Here’s a small sampling of material I’ve culled from decades of being a voracious reader, unrepentant bibliophile, and early denizen of the internet – a treasure trove of wisdom for the unjobbers and anticareerists among us. This is perhaps 1/100th of the quotes I’ve collected in my files; many more will appear in my book and in my other writings.
Feel free to share!
“I make a distinction between work and jobs. A job is what you do for a living; work is what you do because you like to do it. I expect jobs to increasingly become obsolete, but there is still an almost infinite amount of fascinating work to be done.”
– Bernard Lietaer, “Beyond Greed and Scarcity”
“How much meaningful work do you never have the time for because you’re just too busy jobbing?”
~ Scott Santens
“…instead of fighting automation to preserve jobs, we should be fighting for the future where people’s value is inherent and not related to how much or little they work, and where work is a function of love and interest, not poverty and need.”
“So much of what we do in this society is about maintaining the image that we’re successful, autonomous individuals, regardless of the reality… When we conceive of self-care as an individual responsibility, we are less likely to see the political dimensions of care. […]
“Who’s working so you can rest?
“If self-care is just a way to ease the impact of an ever-increasing demand for productivity, rather than a transformative rejection of that demand, it’s part of the problem, not the solution. For self-care to be anti-capitalist, it has to express a different conception of health.
“This is especially complicated as our survival becomes ever more interlinked with the functioning of capitalism…In this situation, the easiest way to preserve your health is to excel at capitalist competition, the same thing that is doing us so much harm.”
~ CrimethInc, “For All We Care: Reconsidering Self-Care”
“See, my trick in life is to get away from having a job. That’s been my guiding light.”
– Paul McCartney
“For millennia women’s work, along with the free gifts of nature, has provided most of the true wealth of our communities. […] We refuse to accept market measures of wealth. They make invisible the important caring work of women in every society. They ignore the well-being of people and the planet, deny the value of women’s work, and define the collective wealth of our social programs and public institutions as costs which cannot be borne.”
~ Lee Lakeman, Angela Miles, and Linda Christiansen-Ruffman, Pictou Statement
“Let us be clear. Money is not wealth. It is a delusion to think that money is wealth. True wealth is good land, healthy animals, flourishing forests, clean water, honest work, abundant creativity and human imagination. Money was designed to oil the wheels of economic interaction and to ensure that the workings of the marketplace were smooth and simple.”
– Satish Kumar, “The Money Delusion: In Search of True Wealth,” Resurgence Magazine
“Why do corporations have so much power? …It seems to me that we need to go beyond just campaigning for environmental protection, or even exposing corporate PR, to actually looking at the very part of our culture which gives corporations this power. I believe that the work ethic is absolutely central to their power.
“It’s not just because corporations are employers and they provide the jobs and the goods that we want; it’s something that is much more fundamental in the way that the work ethic has shaped our values. The work ethic legitimates certain qualities in societies, and presents the whole social structure as being fair and normal and the best of all possible worlds. We’re so caught up in this culture that something like the work ethic is never questioned. And when you do start to question it people say “Well, isn’t this the way it’s always been? What else could there possibly be?” […]
“Another means of promoting the work ethic is through our biased attitude to people on welfare. […] Newspapers and television programs…have stories about ‘dole bludgers’ who don’t want to work and who are just enjoying themselves at the taxpayers’ expense. This is all part of the strategy of blaming unemployed people for their own situation…
“…there has been a policy of making welfare an unattractive option: by not paying people very much, by always searching for the ‘bludgers’, by having work tests, by stigmatising the unemployed through the media, so that they don’t have any self esteem and feel worthless – because the work ethic says that your worth is totally based on the work you do and your income.
“Working for benefits is of course justified in terms of being for the good of the unemployed people, to help their self esteem, give them skills, keep them occupied, etc. But in actual fact its purpose is to deter people from being on welfare.”
~ Sharon Beder, “Selling the Work Ethic”
“…there is good reason that voluntary work should remain voluntary, as long as it is financially feasible for volunteers to remain such…
“…crowdfunding — and the associated attempts to “brand myself” as a public figure — proved to be a considerable drain on my morale, and…created perverse incentives that very nearly undermined my sense of solidarity with the BIEN and Basic Income News community.
