Work needs redefinition

I’ve been looking at US job market figures of late owing to a paid trip there in May to present a few ideas.  The mechanism involved in their presentation reminds me of crime figures and I’ve seen them put over by a number of the hapless bimbos BBC and Sky employ to lie to us.  You know the form – crime is down but feels as though it’s up.  US employment is actually shockingly down, but ‘seasonally adjusted’ it has been made to look on the up.  Cue Bimbo with various bleats about how this means we’re on the up too.

7.4 million US full time jobs have gone in the last few years.  These were already false jobs created by the finance and housing bubble.  I’m a long-term adherent of the idea that “work” isn’t much of a good thing – this even though I can enjoy breaking sweat and want to be financially independent.  It’s interesting to me that in an age in which grand narrative is subjected to an attitude of incredulity the really big one of growth and wealth creation is still so firmly embedded.  The idea has been about ridding ourselves of manufacturing (to places without labour solidarity) and finding ‘smart’ ways to steal money through finance and design.  The story of the Emperor’s New Clothes is familiar to us, but what we can’t see is that we are in the story.

The ideology of work is the phlogiston theory of modern living.  Work is conflated with having enough money to get by – as income.  In manufacturing we have had huge focus on efficiency in factories and supply chains – yet how does this sit with 7 million jobs that were part of a pathetic bubble?  Why be efficient just for others to benefit from what was essentially a costly waste of time for the rest of us?

Any economic history shows that our agriculture has become more and more efficient and that less an less people are employed in it.  The idea of ‘work’ in this practice concerns us having to do less and less of it.  It displaces into manufacturing and services – and the same efficiency comes about.  Yet where are our ideas about “robot heaven” and life without work as previously suffered?

The Devil, we were told, found work for idle hands to do.  So does the madness of our economy.  The time to split work from its disciplining form has probably come – though also to bring about practical means like new national service for people to understand this.

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