The problem is to put poetry into work. Production isn't something negative, that has to be limited as much as possible for mankind to fulfill itself in its leisure. The institution of autonomy is also -- and, in the first place -- the institution of autonomy in work.
For example...if you have friends who will give you a meal, you don't need money to eat. If you are willing to go to a soup kitchen for dinner, you don't need money. It helps, but you don't truly NEED it. And on and on. The same goes for any choice you make in life. Money can help, but it's not the whole story. If you believe the solution to your woes is "more money", you'll overlook other ways to achieve your goals.
1) I've consciously chosen to live simply and avoid debt. I know I can be quite happy with few material goods. I've also chosen not to marry, have children or keep pets.
2) I've shifted my perspective on wealth. Wealth has little to do with greenbacks. No matter how little money I may have, I can always find something to make me feel rich - like the fact that I can hear a bird sing a beautiful melody outside my window, for example.
3) I've invested time in friendship and creating community. As a result, I have a lot of very good friends who are happy to share their resources (homes, food, etc.) and barter services with me.
Contemporary G-Marxists must resolutely denounce the imitative, vulgar
"Marxism" of the Three Stooges, Monty Python, and Bugs Bunny. Instead of
vulgar Marxism, we must return to authentic *Marxist vulgarity.*
Rectumfication is likewise in order for those deluded comrades who think
"the correct line" is what the cop makes them walk when he pulls them over.
In the past workers have tended, like Oliver Twist, simply to ask for more. Now, on an increasing scale, they are moving away from traditional trade union demands. They are beginning to challenge some fundamental aspects of the work process. The old illusions about 'a fair day's work', about 'doing a good job' and about 'loyalty to the company' are happily dying.
At Lordstown wages were not an issue. Workers were used to regular wage increases. But despite these their life at work had deteriorated. But even if conditions remain the same workers themselves do not. They are increasingly rejecting the industrial prison.
I’m the founder of whywork.org. I wrote the FAQ, designed the original site, moderated the email list, and basically ran the group for six years. I turned over the site to someone else when I could no longer maintain it due to a repetitive strain injury and heavy responsibilities, and I have not been affiliated with the group for many years. The site is no longer maintained, but apparently the folks hosting it think it’s worth keeping online nonetheless. I have had no correspondence with them for years, so I don’t even know who’s in charge of it now.
CLAWS was definitely a labor of love. For a while, it WAS my work; I worked on it full time for more than two years. It was originally driven by the idealism, radicalism, and rebellion of youth (and no small amount of frustration born of enduring years of dead-end, minimum-wage jobs). It was made possible, in part, by the financial support of my former live-in partner, who believed in what I was doing at the time, and paid the household bills happily.
I started CLAWS because it had always bothered me that pretty much everyone in the culture of my upbringing was expected to take jobs for pay – usually 40+ hours a week – for most of their lives. I hated living like this. I didn’t mind work per se – in fact, I’ve always been a largely self-motivated worker whenever I’ve been able to exercise some measure of choice and control over the work I’ve done – but I hated how much time and life energy it consumed, and how little it paid in return for my efforts. Almost all my time was devoted to preparing for my job, doing my job, and recuperating from my job…and my friends and family were all in the same boat. It seemed we were always too busy or too tired from our jobs to devote as much time as we wanted to building healthy relationships, enjoying leisurely meals with family, gardening, arts and crafts, and other activities that didn’t pay much but were essential for our health and well-being. And many of us were stuck with huge credit card and student loan debt, or had no access to health insurance unless we had full-time jobs. So I envisioned a world where people would join forces and form communities and create gift economies in order to explore alternative ways of supporting and caring for themselves. The idea was to lessen the burden on everyone. The more work we could do ourselves, and the more simply we could live, I figured, the less time we would ultimately have to spend in thankless, low-paying drudgery.
Though I didn’t expect to change the world, I did want to plant a seed of hope for a different kind of culture. I wanted to encourage critical thinking, and reassure people they weren’t alone in suspecting that something was amiss in this culture. I wanted to inspire people to devote more attention to finding alternatives to the 9-to-5 grind, and offer them resources to help them along the way. I wanted to find other people who shared this vision, and organize planning groups. And to a certain extent, I think I succeeded.
But I learned some difficult lessons after the small community we founded collapsed on the launching pad, and my partner and I broke up and went our separate ways, leaving me heartbroken, alone, and in sudden need of a job. I learned that while some aspects of my vision of a job-free world may have been workable under the right conditions, others were hopelessly utopian. I learned that interpersonal and community relationships are a lot more complex than I ever imagined. I learned that I really don’t understand much about human motivation at all – and this despite years of study, reading, and trying in earnest to work things out with my loved ones. I learned that “do what you love, the money will follow” doesn’t mean “do whatever you feel like completely at whim, and let the chips fall where they may – money will show up like magic, if you just believe!” It means something closer to “do what you love under the appropriate circumstances, and the support will eventually follow, though not necessarily in the form of money.” And most importantly, I learned that even if the kind of culture or system I once envisioned did actually come into being, it probably wouldn’t look anything like what I imagined, and might even be far worse than what we’ve already got.
Though some of the philosophy I explored on whywork.org is based on questionable or flimsy assumptions, some of it is also fairly sound, if naïve at times. I still believe transforming attitudes is at the heart of any lasting social change, for example. But I also think I vastly underestimated the difficulty of such transformations. These days my aspirations are much more modest. I’m no longer aiming to Change The World; in fact, I’ll consider it a major accomplishment if I can just do my small part, day-by-day, to make it a better place to live.
Despite what many think, I never made the claim that people should shirk responsibilities to one another or freeload. CLAWS was not intended to be a movement of people who wanted to “opt out” in a simple, straightforward, thumb-your-nose-at-the-world kind of way. No matter how carefully I laid out my position on this, however, some people could never hear the message as anything other than “here are a bunch of lazy, thankless ne’er-do-wells who take everything for granted and want to sponge off the hard work of others.”
Ultimately, I started CLAWS because I envisioned and hoped for a world where work could be done, as much as possible, with love and joy. (I sometimes called this the “joy culture” to contrast it with the “job culture.”) CLAWS was a product of my search for meaningful work and a sense of community, and my frustration at the fact that such work seems woefully scarce. Though I am no longer affiliated with whywork.org and have taken a different direction in my life and my thinking, I am still very grateful for having had the opportunity to shape the CLAWS philosophy and put it out there for others to explore.
Thanks for posting it to MeFi.
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