“Given the present political reality, my personal circumstances — being paid to volunteer, if you will — are about as good as they can be. But I believe that, if reality could be otherwise, I might have been a much more effective contributor to the good of Basic Income News and BIEN, and perhaps the basic income community at large, if I simply had the wherewithal to continue to support myself while engaging in true volunteer work. […]
“Fortunately, I was never tempted to compromise on my values as a journalist or writer in order to try to obtain donations, although it was distressingly easy to see that matters could have been different had I been in more dire need of funds…
“…while I have found an effective strategy, it depends, essentially, on having a personal financial safety net on which I can fall if I do not immediately secure additional paid labor.
“…it seems that voluntary work is best supported and encouraged not by the monetization of that work, but by the provision of financial support entirely independent of that work — the type of financial support that would be provided, for instance, by an unconditional basic income.”
~ Kate McFarland, “A ‘Paid Volunteer’ Against the Monetization of Voluntary Labor (and for Basic Income)”
“Why work…? Everyone knows the answer – there’s no other way to acquire the resources we need to survive, or for that matter to participate in society at all. All the earlier social forms that made other ways of life possible have been eradicated…free human beings don’t crowd into factories for a pittance if they have other options…” […]
“What could provide real security? Perhaps being part of a long-term community in which people looked out for each other, a community based on mutual assistance rather than financial incentives. And what is one of the chief obstacles to building that kind of community? Work.”
~ “The Mythology of Work” – a selection from “Work: Capitalism. Economics. Resistance.” by the CrimethInc. ex-Workers’ Collective (PDF)
“…the best and most feminist part of basic income is how it will help all women and all people of marginalized identities, particularly those who are so often forgotten by privileged feminism. Disabled and chronically ill women won’t have to worry so much about whether they’ll be able to live. Though you can get welfare payments for disability, the hoops that these individuals are forced to jump through in order to get a sum that is no longer enough to live on are a full time job and a constant source of anxiety. Basic income is unconditional. They won’t lose it if they save up too much money or a form gets lost in the mail. If universal healthcare is also implemented (which should be another top feminist goal), they could live in relative peace instead of being forced into poverty at high rates because of something they can’t control.”
~ Lindsey Wheedston, “Basic Income: A Feminist Issue”
“There’s no formula for making a living in a world where more money comes from serving the machine. But.
“If you find a way to dedicate yourself to a true vision…to something that wants to be born on this Earth…it will find a way to allow your service. These beings have power, but they need to be asked. And it has to be a true vision, too. And you can tell if it’s a true vision because it doesn’t feel like you’re making it up, and when you tell people about it they recognize that.
“You say, yes, I commit to you…the vision will say, “marry me,” and you’ll say “I do.” And then, it will say: “Are you sure?” And the way it says “Are you sure?” is by offering you an obstacle or a bribe to do something else…so it’s an opportunity to clarify. And when you say yes, the next thing will open up, and it will take you on a path that was invisible from where you stood. Which is why most of the things that really call us seem impossible.”
~ Charles Eisenstein (paraphrased)
“In a world where we were not always on the clock, the rituals of maintaining family and community might shift from being burdensome to being fulfilling. In our contemporary capitalist economy, people engage in this important activity at great cost to themselves.[…]
“The context within which we do care work makes all the difference. Like any worthwhile activity, its potential for conferring pleasure and satisfaction depends on how much control we have over the work itself and how much control we have over the time within which we do it. Capitalism as a system is in general hostile to the enjoyment of care work and especially so in the current economy, where caring must be squeezed in between paid working hours that are not only expanding but increasingly capricious.”
~ Johanna Brenner, “Hours For What We Will”
“Demanding a basic income, as I see it, is…a process of making the problems with the wage system of income allocation visible, articulating a critical vocabulary that can help us to understand these problems, opening up a path that might eventually lead us to demand even more changes, and challenging us to imagine a world wherein we had more choices about waged work, nonwork, and their relationship to the rest of our lives. […]
“One of the reasons I am so attracted to the demand for a basic income is because of the way that it challenges some of the basic tenets of the work ethic— what I would describe as that cultural overvaluation of work that sings the praises of hard work as an inherent value, highest calling and individual moral obligation. This longstanding ethic of work remains a crucial ideological support for an economic system that accumulates great wealth for a few and lifetimes of poorly paid and all-consuming waged work for the rest. This orientation towards work is even more profitable for forms of employment that require us to bring more of ourselves — our social skills, emotions, and creativity — to the job. Most service sector employers today are interested in their employees’ enthusiasm for work and their self-disciplined commitment to the organization’s goals. Where a strong work ethic is a key element of productivity, our willingness to call these values and modes of being into question is a potentially effective mode of rebellion.”
