Wednesday, November 05, 2014

That Four Letter Word, Work

The Oxford English Dictionary definition of work: actions, doings, task, actions involving effort or exertion directed at a definite end.

One way our economic system is totally screwed up has to do with what is considered work. Note well, the dictionary says work consists of effort or action with a purpose. This means any physical or mental activity with an end result in mind is work. Hence, playing the violin is work, as is making breakfast, studying philosophy, pulling weeds in the garden or volunteering for a community organization.

Pretty straight forward eh? But not in our idiot economic system. How so? Suppose you are on welfare and volunteer 30 hours a week at a seniors residence, or you are a stay-at-home parent. The capitalist system, or rather its shills, do not consider you to be working. The notion of work has been distorted, changed from purposeful effort, to solely that which brings monetary reward. Everything else, even working 16 hours a day as a volunteer, is considered non-work, and hence of not much value to society.
Sick eh? But hang on, it gets worse. While the aforementioned volunteering welfare recipient is considered a parasite, even though she is doing something very beneficial, if she instead worked in a napalm factory, she would be considered a useful member of society! Doing something that ends up killing people is OK, helping them is not.

In a capitalist society wage labour is the only form of work that is directly profitable for the capitalist. Hence, the need to denigrate all other forms of work, as these forms threaten the ability to exploit labour. But in the real world, the one that exists outside of that concocted by those fantasy-spinners, the "economists", so much of what is valuable in life is done freely and without monetary compensation as the ultimate goal.

Society would collapse without this important form of work. Think what would happen if no one raised their children, looked after their houses and yards, or volunteered for the innumerable groups and associations that keep the societal wheels turning. If the system had to pay for all of this non-paid work, there wouldn't be enough money to do so.

In the long term, we ought to abolish the wage system as the IWW has demanded since 1905. In the meantime, a Guaranteed Annual Income would help reestablish work in its authentic sense. Everyone would get the GAI and there would be much more freedom to work at what people were really interested in doing.

While on the topic of work, it is necessary to talk about "laziness." People who are less willing to engage in what the sheeple consider "real work", ie wage labour, are denigrated as lazy. However, I have never met a lazy person. People who sit around and no nothing are usually suffering from depression. There is also a type of sociopath who sponges off people. But most people deemed lazy by the sheeple are usually those who want to do something other than slave for a boss. Take bohemians, or the contemporary equivalent. They spend most of their waking hours writing, painting, creating music, studying etc. The sheeple consider them "lazy long-haired bums", yet after they are dead, these same haters will idolize them as "creative geniuses." Laziness is a myth, and was concocted to malign and control those people whose interests and work does not have an immediate or obvious monetary aspect.


Anonymous Josh Wapp said...

I'd love it if our goal in our society was to have meaningful p/t work for anyone who is able (and a GAI). We can do amazing things with spaceships and satellites, etc, so we should try to collectively mandate a system which everyone is able to work p/t. This would require massive public transit and an end to the real estate, banking, insurance and all other forms of non-mutual aid, exploitative games. But, darn it, it should be possible.

10:01 AM  
Anonymous Cocoabean said...

But we live in a world of economic specialization - a division of labour - something that has been undeniably beneficial.

As such, one has to trade with others for many necessities of life.

These two phenomena led to the development of, and were spurred by, the creation of "money". Money, as you know, is (or should be!) "the most marketable commodity", an item of near-universally- acknowledged value and scarcity, etc.

"Money" needs value because it is a claim on real goods...those same goods which are the basic necessities of life.

Somehow "abolishing" money would be a retrogressive step to the stone age or, alternately, would be a move toward authoritarian socialism, a "planned economy".

People would be made to perform labour for nothing, slaving to support others - for nothing.

How would that be ethical? Since money is a free creation of mutual popular will, ordering individuals to, without their consent, perform labour for nought would constitute slavery...

10:55 PM  
Blogger Larry Gambone said...

Who said anything about abolishing a medium of exchange? Where do I say that, precisely? When you abolish wage labour - I think that is what you are referring to - you are abolishing the worker-owner division, not money. All workers become owners and thus are no longer working for wages, but for a portion of the wealth they create and divided according to whatever means they democratically wish. This has nothing to do with abolishing money, something that cannot be done by fiat. Furthermore, no free society can prevent people from issuing currencies. I suspect in the future post-capitalist system (should we survive capitalism, that is) - there will be many different economic experiments, some with local currencies, labour time chits, demurrage currencies, and yes, even no money at all.

5:04 PM  
Anonymous Cocoabean said...

Very interesting topic! And thoughtful blog...

"In the long term, we ought to abolish the wage system as the IWW has demanded since 1905."

Wouldn't this amount to interference in the private dealings of individuals in the marketplace? How would you stop people from voluntarily contracting with one another, exchanging labour for "money" (some commodity) - or even exchanging labour for labour?

As you say, no free society can prevent people from issuing currencies, of any sort. (Whether those currencies ever gain acceptance is a matter only for those using and exchanging them.)

The wage system developed naturally, as part of "capitalism", the liberty to buy, sell, and contract freely with one another. Tied up with the idea of privately-held property.

It's merely exchange - not some imposition. People will always attempt to profit from their production of needed goods and/or to sell their labour in the process of producing them.

You'd probably have to try to outlaw by force the extraction of natural resources by individuals (or companies)..."nationalize" the wood, the coal, the mines, the oil...and there goes the concept of privately-held property.

Pretty authoritarian stuff!

"I suspect in the future post-capitalist system (should we survive capitalism, that is) - there will be many different economic experiments, some with local currencies, labour time chits, demurrage currencies, and yes, even no money at all."

Fully agree! And I welcome any change too...but "capitalism" should not be disparaged. It, after all, is not so much an economic system as it is 'the freedom of voluntary exchange'.

8:55 AM  
Blogger Larry Gambone said...

In my almost 50 years in the movement I have yet to encounter anyone or read anything that implied that people should be prevented from exchanging their labor for wages. The idea is of course, absurd. The wage system would die a natural death as the vast majority would prefer to work for themselves, as individuals, partnerships, family groups or in cooperatives – just as people did before the wage system existed. Anyone who actually wanted to work for someone else would be free to do so. Absolutizing is a common fallacy and I think this is what you are doing. The development of a free economy is a bottom-up PROCESS and not a thing to be imposed from on high. If it isn't it is no longer free and becomes self-defeating.

8:40 AM  

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