? Also, I think it is quite telling that both examples were fleeting.

I assume you are stenographing for Cold-War era talking points about the Soviet Union, Mao's China and maybe even Pol Pot--it's difficult to tell from the historic perspective you've offered.

How did actual atrocities comitted become mere "Cold-War era talking points"? I appreciate that modern marxists may wish to distance themselves from Lenin and Stalin, but the gulag was real, the engineered famines were real, and the killing was real.

At any rate, if you can't tell the difference between a revolution that would bring democracy and equality to the masses and one in which a new set of elites replace another in a farcical revolt, I recommend Marx's Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte.

What's to stop the next actual revoluation from being taken over by scoundrels? I've never understood how marxists can be so good at critiquing the current system (and the alternatives proposed by anarchists) but so unwilling to consider human nature and behavior when thinking about a revolution and post-revolutionary state.

Finally, even if you file the above supervillains of history under "Marxism" in a feat of historical gymnastics, you might do well do compare those to the blood spilled by capitalist states who awkwardly don't have a manifesto easily identifying them. The genocide of First Peoples worldwide, the wars of imperialism in the Middle East and elsewhere, and the status quo immiseration by enforced poverty, pestilence and war are all necessary legacies of the capitalist project. If you find your Marxist history "coloured" by violence distasteful, I encourage you to apply the same critical eye to the violence our culture enacts daily.

I agree, there is much wrong with the current system, but I've never seen that marxists offer much of an alternative. We have two marxist models: (1) totalitarian dictatorships and (2) some vague, utopian vision.
posted by Area Man at 4:17 PM on September 10, 2012 [2 favorites]


The link you posted states that there's a 23% chance of failure in the first year, which really isn't anywhere near as bad as the popular perception (often stated at 90%).
posted by kaibutsu at 5:48 PM on September 10 [+] [!]

Yep. What I was commenting on was that I don't think one could use with a straight face the word "reliable" to describe something that tends to fail 23% of the time in the first year of operation. The often-cited 90% failure rate that you mention is equally ridiculous.
posted by deadmessenger at 5:14 PM on September 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


You know, I'm a closet Marxist myself, but I do get annoyed whenever someone brings up his 'labor as value' theories, which he took directly from Ricardo, and have been disproved for hundreds of years.
Somebody else said something similar upthread and it's not true (nor that he just cribbed his version whole cloth from Ricardo; he spends plenty of words critiquing him)- the labour theory of value is a political economic argument for Marx, and was found to be irrefutable in that arena (no doubt helped by the fact it was one he largely created IIRC). It's been 'disproved' only in the later "mere" economics which had retreated from political economy to something much narrower (a process is described in this book, for one) and by and large took various aspects of the capitalist order as given, which amounts to little more than saying it's not much use to corporate accountants, which wasn't Charlie's intent.
posted by Abiezer at 5:28 PM on September 10, 2012 [3 favorites]


tl;dr

I'm 65. Spent 20+ years in the electronic industry - most with Intel.

Spent the last 7+ years as a cook in a small restaurant. Love my job. Love the people I work with (both front and back). Mostly love my customers (yes there are way too many assholes).

Sometimes the job you love is not for everyone. I'm definitely not working because of the money. I love to cook and I *love it* when people tell me the food is great. If the job isn't for you, go somewhere else. Most of our employees do.
posted by jgaiser at 6:00 PM on September 10, 2012 [3 favorites]


It would be more interesting to explore an industry that we might argue few enjoy working in or see as a craft, like trash collection. I feel bad that my day to day activities require people to work such a job and I imagine few would chose to work it if they had other choices. But who would do it in a Marxist society?
posted by melissam at 6:24 PM on September 10, 2012 [2 favorites]


WOW. This is one of the most informative pieces I've read and breaks down the class struggle masterfully. Thanks!
posted by Renoroc at 7:45 PM on September 10, 2012


Catchfire: Second, the violent history of socialism you have imagined is false. The two closest examples of what a post-capitalist state might look like of which I am aware--The Paris Commune of 1891 and the May 1968 general strikes--witnessed none of the mass violence you're talking about. I assume you are stenographing for Cold-War era talking points about the Soviet Union, Mao's China and maybe even Pol Pot--it's difficult to tell from the historic perspective you've offered.