~ Kathi Weeks, “The Feminist Case for Basic Income: An Interview With Kathi Weeks“
“…it would be wise to hedge your bets economically, to slowly and steadily move more and more of your economy away from the formal to the informal sector. I’m not suggesting that you take up growing pot, but growing a garden and selling some surplus produce might be wise. If you have skills at building, repairing or sewing things, plan ahead for how you might set up a cottage industry.
“Now, I am not suggesting that you go entirely to a subsistence economy unless you feel comfortable there. Most of us are still too tied into mortgages and the need for health insurance…to step entirely out of the formal economy. But I do propose that most of us begin to stand with one foot in the informal economy and the other in the formal one, and that we try and recognize and encourage the resilience, value and stability of the informal economy. By this I mean that we are taught to believe that our security derives from our formal wealth – our job that provides us with health insurance, our retirement fund, the kids’ college fund. But these things are vulnerable to market crisis and collapse.”
– Sharon Astyk, Depletion and Abundance: Life on the New Home Front, pp. 61-62
“Do not try to find a job doing what you love. This is my most radical advice. There are some people in the world who have jobs they love so much that they would do them for free. If you become one of these people, you will probably get there not through planning but through luck, by doing what you love for free until somehow the money starts coming in. But if you make an effort to combine your income and your love, you are likely to end up compromising both, making a poverty income by doing something you don’t quite love, or no longer love. For example, if you decide to become a chef because you love cooking, it will probably make you hate cooking, because cooking will become linked in your mind to all the bullshit around the job.
“What I recommend instead is to separate your money from your love. Get the most low-stress source of income that you can find, and then do exactly what you love for free. It might eventually make you money or it might not. “Do what you love and the money will follow” is a lie. The real rule is: “If you’re doing what you love, you won’t care if you never make any money from it – but you still need money.”
– Ran Prieur, “How to Drop Out”
“…there is such a thing as sacred idleness, the cultivation of which is now fearfully neglected.”
– George MacDonald
“Work and play are words used to describe the same thing under differing conditions.”
– Mark Twain
“The United States desperately needs a public discussion that challenges the prevailing belief that a person’s worth and social contribution can and should be measured primarily (or exclusively) by his or her income from paid work.”
– Katherine McFate, “A Debate We Need,” in Philippe von Parijs’ What’s Wrong With a Free Lunch?
“Changing our ways includes changing the way we define work, the way we compensate work, the ways we create work, and the way we let go of work and learn to infuse it with play and ritual. A paradigm shift requires a shift in the way we think about, talk about, and undergo work. We should not allow ourselves to be deceived that today’s crisis in jobs is just about more jobs; it is not. The job crisis is a symptom of something much deeper: a crisis in our relationship to work and the challenge put to our species today to reinvent it. We must learn to speak of the difference between jobs and work. We may be forced to take a job serving food at a fast-food place…in order to pay our bills, but work is something else. Work comes from inside out; work is the expression of our soul, our inner being. It is unique to the individual; it is creative. Work is an expression of the Spirit at work in the world through us. Work is that which puts us in touch with others, not so much at the level of personal interaction, but at the level of service in the community.”
-Matthew Fox, The Reinvention of Work: A New Vision of Livelihood for our Time
“In the neoliberal model women are free as individuals to work and earn as much as they want (or can), but as mothers they are constrained to a life of unremunerated care. Of course, they are now somehow expected to do both without adequate structural or social support.
“Although we are loathe to admit it, marriage currently operates as the only real safety net for women; that is, for the overwhelming majority who do not assume the male model of full-time, “uninterrupted” paid work over a lifetime.
“…although women try to resolve the contradictions between work and home individually, in fact they are systemic issues that can only be resolved at a systemic level.
“…society should share the cost of caring for dependents. Instead of saying women have to “make up for their choices”, we should recognise that care work is a necessary social good and support it, not just with hallmark card rhetoric but with cold hard cash.
“Sentimentality about motherhood doesn’t pay the rent or put food on the table and it doesn’t pay the electricity bill for an older single woman who has spent a lifetime caring for others and who now faces a society who cannot, or rather will not, care for her.”
~ Petra Bueskens, “Flexibility” Won’t Stop Women Retiring in Poverty”
“Humans who feel the urge to take it easy but remain burdened by a recalcitrant work ethic might do well to consider that laziness is perfectly natural, perfectly sensible and shared by nearly every other species on the planet.”
– Natalie Angier, “Busy as a Bee? Then Who’s Doing the Work?”
