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Posts Tagged ‘work’

In recent years, it’s become clear that the traditional model of work, in which one is paid a regular wage for specified hours and tasks, generally carried out at a designated workplace, applies to ever fewer people, at any rate in the West. The division between work and non-work is blurred, as increased connectivity and/or zero hours contracts both, in different ways, create and support the expectation of permanent availability, and – especially but not only in the creative industries, including academia – the mantra of “do what you love, love what you do” turns enthusiasm and dedication into a system of self-exploitation. One of the revelations of the recent (ongoing) industrial action in British universities has been the revelation – for me, as I suspect for many, not so much a hitherto unknown bit of information, but something previously not fully registered or felt – of how far the whole system depends on us all working way beyond contracted hours (insofar as those can be defined at all), so that working to contract is tantamount to failing to fulfill the terms of the contract. Goodwill, self-sacrifice and willingness to go the extra couple of miles are now treated as the norm, or even the minimum. (more…)

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How should we imagine a world without work, and prepare ourselves and our society for it? The publication of another “the robots are coming!” piece in this morning’s Grauniad brought the passing thought that maybe we could look to classical ideas of the Golden Age, as sketched by Hesiod and others, when the Earth fed its children without any need for them to drag it out of her with violence and endless physical exertion. The idea of such a comparison is not that it will offer us a template for the fully automated leisure society – there are only so many babbling brooks besides which to recline while singing songs to the nymphs, even in temperate regions – so much as a means of deepening the debate by highlighting some assumptions that might otherwise be taken for granted. (more…)

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It Could Be You…

Once upon a time, there was a Good Boy. His parents told him to be polite and obedient, and so he was, not just to them but to everyone. They told him to work hard and always try his best, and so he did. They told him to be modest, and so he was, in the self-deprecating way that looks false to many people and irritates the hell out of them. And he came to believe, without ever really thinking about it, that if he just stuck to these principles his parents had taught him, everything would always be all right.

Mostly, it was, because Good Boys who work hard and toe the line, showing just enough imagination to get a little extra credit but never too much, tend to accumulate qualifications and go on – this being Once Upon A Time fairyland, where such things still happened with a degree of predictability – to get PhD funding and then a job. (more…)

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Whenever aspects of my job start to get me down (usually the result of some new, nonsensical bureaucratic procedure introduced without consultation or, apparently, thought, whether at university or national level), I always try to remind myself that at least I have a job that, mostly, allows me to do stuff that I actually enjoy much of the time, and pays me very well for it; I am in a very privileged position in that respect, and I try not to forget it. It’s not that I think I have the perfect job – as I discussed a few months’ back, there are certain attractions about the idea of being compelled to switch to Plan B – but I would admit to slipping, now and again, into the assumption that it is potentially perfect; that were it not for the various things that stop me teaching, researching etc. in exactly the ways I’d prefer, it would be very hard to complain. An excellent essay in the latest edition of Jacobin, ‘In the Name of Love’ by Miya Tokumitsu, raises some important and searching questions about this sort of attitude; since reading it, I’ve been fighting the compulsion to quote lines and paragraphs on an hourly basis, and I can only urge you all to read it as soon as humanly possible. In my case, at least, it positively demands self-examination, and indeed a fair amount of self-reproach.

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