The problem here is that the Soviet Union, Maoist China, Pol Pot, etc. called themselves Marxist and socialist and claimed to be fulfilling Marx's ideals, and there were a lot of self-proclaimed Marxists who agreed with them and had all sorts of elaborate justifications for every atrocity they carried out, and they based these justifications on Marxist theory. Even in this day and age, it is not difficult to find all sorts of self-proclaimed Marxists and Marxist organizations who argue that the Cultural Revolution was a good thing, that the "kulaks" had it coming, that crushing the Prague Spring was a necessary action to prevent the return of capitalism and that the Czech people welcomed it, and so on. IME, these people do not generally tend to receive the ostracism from broader leftist/anti-capitalist movements that they deserve, and do incredible damage to the good name of the entire ideal.

All of this may represent a gross perversion of Marx's ideal, and I'd certainly agree that Leninism is nothing like what Marx probably had in mind, but given that all of these states loudly trumpeted to the world that they were Marxist and what they were doing was Marxism, and that they were "worker's states" (even as they violently crushed strikes, along with doing many other things that they held up as examples of why capitalism needed to be overthrown when it wasn't self-proclaimed Marxists doing them), it doesn't take much in the way of historical gymnastics for someone to reach the conclusion that what they did was, in fact, Marxism in practice, or at least one possible form of it- and given that, as you say, Marx didn't really offer a model of what a post-capitalist world would look like, how do you prove (particularly when you have lots of self-proclaimed Marxists arguing the contrary) that the models of Stalin, Mao, and Pol Pot weren't simply interpretations of the theory as valid as any other? In short, when it comes to people having automatically negative reactions to Marxism, I think it's quite safe to say that it wasn't just the US's Cold War propaganda that poisoned that well (though I'll certainly grant that this played a role)- it was the words and actions of self-proclaimed Marxists and Marxist states, themselves, and that is an issue which Marxists (and indeed anti-capitalists in general) have not confronted, IMO, to anywhere near the degree that they should. All too often I find that even non-Leninist/Stalinist/Maoist Marxists slip into denial or apologia when it comes to that history, and I think this is a pretty large part of the reason why people might have an automatically negative reaction to Marxism in general.

And as far as that goes, when you react to a mention of the atrocities committed by the Leninist states with a dismissive line about "Cold War era talking points"- I don't think it was intended as such (and I could be misreading that part of your comment), but it does come across as denial or apologia. Even assuming, for the sake of argument, that the Cold War was nothing more than the struggle of two different groups of capitalist gangsters (and for the record I think a strong case can indeed be made for that point of view, though I don't entirely agree with it), and that the Soviet Union, Maoist China, etc. weren't really Marxist- given how loudly they called themselves Marxist, why assume that one could only have a negative impression of Marxism from American propaganda, and not the words and deeds of those states?

The genocide of First Peoples worldwide, the wars of imperialism in the Middle East and elsewhere, and the status quo immiseration by enforced poverty, pestilence and war are all necessary legacies of the capitalist project. If you find your Marxist history "coloured" by violence distasteful, I encourage you to apply the same critical eye to the violence our culture enacts daily.

I am not a supporter of our current system at all, but the atrocities committed by Leninist states are not made less bad by the atrocities of capitalism. (And, of course, vice versa.) I agree that capitalism has a great deal of blood on its hands, and that this is probably inherent to capitalism. And I certainly don't think socialism, let alone the ideal of socialism, is inherently evil (though I do think Leninism pretty much is.) To the extent that I still believe in the possibility of a system that isn't founded in violence, exploitation, and oppression, (and honestly, the more I learn of history and economics, the more distant that vision seems, but then I am a pessimist in general), I'm an anarchist. I don't think that we have to accept capitalism, but I think that casting off the legacy of Leninism is crucially important for radical socialism if it is to have any moral or political capital, and that even if Marx didn't intend it that it's all too easy for an exclusively Marxist analysis or movement to end in Leninism or something like it. (For the record, I'm fairly convinced by Leszek Kolakowski's argument to that effect, and- without discarding the valid and insightful elements of Marx's analysis, of which I would agree there are many- generally think that it's time for the left to start looking beyond Marx for models of what an anti-capitalist movement and system might be like.)
posted by a louis wain cat at 8:13 PM on September 10, 2012 [9 favorites]


Restaurants are a luxury.

I disagree. Restaurants are a place where I can store large quantities of vegetables without them going bad every single friggin week.
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 9:58 PM on September 10, 2012 [3 favorites]


The reaction to this very simple, low-circulation comic is breathtaking.

a) If you've posted it here, it ain't low circulation anymore. A front page link, even an unpopular one, gets thousands of hits. It might not have gotten that kind of attention in dead-tree form, but eyes is eyes. If I sold four thousand copies of a zine, I would cry with joy (and probably not a little with pain from a multitude of paper cuts.)

b) You emphasize comic as if there is something inherently inferior or disposable about the medium and by extension the message it conveys. There may have been at one time, but we have all lived through an era where that paradigm has shifted - we don't see them that way anymore. Comics can be as important, as beautiful, as artful as what is on their pages. They are no longer universally regarded as low.