“I always thought that Sheryl Sandberg’s “lean in” idea was ironic; it is only possible for her readership to envision leaning in at the corporate boardroom in so far as they can lean on the low-paid care workers who clean their toilets and their homes, diaper their children, care for their aging parents, and so on.”
~ Nancy Fraser, “Capitalism’s Crisis of Care”
“Those people who write in praise of laziness are invariably very hard-working people who are psychologically incapable of being lazy. Take, for example, Bertrand Russell. His contribution to the literature of laziness is a well known essay ‘In Praise of Idleness’. Russell was an intensely hard-working man all though his long life.”
– Colin Ward, “The Right to Be Lazy”
“It is a cruel jest to say to a bootless man that he should lift himself by his own bootstraps. It is even worse to tell a man to lift himself by his own bootstraps when somebody is standing on the boot.”
– Martin Luther King, Jr.
“I fundamentally disagree with those who think that people must be “forced” to work, or that government should “guarantee” a job. In my view breaking the link between paid work and survival would be a good thing. If people are intrinsically of value, then they have the right to survive with or without working. I therefore think we should guarantee basic income, rather than jobs. Or, to put it another way (and root this argument firmly in human rights), we should guarantee people’s unconditional right to “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness”: after all, people who are forced do physically debilitating and mentally unstimulating jobs in order to survive are effectively denied the second and third of these rights. If people don’t have to work to survive, most will find or create work that fulfils themselves and benefits others, and we will all be the richer for it. There will be some who will opt to do nothing, but in my view they will be a small minority and we will be rich enough – and I hope generous enough – to tolerate their laziness.
“I think we are already seeing the future of work – and it is women who have seized the opportunity and are already well established in the new types of work. You see, women understand that the most precious resource we have is TIME. Giving someone your undivided attention for an hour is an incredibly valuable gift.”
~ Francis Coppola, “The Changing Nature of Work”
“… when the hacker work ethic opposes capitalism’s work-centeredness, it also opposes the same feature in communism. One must remember that despite their major differences, both capitalism and communism are based historically on the Protestant ethic, as sociologist Peter Anthony has reminded us in The Ideology of Work.”
– Pekka Himanen, The Hacker Ethic
“…wage slaves live out their lives staggering under the weight of materialistic ideology. As consumers our assigned role is the unquestioning membership in the cult of materialism, with no less devotion displayed than 40+ hours a week, for 20-40 years. We are expected to happily, or at least willingly live decades in debt to others (a concept known as credit) and to engage in a life of meaningless drudgery for wage pay (wage slavery). As long as we believe that this is our “lot in life”, the feeling of hopelessness and desperation which runs rampant in this modern age is perfectly predictable.”
– Matthew Webb and Courtney Schmidt, “The Survivalists’ Guide”
“He said, “I notice that you use work and job interchangeably. Oughten to do that. A job’s what you force yourself to pay attention to for money. With work, you don’t have to force yourself. There are a lot of jobs in this country, and that’s good because they keep people occupied. That’s why they’re called ‘occupations’.”
– William Least Heat Moon, Blue Highways
“Nobody in his right mind would spend a year of life working at some dreary job in order to pay for a car to transport him to the dreary job. When we calculate how much we spend paying for the cost of working – income taxes, Social Security, transportation, insurance, food and day-care – it starts to appear that it is not more profitable to work, but to work at not working and, more to the point, not spending.”
– Steven Harrison, Getting to Where You Are: The Life of Meditation
“…people should be able to make their life plans, including how much they work and with whom they live, without anxiety about their ability to afford food and shelter.”
– Fred Block, “Why Pay Bill Gates?”
“Closing down a successful business (i.e., killing the golden goose”) is a mystery to most people, but I prefer the luxury of freedom from a job to the luxury of material goods…earning and saving money should be means to an end, not ends in themselves.”
-Amy Dacyczyn, The Complete Tightwad Gazette
“At one time, we depended directly on the earth for the necessities of life. We recognized this dependency and gave thanks and praise for it, as indigenous and agricultural peoples still do. But now most of us have no idea where our food comes from. […] The way humans lived before civilization was a lot less work, because we ate what the planet naturally produced, so our food sources renewed themselves.”
– Thomas Berry
“A basic income is not about rewarding laziness. It’s about both recognizing that we all don’t have the same opportunities, recognizing that being able to feed oneself is a human right and since we’ve been divorced from the commons for 500 years it’s inhumane to put a marker between a person and that right. It’s a recognition that the social and financial costs of poverty affect everyone’s quality of life, and it’s also simply a smart financial decision because especially in the long term it will save us money over our current welfare system. It also guarantees that people who are unable to work but who can’t get disability won’t have to live in poverty and go hungry. […]
“If you don’t support basic income…you’d rather have the majority of the poor continue to suffer than a small minority be able to skid by without working?”
