Slaving away at the typical corporation in this day and age does not exactly evoke a feeling a freedom. Given the ubiquitousness of government “privilege,” corporate fat cats can pretty much get away with whatever they want, provided of course they are not too obvious (although there are exceptions to this informal rule, such as the 2009 banker bailouts). Perhaps it is past time to reconsider the desirability of individuals needing to exchange their labor for wages.
The only thing I kept thinking about when reading this sad excuse of an essay was, “so what?” Complaint after incessant complaint about the evils of having to work at a job was just overly tedious. I felt like it was a shorter version of Dumbing Us Down, albeit regarding a different subject.
Several aspects of it still bother me, such as what the hell “quaaludic” was, or how about the author’s just plain weird assertions:
“Work makes a mockery of freedom…[t]he liberals and conservatives and libertarians who lament totalitarianism are phonies and hypocrites. There is more freedom in any moderately deStalinized dictatorship than there is in the ordinary American workplace.”
What exactly is the so-called “ordinary American workplace?” Is he referring to a factory line, a stale office environment, or some sort of field work (like a construction site or surveying crew)? And what about the independent entrepreneur’s work environment? According to Black, “we” should all be “playing” instead of “working;” apparently, he does not think the German notion of “Arbet macht das Leven süß” (“work makes life sweet”) is valid.
Last time I checked, work is what you make of it. Every single job I’ve had (both 9-to-5, temp office type work and construction gigs) were great, and I enjoyed them (much more than school, anyway, which does fit the awful conditions he describes at length). I have never encountered the conditions he describes at any of my former jobs, so his overgeneralization of work is just plain insulting. Collectivizing all forms of work as if they were the brunt of corporatism is intellectually dishonest. Quite frankly, I’d rather get paid to do those “awful repetitive tasks” rather than having to pay interest on student loans in order to do even worse “awful repetitive tasks” (which is why I have discouraged homeschoolers from enrolling in college; besides, employers care more about your work experience and personal diligence than whatever your grades and scholastic awards were). So, Mr. Black, who is the “phony” and “hypocrite” now?
Most glaring of all was Bob’s lack of a solution, a plan, or even a halfway viable tactic. The closest he came was when he stated:
“To abolish work requires going at it from two directions, quantitative and qualitative. On the one hand, on the quantitative side, we have to cut down massively on the amount of work being done….[o]n the other hand…we have to take what useful work remains and transform it into a pleasing variety of game-like and craft-like pastimes, indistinguishable from other pleasurable pastimes, except that they happen to yield useful end-products… [n]ext we take a meat-cleaver to production work itself…[f]inally, we must do away with far and away the largest occupation, the one with the longest hours, the lowest pay and some of the most tedious tasks around. I refer to housewives doing housework and child-rearing….I haven’t as yet even mentioned the possibility of cutting way down on the little work that remains by automating and cybernizing it…[w]hat I really want to see is work turned into play.”
Oh, great, that’s his big solution: somehow lose jobs, somehow turn the remaining ones into what I can only imagine as an adult kindergarten, somehow trash “production work,” somehow kick women out of their homes (only to be squashed by the proverbial glass ceiling, ironically enough), somehow encourage transhumanism, and somehow encourage the Peter Pan Syndrome. Gee, whiz, if that is the idyllic solution, then the White House and their congresscritter cohorts have pretty much accomplished all of the above with their deindustrialization of the United States, but “we” still don’t have freedom, do we?
Bob Black’s The Abolition of Work is just pure trash, plain and simple. For all of his railing about the modern workplace, Black absolutely refuses to discuss the role of government, which, for an anarchist, you’d think he’d jump on faster than anyone else, instead of pontificating about the “dangers” of “hierarchy.” Not only is there nothing useful here you can use to help yourselves, but even his analysis is, for the most part, completely wrong. This shoddy piece of literary garbage makes Niall Ferguson and Douglas Rushkoff look good by comparison, especially considering that it is not at all a piece of anarchistic literature, but simply the mindless ravings of a pseudo-hedonistic lunatic.