Furthermore, we aren't experiencing this as a comic; we are experiencing it as web content, and processing its information as it is presented in that format.
The way you emphasize the word seems to imply that you feel that we should not be reacting passionately to a mere trifle, yet you were so taken with its message that you felt moved to share it. And the message is presented in an intentionally inflammatory way.


The author is also using as symbolic a working environment in which many of us (including myself) have toiled, and it is just close enough to the truth that we feel compelled to call bullshit on the constructs that are necessary to advance the point. Most of the restaurant owners I know, for instance, are no bespectacled absentee landlords counting their dough and wringing their hands gleefully as they exploit their sufferin' workers. They are right up in the sufferin', cooking and front-of-house schmoozing and washing dishes and working every single day because this is their dream and they love this shit.


The woman with the knife at the bottom of this page looks very much like a friend of mine.

She has worked in kitchens forever. She is a stress monkey -addicted to the rush and the panic, the clattering and the screaming and the swearing.

When I imagine her at work, that cartoon stabby woman is exactly the her I see.

Off work, she is sweet and chill and funny, because she gets her fill of fury and madness from the kitchen.


If we abolish restaurants, we release her to the streets, a woman and her knives.
posted by louche mustachio at 2:26 AM on September 11, 2012 [10 favorites]


Even in this day and age, it is not difficult to find all sorts of self-proclaimed Marxists and Marxist organizations who argue that the Cultural Revolution was a good thing, that the "kulaks" had it coming...

Out of morbid curiosity as much as anything -- citation please?
posted by mr. digits at 5:06 AM on September 11, 2012


First, there's no such thing as a "Marxist society," since Marx never offered a model of what a post-Capitalist world would look like.

This is not helping you as much as you seem to think that it is. Even if there is no official, canonical version of "what a post-Capitalist world would look like," pretty much every single time someone has taken a stab at trying to implement a post-Capitalist world there has been quite a bit of, actual stabbing. This is problematic, to say the least.

Second, the violent history of socialism you have imagined is false.

Bullshit. No true Scotsman. This is akin to a Catholic saying that the history of Christianity is one of unmitigated and unblemished peaceful co-existence because the Crusades and the Inquisition are now considered to be somewhat embarrassing. If you want anyone to take you seriously, you need to own the people that use your name.

The genocide of First Peoples worldwide, the wars of imperialism in the Middle East and elsewhere, and the status quo immiseration by enforced poverty, pestilence and war are all necessary legacies of the capitalist project.

First of all, that's a pure tu quoque and not really a substantive response. Second, the "genocide of First Peoples worldwide" is not a "necessary legacy of the capitalist project." It's been a "necessary legacy" of the human freaking condition. Nations have been wiping each other out as long as there has been agriculture. Doesn't necessarily have anything to do with capitalism, or socialism for that matter. But third, you do not want to play a numbers game here. I know you want to say that Mao and Stalin "weren't really socalists," but the Russian famine of 1921 and the Chinese Great Famine of 1958-62, both of which were undeniably caused by catastrophic economic mismanagement on the part of socialist revolutionaries were responsible for some 50+ million deaths. All in the name of the people. And against that you want to put up the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq? Perhaps 20-odd thousand and 120,000 against 50+ million? Uh, no. And "enforced poverty"? We may have a poverty problem in the West, but we don't really have bread lines.

So don't give me your "enforced poverty, pestilence and war" tripe. I ain't buying it. Capitalism, not socialism, has been responsible for the most prosperous and peaceful era in human history, and every time someone has tried to shift from capitalism away to any rigorous form of socialism (with the exception of the sort of social democracy you see in Europe, though we'll see how that goes in the next decade), people die. Lots of them. Is the way we do things now perfect? No, of course not. Are there injustices? Absolutely. It's one of the reasons I went into the law. Does it need to be overthrown and replaced with something-to-be-specified-later-but-definitely-better-seriously-we-promise? No. No, it does not.

I say again: f*ck that noise.
posted by valkyryn at 9:57 AM on September 11, 2012 [6 favorites]


I question the existence of a "capitalist project"
posted by empath at 11:51 AM on September 11, 2012 [2 favorites]


need to be overthrown and replaced with something-to-be-specified-later-but-definitely-better-seriously-we-promise?