~ Alley Valkyrie
The sorcery of capitalist economics is precisely to make its own violence invisible, so that it can appear to be nothing but the miraculous liberator of human potential and the progressive deliverer of ever-abundant goods. And there is a disturbingly good reason for us to give in to this illusion: most of us are dependent on the very economy that has systematically exploited us and undermined the health of our communities and our environments. We have come to rely on the very “job creators” (that new euphemism for exploiters) whose project of profiting at our expense we condemn. We have come to need the very economic growth machine that is eating our world and destabilizing our planetary climate in the name of “progress.”
~ Ethan Miller, “Occupy, Connect, Create”
“By raising such ludicrous concerns that the poor and ordinary would cease work at the very instant their basic human needs are met, the opponent is essentially admitting that their view of capitalism relies upon exploitation of the fear of destitution, rather than the willing participation of the workers.”
~ Thomas G. Clark, “Universal Basic Income”
“People look at our reservation and comment on the 85 per cent unemployment – they do not realize what we do with our time. They have no way of valuing our cultural practices. For instance, 85 per cent of our people hunt deer, 75 per cent hunt for small game and geese; 50 per cent fish by net; 50 per cent garden. About the same percentage harvest wild rice, not just for themselves: they harvest it to sell. About half of our people produce handcrafts. There is no way to quantify this. It is called the “invisible economy” or the “domestic economy.” Society views us as unemployed Indians who need wage jobs. That is not how we view ourselves. Our work is about strengthening and restoring our traditional economy, thereby strengthening our traditional culture.”
– Winona LaDuke, “Indigenous Mind”
“Don’t trade the stuff of your life, time, for nothing more than dollars. That’s a rotten bargain.”
– Rita Mae Brown
“I’m part of a growing movement…We are the Radical Homemakers, and we work to promote four ends: ecological sustainability, social justice, and family and community well-being. We see ourselves as building a great bridge away from our existing extractive economy – in which corporate wealth is the foundation of economic health and ravaging our earth’s resources and exploiting our international neighbors are accepted as simply the costs of doing business – and toward a life-serving economy. In a life-serving economy, the goal, as the activist economist David Korten says, is to generate a living for all, rather than a killing for a few. […]
“We build this bridge by resisting – as much as we can – involvement with the extractive economy (including many forms of conventional employment) and by making up for the personal financial shortfall by turning our homes from units of consumption into units of production on a local scale.”
– Shannon Hayes, “The Real Battle is Elsewhere”
“…the subject of unpaid household labor gets ignored even by most social justice and labour groups. The most common and essential work in the world is done for free yet it is invisible everyone except those who do it. […]
“Men who have a partner working in the home for free have an unfair advantage over women in the workplace who do not have a free labourer at home tending to their needs. […] Anyone (male or female) who does unpaid care work of any kind (looking after elders, children, or family members with illness or disability) faces financial penalty.
“Unpaid labor is a taboo subject because acknowledging it would undermine the ideological foundations of the market economy. The owners of the world would have to admit that they can only prosper by not paying for 75% of the true work of the planet. Not speaking about unpaid labour allows capitalist industry to go on profiting without ever recognizing the true cost of doing business. Nobody likes talking about slavery.”
– C. L’Hirondelle, “Housework Under Capitalism”
“Beware the barrenness of a busy life.”
“The illusion that money is wealth needs to be shattered. Real wealth is a healthy planet and healthy relationships between all lifeforms; it is inner peace, world peace, balance and harmony in the home, the community, the world.”
– Carol Brouillet, “The Difference Between Money and Wealth: Creating Community Currencies”
“The opposite of hard work is quality work. Quality work may be done quickly, but it is never pushed. It arranges itself around the goal of doing something as well as it can be done, and it finds its own pace.
Another opposite of hard work is playful work. Like quality work it may be done quickly but is never pushed. But playful work is indifferent to quality, or even to success. When you’re doing playful work, you don’t care if it ends in total failure, because you’re having such a good time that you would look forward to doing the whole job again.”
– Ran Prieur
“Considering the alternatives, I prefer self-employment to employment. After all, you usually make a lot more when you work for yourself and have much more independence. But my real choice is comfortable and creative unemployment.”
