Despite the strong emphasis on leisure in my writings – and despite the fact that my former project, Creating Livable Alternatives to Wage Slavery, is listed as an authoritative source on the Wikipedia page for “refusal of work” – I have never identified myself as “anti-work.”I enjoy some kinds of work greatly, in fact, especially when I can do the work on my own terms without compromising my health or my need for restorative leisure. What I oppose is the coercion of forcing people into wage labor to survive. I often say I want to “stay job-free so I can work,” in an attempt to clarify this.
Peter Frase has written helpfully about the way the following three meanings of the word work are often conflated:
1. activity that is necessary for the continuation of human civilization
2. activity that people undertake in exchange for money, in order to secure the means of continued existence
3. activity that requires some kind of discipline and deferred gratification in pursuit of an eventual goal
Unfortunately, many potentially fruitful discussions end up going nowhere useful because of this oft-overlooked ambiguity. Like Mr. Frase, I object to a culture that requires “work” in the second sense: wage labor for survival. The first and third of these meanings, not so much.
I like this quote from Tim Dunlop’s book Why The Future Is Workless – it’s a succinct statement that gets at what I mean when I say I am a conscientious objector to coercive wage labor. I thought it deserved to become a meme, so here it is – feel free to share!