Remarkably, this sounds exactly like Mitt Romney's pitch this year.
posted by octobersurprise at 12:24 PM on September 11, 2012


mr. digits: Out of morbid curiosity as much as anything -- citation please?

In general, Communist parties that call themselves "anti-revisionist" (this means, in essence, Stalinist or Maoist) view Stalin's collectivization drive as a good and necessary action. These days they usually either gloss over the human toll of it, make out like it was a tragic necessity, or claim that most of the deaths were from natural causes, but for outright "the kulaks had it coming" stuff- well, off the top of my head, there's a rather infamous essay in praise of Stalin by W.E.B. Du Bois, reprinted with great approval in this issue of the Progressive Labor Party's newspaper, in which he refers to Stalin's collectivization policy as a "second revolution" which "drove out the rural bloodsuckers." (To be sure, the Progressive Labor Party is unusually extreme and ridiculous even by "anti-revisionist" standards- I mean, they make a point of always spelling "cops" as "kkkops.") For another example, here's the Stalin Society's explanation of how the kulaks were vicious exploiters and the collectivization drive was in support of the poor peasants and maybe there were "injustices perpetrated" but it was a good and necessary thing anyway.

As for the Cultural Revolution, most Maoist groups (outside of China, at least, where from what I've gathered even fairly hardline Maoists tend to view it as a mistake) regard it as having been a positive thing to at least some extent- ranging from the relatively ambivalent view of the Freedom Road Socialist Organization to the wholeheartedly positive view of this "fact" sheet about the Cultural Revolution from Bob Avakian's Revolutionary Communist Party to this effusive praise of the Red Guards from the Kasama Project.
posted by a louis wain cat at 9:35 PM on September 11, 2012


outside of China, at least, where from what I've gathered even fairly hardline Maoists tend to view it as a mistake

No, plenty of defenders and unapologetic participants, but it wasn't really just one thing as seems to be the superficial view outside China (series of phases and different events over ten years and across a big country) so exactly which actions or aspects are seen as good varies.
posted by Abiezer at 9:48 PM on September 11, 2012


Man, anytime anybody criticizes capitalism everybody is all "HURR DURR MAO AND STALIN" regardless of the political views of the author. This was obviously written by an anarchist, who most likely dislikes totalitarian communism just as much as you do.
posted by thsmchnekllsfascists at 11:30 AM on September 12, 2012 [2 favorites]


That's what happens when you post (or agree with) agitprop on the front page and then get pissy when people disagree with it.
posted by Snyder at 11:48 AM on September 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


I assume you are stenographing for Cold-War era talking points about the Soviet Union, Mao's China and maybe even Pol Pot--it's difficult to tell from the historic perspective you've offered. At any rate, if you can't tell the difference between a revolution that would bring democracy and equality to the masses and one in which a new set of elites replace another in a farcical revolt, I recommend Marx's Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte.

In hindsight everything is 20/20.

At the time of the Bolshevik Revolution, the Chinese Civil War, or even the early days of Democratic Kampuchea, certainly many people were fooled, and many of those who were fooled were exactly the sort of people who had read their share of Marx.

There is a hefty dose of No True Scotsman involved in the endless after-the-fact repudiations of virtually all the large-scale, transformative implementation attempts of postcapitalist socialism, particularly if and when the repudiation occurs in the context of someone calling for (as the zine does) exactly that sort of transformative change.

Certainly, we would not let someone advocating monarchism or fascism just hand-wave away the worst examples of what those systems have wrought, by pointing at a few places where they seem to have worked well. I see no reason why those advocating revolutionary socialism should be exempt from the same level of skepticism.
posted by Kadin2048 at 12:36 PM on September 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


That's a good point. I don't get too down on Paul Robeson or Pete Seeger for any past support of Stalin-era Soviet Communism, because they saw a lot of injustice and suffering in their own home countries, and saw another country trying to do something about it, at least in theory, and were rightly skeptical of the official line from their own governments.

The difference is with someone like Seeger is that he eventually dealt with them honestly, and doesn't get all butt hurt when the crimes of the Soviets are mentioned, and when used as a repudiation of Marxism or Communism, he confronts them and doesn't handwave them away.
posted by Snyder at 9:12 PM on September 12, 2012 [2 favorites]


How the French Revolution Gave Birth to the Restaurant Business
posted by homunculus at 4:23 PM on September 14, 2012 [4 favorites]


There's no way I would want metafilter to be a left-wing back-patting circle, but I think the 'what about stalin' responses are rather intellectually lazy.
posted by dunkadunc at 10:25 AM on September 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


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