– Steve Solomon
(Ed. note: Solomon is a longtime critic of wage-slavery, debt-slavery, and industrial agriculture, as well as a passionate and articulate advocate of personal sovereignty and homesteading as paths to freedom from a life centered around jobs and income-earning. Don’t miss his well-curated Soil and Health Library containing a wealth of free public domain and out-of-print e-books, complete with insightful comments.)
“As more people begin to recognize the unsustainability of our economic system, an alternative view of work has been steadily gaining traction. The purpose of work, according to this emerging paradigm, should not be subverted to the demands of a constantly expanding economy – growth for growth’s sake – but should be dedicated to enriching the social fabric, natural ecosystems and public infrastructure that sustain us.”
– Robin Tennant-Wood, “Cutting the Global Economy Down to Size”
“Jobism is a non-critical loyalty and belief in the jobs system…to the idea of jobs as a good in and of themselves regardless of the actual impact the job has on people, environment or other living things.[…]
“Jobism is also one of the main obstacles to support for guaranteed livable income (aka basic income, citizen’s income, guaranteed annual income). […]
“Under the jobs system, there is no differentiation between work that is necessary and beneficial and work that is unnecessary or harmful. As long as it makes the economy grow, then it is considered ‘productive’ and beneficial.
“In addition, anyone doing informal but necessary work such as unpaid care-giving is put under financial duress because their time used for unpaid work cannot be used for paid work. Families, neighborhoods and communities are robbed of the time and resources they need thrive and be healthy. This robbing resources from the informal sector causes great harm to children, elders, people with extra needs from illness or disability and it breaks apart families and communities. […]
“Jobism forces human activities into two categories: paid work (visible and financially rewarded) and unpaid work (invisible and financially unrewarded). Paid work is considered a valid activity and unpaid work is generally not considered valid or ‘real’ work. This means that many harmful, wasteful and unnecessary activities are financially encouraged and many forms of beneficial work (e.g. unpaid caregiving) are financially discouraged.”
~ J.Larochelle & C.A. L’Hirondelle, “Jobism“
“…the violence that we know as environmental destruction is possible only because of a complex economic, administrative, and social machinery through which people are separated from responsibility for their misdeeds. We say, “I was only doing my job” at the paper mill, the industrial incinerator, the logging camp, the coal-fired power plant, on the farm, on the stock exchange, or simply in front of the PC in the corporate carrel. The division of labor not only has the consequence of making labor maximally productive, it also hides from workers the real consequences of their work.
“People outside of such social and economic organizations might hunt in nature, fish, gather, harvest, use nature to their own ends in countless ways, but they would never knowingly destroy it, not because they are by nature good and benevolent, but because destruction is not necessary, it’s a lot of hard work, and it’s self-evidently self-defeating.”
~ Curtis White, “The Ecology of Work”
“If enough people construct a way of living free of coercive employment, so as to be independent from oppressive institutions, the result will be tremendous: if not a breaking of the unnecessary government/corporate yoke, then a working model to build upon once the dominant order collapses of its own weight.”
– Jan Lundberg, Culture Change newsletter #62
It is assumed by most people nowadays that all work is useful, and by most well-to-do people that all work is desirable. Most people, well-to-do or not, believe that, even when a man is doing work which appears to be useless, he is earning his livelihood by it – he is “employed,” as the phrase goes; and most of those who are well-to-do cheer on the happy worker with congratulations and praises, if he is only “industrious” enough and deprives himself of all pleasure and holidays in the sacred cause of labour. In short, it has become an article of the creed of modern morality that all labour is good in itself – a convenient belief to those who live on the labour of others. But as to those on whom they live, I recommend them not to take it on trust, but to look into the matter a little deeper.”
~ William Morris, “Useful Work versus Useless Toil”
“I don’t sell my time – that’s called “wage slavery,” and for good reason – when you sell your time for money, you give away your freedom.”
– Kiko Denzer
“A gendered demand for leisure would argue that women’s time is as important as men’s, whether we are spending it parenting or reading a book or lying on a beach. It would take into account the racialized and classed expectations of different groups of women, and argue that low-income women deserve time off too (and it would argue that they deserve to make enough money to enjoy that time.) It would point out that what is earned vacation for white women is not “laziness” in women of color.
“It would argue not from any biological imperative (that rarely gets us anywhere good), but from a time-honored (though lately forgotten) labor and left tradition that says that time, as much as anything, is a right—and it would take from the Wages for Housework movement the idea that unpaid work in the home is still work that we deserve a respite from.
