Look closely at the image of heroic hard-workers: holding down more than one low-income job and working anti-social hours so they can support their families who they barely have the time to see in the context of rising living costs and stagnating wages; and it begins to look a lot like exploitation.
If one machine can cut necessary human labour by half, why make half of the workforce redundant, rather than employing the same number for half the time? Why not take advantage of automation to reduce the average working week from 40 hours to 30, and then to 20, and then to 10, with each diminishing block of labour time counting as a full time job? This would be possible if the gains from automation were not mostly seized by the rich and powerful, but were distributed fairly instead.
As wages bear less and less relation to the cost of living, it seems as good a time as any to ask if the underlying fantasy is that employers will one day be able to pay their workers nothing at all.
From a really good article (in a mainstream rag) about the nature of work, and how we can start to challenge it/live without it…
…with a bit of Tory-hashing for good measure.
So poweful has the ideology of political economy been, that this diversion of human energies still echoes in the pitiful rhetoric of our time: the necessity for an education system that will prepare a new generation for an unknown labour market of tomorrow, the urgency of getting consumers into the shops to ‘rescue’ falling sales, the anthropomorphising of ‘the economy’, the ‘health’ of which takes priority over the health of the people; the desire by government to rebalance the economy, no matter what other loss of equilibrium may be incurred.
Deindustrialising humanity, by Jeremy Seabrook
Valve is not averse to all organizational structure—it crops up in many forms all the time, temporarily. But problems show up when hierarchy or codified divisions of labor either haven’t been created by the group’s members or when those structures persist for long periods of time.
We believe those structures inevitably begin to serve their own needs rather than those of Valve’s customers. The hierarchy will begin to reinforce its own structure by hiring people who fit its shape, adding people to fill subordinate support roles.
Valve handbook for new employees: a fearless adventure in knowing what to do when no one’s there telling you what to do (pdf)
Valve is famous for making some uber-popular computer games (Half-Life, Counterstrike, Left for Dead) but is less famously non-hierarchically run, and this is their handbook. A really interesting read.
Obviously they’re a for-profit company, but I’m trying to take the Gabriel Kuhn approach of seeing radical joy in non-radical endeavours.
With section titles like:
- "Why do I need to pick my own projects?"
- "But how do I decide which things to work on?"
- "Short-term vs. long-term goals"
- "What about all the things that I’m not getting done?"
- "What if I screw up?, But what if we ALL screw up?"
- "What Is Valve Not Good At?"
- "What Happens When All This Stuff Doesn’t Work?"
this is a seriously useful (a) primer for anyone involved in a longer-term non-hierarchical projects (b) ‘fuck you’ resource for anyone that says non-hierarchical operations never get anything good done.
Social radicals - and many indigenous communities - have been organising like this for ages, so it’s sorta sad that it takes non-hierarchy making it as an efficient business model for people to take it seriously… but maybe whatever gets the job done?