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Thread: Jobs = Slavery

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    Senior Member Survive & Stay Free's Avatar
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    Default Jobs = Slavery

    This is a spin off from the other thread on slavery and its about evaluating political attitudes towards work.

    In the UK the political currents that I can say are the most influential for me are those of the labour movements, socialists and trade unionists, however, from a specific early point in the history of the UK, not from about the sixties onwards.

    Although I did support the miners strike and other unions opposing the Thatcher government because I think Thatcher had little regard for the long term consequences and behaved in a very political fashion comparable to the communist regimes in eastern europe. It wasnt out of sympathy for the NUM's politics.

    Anyway, these traditions, which I think also filter through other left intellectuals writings, like the psyhcologist Eric Fromm, tend to see work as a good thing in itself, any job is preferable to no job, a good job is preferable to any job, a job is the best social programme and good jobs and working lives are the ultimate utopia or objective worth striving for. Orwell summarised it as simply, less hours, reasonable pay and no fear of the boss. GDH Cole had a more complex theory about responsibility and democracy but unquestionably had the same attitude to work too.

    This I've seen interpreted in the UK as a result of the UK socialists being "more methodist than Marxist" (at least by Bernard Crick) and the political protests arising from the frustration of a work ethic. This, mind you, is dating from a time when photographers where assaulted by people claiming benefits if they tried to photograph them because of the shame those same claimants felt, the surviving photos show people covering their heads with newspapers or hats.

    I'm a little unsure about this because it conflates a lot with the idea of a protestant work ethic, the protestant ethic, at least as interpreted by Weber etc. was to do with an excess of parsimony, puritanism and prompted by anxiety about damnation in an afterlife leading to accumulative frenzy in this one, ie to evidence god's favour. That's not like the earlier ethic, which Fromm repeatedly writes about having sympathies with, which is that of the medieval serf or idealised independent yeoman, where work was hard but rewards, at least in terms of festivals and feasting where tangible, apparent and direct. I could go on here about the social nature of harvests, with song, instruments and too hearty a share of moonshine or beverages but I'm not going to eulogise in case I'm wrong.

    Anyway, I've seen this sort of shift, in which the right wing and a significant enough, if not predominant, section of the left also consider the left attitude towards work to be one detesting it, dodging it, treating it as akin to slavery, a waste of time, fundamentally alienating. Does anyone else see this shift?

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    Only if its forced in the sense that you don't have a choice in the matter, which of course we do... if the argument is then that we cannot survive without money in our current culture then I would say current culture = slavery, jobs are only a symptom of that.

    Maybe what you are seeing is a rejection of current culture.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Lark View Post
    Anyway, I've seen this sort of shift, in which the right wing and a significant enough, if not predominant, section of the left also consider the left attitude towards work to be one detesting it, dodging it, treating it as akin to slavery, a waste of time, fundamentally alienating. Does anyone else see this shift?
    I don't know enough about British politics, but that is pretty much what I've always seen in the U.S., if you go by a simplistic "left vs. right" political spectrum.

    "The right" looks at "the left" as a bunch of lazy, whining communist wannabes who don't want to work, and want others to pay for their livelihood.

    Now, regarding what you said about a significant portion of the left starting to come to the same conclusion: well, that's what I believe to be a splitting of the overly simplistic "right" and "left" into modern liberals ("the left": socially liberal, fiscally liberal), classical liberals (libertarians: socially liberal, fiscally conservative), and conservatives ("the right": socially conservative, fiscally conservative).

    It's a trend in America, with most independents/moderates really being a moderate form of libertarian. Maybe it's starting to happen in Britain, too...?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Zarathustra View Post
    I don't know enough about British politics, but that is pretty much what I've always seen in the U.S., if you go by a simplistic "left vs. right" political spectrum.

    "The right" looks at "the left" as a bunch of lazy, whining communist wannabes who don't want to work, and want others to pay for their livelihood.

    Now, regarding what you said about a significant portion of the left starting to come to the same conclusion: well, that's what I believe to be a splitting of the overly simplistic "right" and "left" into modern liberals ("the left": socially liberal, fiscally liberal), classical liberals (libertarians: socially liberal, fiscally conservative), and conservatives ("the right": socially conservative, fiscally conservative).

    It's a trend in America, with most independents/moderates really being a moderate form of libertarian. Maybe it's starting to happen in Britain, too...?
    I'm not sure exactly the same thing could or would happen in the UK, presently the hating on welfare benefits being paid to people who are unemployed is picking up a pace but there is still no work other than working for the government so people are ambivalent for the most part, at the last election the temptation to vote conservative was too great and a lot of news stories where around before and afterward which focused on people living on benefits and refusing to work which helped it.

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    Working makes me feel free and independent. I'm doing something that allows me to support myself.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Deja Vu View Post
    I only feel free when I get off.

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    If people compare jobs to slavery I think it is because a lot of modern work is unsatisfying. A lot of what we consider to be the standard method of doing things is based upon the industrial era methods of working in a factory (for example working regular hours like 9 to 5, 8 to 5, etc...). These sorts of standards don't make sense anymore, because we now work in offices in teams instead of in factories in an assembly line. The work is totally different, so the old factory methods don't make sense and they end up disenfranchising people.
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    Quote Originally Posted by The_Liquid_Laser View Post
    The work is totally different, so the old factory methods don't make sense and they end up disenfranchising people.
    This can be true but I work in a context which is almost the total opposite to that, we've got flexible working, empowerment in decision making, time sheets to complete personally which should guarantee payment of flexible hours etc. etc.

    Its not ideal at all, it permits sometimes the delegation of responsibilities to persons other than the management, it results in problems with claims for time spent working, hours of work or leave from the workplace being addressed generally instead of with the persons most guilty of it either because its difficult to prove or could result in legal action on the grounds of discrimination or bullying.

    Plus there's no guarantee at all that it will breed a team player mentality, instead the two or maybe three who are fixed in their mindset about doing their own thing and probably covertly or passively aggressive about it will take advantage of more conscientious colleges and seriously milk it, maximising their time away from the job or even time spent on easier aspects of the job, maximising their pay and minimising any duress they may have to experience which is what the remuneration is supposed to be about.

    Similarly when I was inducted into the health trust I work for they unrolled some frankly amazing policies, including job sharing, splitting a year between two locations, splitting a year between two fields of work or specialisms, opportunities for study etc. etc. Seriously I listened to it all and thought bloudy hell the socialist dreams of job rotation and flexible working have been realised, at least horizontally if not vertically.

    I reality it doesnt opertate like that, no one wants to job share or rotate between failing teams or difficult or dangerous fields of work, the whole thing is a headache for management and human resources departments so they dont want to know, often moving requires someone coincidentially wanting to move in the other direction synchronistically, how likely is that?

    Even career breaks and training can be dictated by pretty different criteria when the real politik comes into play, ie permitting sick or stressed individuals time outs, giving space to awkward or hard to work with bastards (whether its the colleagues or management who find them that way, I include myself in that category because I really can be).

    I'd be really interested in better writing about working life, I read one good book, "the working stiff's manifesto" is essentially a sort of travelogue through different jobs written by a graduate in the US, but a lot of them, especially the ones written by pro-philosophers, pro-psychologists and researchers are not that interesting.

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