“A politics of leisure is also a politics of pleasure, and it is here that this connects to other major concerns of modern-day feminists and gender justice advocates: questions of sexuality. Arguing for the right to choose when and if we will bear children is intimately connected to arguing for the right to a life outside of work and childbearing. And what’s more feminist than defending our right to lives outside of heterosexual monogamy, to be defined by more than the presence (or lack thereof) of a uterus or children?
“None of this is to say that there are not genuine pleasures in caring for children or indeed in one’s paid work. But it is to say that neither one is enough for a fulfilling life, and the idea that women should cheerily do both has meant an unfair amount of work.”
~ Sarah Jaffe, “Opting for Free Time,” from In These Times
“I often get asked to come and talk at art schools, and I rarely get asked back, because the first thing I always say is: “I’m here to persuade you not to have a job.” […] My first message to people is: “Try not to get a job.” That doesn’t mean “try not to do anything.” It means try to leave yourself in a position where you do the things you want to do with your time, and where you take maximum advantage of whatever your possibilities are.
“…the obstacle is, of course, that most people aren’t in a position to do that…I want to work toward a future where everybody is in a position to do that…basic income is…the closest thing I’ve heard to achieving the kind of future I would like to live in.”
~ Brian Eno
“What we are forced into is not merely work, in the old sense of undertaking an activity we don’t want to perform; no, now we are forced to act as if we want to work. Even if we want to work in a burger franchise, we have to prove that, like reality TV contestants, we really want it. The notorious shift towards affective labour…means that it is no longer possible to just turn up at work and be miserable. Your misery has to be concealed – who wants to listen to a depressed call centre worker, to be served by a sad waiter, or be taught by an unhappy lecturer? […]
“The reason that it’s so easy to whip up loathing for “benefit scroungers” is that – in the reactionary fantasy – they have escaped the suffering to which those in work have to submit. This fantasy tells its own story: the hatred for benefits claimants is really about how much people hate their own work. Others should suffer as we do: the slogan of a negative solidarity that cannot imagine any escape from the immiseration of work.”
– Mark Fisher, “Suffering With a Smile,” The Occupied Times
“If you suffer in the proper way – silently, or with proclaimed fealty to institutions – then you are a hard worker “paying your dues”. If you suffer in a way that shows your pain, that breaks your silence, then you are a complainer – and you are said to deserve your fate.
“But no worker deserves to suffer. To compound the suffering of material deprivation with rationalisations for its warrant is not only cruel to the individual, but gives exploiters moral license to prey.
“Individuals internalise the economy’s failure, as a media chorus excoriates them over what they should have done differently. They jump to meet shifting goalposts; they express gratitude for their own mistreatment: their unpaid labour, their debt-backed devotion, their investment in a future that never arrives.
“And when it does not arrive, and they wonder why, they are told they were stupid to expect it. They stop talking, because humiliation is not a bargaining chip. Humiliation is a price you pay in silence – and with silence.
“People can always make choices. But the choices of today’s workers are increasingly limited. Survival is not only a matter of money, it is a matter of mentality – of not mistaking bad luck for bad character, of not mistaking lost opportunities for opportunities that were never really there.”
~ Sarah Kendzior, “Surviving the Post-Employment Economy”
“As part of [David] Cameron’s changes to the welfare system, unemployment was rebranded as a psychological disorder. According to a study in the Medical Humanities journal, in the teeth of the longest and deepest recession in living memory, the jobless were encouraged to treat their “psychological resistance” to work by way of obligatory courses that encouraged them to adopt a jollier attitude toward their own immiseration. They were harangued with motivational text messages telling them to “smile at life” and that “success is the only option.”
“This mode of coercion has been adopted by employers, too, as Cederström and Spicer note. Zero-hour-contract laborers in an Amazon warehouse, “although they are in a precarious situation . . . are required to hide these feelings and project a confident, upbeat, employable self.” All of which begs the question: Who exactly are we being well for?
“The wellbeing ideology is a symptom of a broader political disease. The rigors of both work and worklessness, the colonization of every public space by private money, the precarity of daily living, and the growing impossibility of building any sort of community maroon each of us in our lonely struggle to survive. We are supposed to believe that we can only work to improve our lives on that same individual level.
“The isolating ideology of wellness works against this sort of social change in two important ways. First, it persuades all of us that if we are sick, sad, and exhausted, the problem isn’t one of economics. There is no structural imbalance, according to this view—there is only individual maladaption, requiring an individual response. The lexis of abuse and gas-lighting is appropriate here: if you are miserable or angry because your life is a constant struggle against privation or prejudice, the problem is always and only with you. Society is not mad, or messed up: you are.
“Secondly, it prevents us from even considering a broader, more collective reaction to the crises of work, poverty, and injustice. […]
“The harder, duller work of self-care is about the everyday, impossible effort of getting up and getting through your life in a world that would prefer you cowed and compliant. A world whose abusive logic wants you to see no structural problems, but only problems with yourself, or with those more marginalized and vulnerable than you are. Real love, the kind that soothes and lasts, is not a feeling, but a verb, an action.”
– Laurie Penny, Life-Hacks of the Poor and Aimless
“…a power that no one should have: to make people do stuff that they wouldn’t do if they didn’t need the money.”
~ Ran Prieur
“I find it a great irony that my workplace has a pinboard dedicated to resources for mental health issues (work related stress, anxiety, depression, etc.)…but doesn’t consider being forced to work in a soul crushing environment for 40+ hours a week for 30+ years to be worth mentioning. (Treating the symptoms while ignoring the root cause.)”
[Basic income is] creating a place of safety…that removes the existential thread of saying “if I don’t work I don’t eat,” which in many respects is a denial of [the] basic right to life…I think we can create a basic income which will relieve people of that stress. It would give them the basic means to live irrespective of their circumstances…they can have that income whether or not they’re working, and however they choose to work.” […]
“Basic income tends to be seen as welfare, but I don’t see it like that. I see it as support for work.”
~ Frances Coppola
“One of the persistent pushbacks to the idea of a universal basic income is a fear that too much leisure will lead to degeneracy — that if people aren’t made to work, they’ll just waste away alone in front of a television or computer.
“But this response suggests that we as a society have lost our understanding of what leisure time should be and why it has value. […]
“In a philosophical context, leisure is meant to be something else entirely: time in which we can be free to do things that matter to us, activities undertaken for their own sake rather than as a means to another end.”
~ Christine Emba, “In Defense of Leisure”
“…the critique of work does not amount to a rejection of productive activity in any general sense. For the majority of work’s critics, quite the opposite is true, and the critique of work expresses a desire to realise human capacities more fully—to reclaim time to work for each other and perform activities according to our own autonomous sense of what is good and worthwhile…the critique of work is specifically a critique of paid employment. Critiquing employment is not about suggesting that work has no value, but is rather an attempt to suggest alternative ways of organising and distributing work…” […]
“…there has to be more political organisation to create change. The book is deliberately very explicit about this because I felt a strong need to distinguish it from popular books promoting lifestyle changes like “slowness” or “life simplification” as solutions to the problems with work. We are seeing a lot of these books where the author is positioned as a sort of lifestyle guru, who is going to tell us the secret key to living well, and it is usually by working less, being less materialistic, and so on. I don’t think that people really benefit from being told this, and these books actually anger me to a degree, because they suggest that change is a matter of changing individual habits.”
“The growing discussion around the Universal Basic Income is an interesting lead, because it promises to eliminate our dependency on work for financial survival. To see real change, I would also hope to see a society-wide policy of shorter working hours, coupled with a more equal distribution of necessary work, and a cultural shift to valorise the social and intrinsic value of activities outside the economic sphere. That is the dream.”
~ David Frayne, “The Work Dogma: An Interview with David Frayne”
“In a society organized around the principles of patriarchy, there’s a stealing of labor…there’s a huge chunk of invisible labor that goes into making that society, and this invisible labor is done mostly by women. […] The patriarchy takes advantage of the strengths that women bring, but does not recognize their contribution…to the economy. Basic income is a very powerful idea that addresses this hidden aspect of our society.”
~ Sarath Davala, “Women, Invisible Labour and Basic Income”
“One of the most toxic, insidious beliefs our society has enshrined, is the one that says “Paid Employment is the only way you have worth, value and self-esteem. You can only be emotionally fulfilled through socially accepted employment.”
“This falsehood is so utterly divergent from reality that it has become mass cultural gaslighting; a blanket condemnation of anyone that doesn’t have a Real Job. It implies that anyone who isn’t currently employed is either a) pining over the lack of a job or b) a lazy slacking freeloader who leeches off the system.
“The reason many of the unemployed long for a job isn’t for the supposed dignity of having a job, it’s for the income needed for survival. The dignity they’re looking for is the dignity of not living in financial fear and insecurity, of not being labeled by society as Lesser.”
~ Charlene “Eleri” Hamilton, “Stop Gaslighting Our Culture”
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