Tag: work

  • The creative freedom of post-work

    From Post-Capitalist Desire by Mark Fisher, pg 77: I just think about the Beatles. What does a post-work society look like? It kind of looks like what life was like for them, doesn’t it? They didn’t have to work. They’d made enough money, surely, by the early Sixties to just not work. Then their most […]

  • Silicon Valley’s cult of work

    One of the clearest themes in Wendy Liu’s Abolish Silicon Valley is the disturbing embrace of work and her attempts to move beyond it. Much of the book is a memoir of her own experience entering the tech world as co-founder of a startup, what this lifestyle entailed for her and the meanings she has […]

  • A bleakly plausible future for post-pandemic labour

    This piece by James Meadway paints a bleakly plausible future for post-pandemic labour. Firstly, the economic costs of social distancing on businesses with already thin profit margins incentivises a renewed push towards automation, something which has been stalled by the relatively cost of labour heretofore. Why risk the large capital investment in robots when humans […]

  • Nietzsche on the narrow chamber of human consciousness

    From the Third Treatise: What Do Ascetic Ideals Means of On The Genealogy of Morality: Much more frequent than this sort of hypnotic general suppression of sensitivity, of susceptibility to pain – which presupposes even rarer forces, above all courage, contempt of opinions, “intellectual stoicism” – is the attempt at a different kind of training against conditions of […]

  • The Digital Monad

    From Counterculture to Cyberculture, by Fred Turner, presents the fascinating history through which avowed cultural radicals of the 1960s came to generate the present day dogmas of working culture under digital capitalism. In the last week, I’ve written about this in terms of the digital nomad and the digital hipster. These cultural forms are, as […]

  • The digital hipster: when cultural modernism meets accelerated work

    I spent the second half of this week thinking about the ideal of the digital nomad, he who takes advantage of the affordances of digital media to live a life of constant movement, working with a laptop from a different place each day. We can see this expressed in extreme form in contemporary lifestyle minimalism, defined […]

  • The Ideal of the Digital Nomad

    In From Counterculture to Cyberculture, Fred Turner analyses how digital technology came to be seen as capable of liberating the individual, freeing them from the shackles of petty attachments to organisations and places. This is a complex story but it’s one in which cultural entrepreneurs figure prominently, carving out modes of living which later percolated […]

  • The ascent of the spiralists

    I wrote recently about a short article by Michael Burawoy in which he bemoaned the ascendancy of the spiralists within universities. These relentlessly ambitious new entrants to the university system see it as a theatre within which they can make themselves known, spiralling into the university before once more spiralling out of it to bigger and better […]

  • The duality of the platform: users and workers

    There’s an interesting passage in Uberworked and Underpaid, by Trebor Scholz, in which he discusses the contrasting experience of Amazon Mechanical Turk by users and workers. From loc 719: While AMT is profiting robustly, 11 it has –following the observations of several workers –not made significant updates to its user interfaces since its inception, and […]

  • The Workation

    I just came across this term in The Upstarts, by Brad Stone, loc 1828: Enjoying a modicum of momentum, Kalanick leased a new office in San Francisco but had a month before he could move in. Instead of waiting, he took the whole company to Thailand, where they worked eighteen-hour days out of cafés and […]

  • Against the notion of ‘craft’: thoughts on the cultural politics of romanticising exploitation

    On pg 106 of their Rethinking Social Exclusion: The End of the Social? Simon Winlow and Steve Hall describe the changing realities of work, as more and more jobs become “non-unionised, low paid, short-term, insecure and part time”: We should also note that few of these jobs enable workers to construct and maintain an image […]

  • The colonisation of life by work

    From Inventing the Future, by Nick Srnicek and Alex Williams, loc 2429: Work has become central to our very self-conception –so much so that when presented with the idea of doing less work, many people ask, ‘But what would I do?’ The fact that so many people find it impossible to imagine a meaningful life […]

  • The Lived Reality of Work in Tech Firms

    From Throwing Rocks at the Google Bus, by Douglas Rushkoff, loc 72-86: A few weeks later, there was nothing to smile about. Protesters in Oakland were now throwing rocks at Google’s buses and broke a window, terrifying employees. Sure, I was as concerned about the company’s practices as anyone, and frustrated by the way Silicon […]

  • The Zero Marginal Cost Society

    From Intern Nation, by Ross Perlin, loc 2379: (A small-scale survey in the U.K., conducted in 2010, found that a whopping 86 percent of recent graduates and soon-to-be graduates were willing to work for free, despite considering it exploitative.) As the cost of copying and disseminating (but not creating) content has plunged towards zero, no […]

  • “Please, sir, may I go home?”

    An interesting snippet from Losing The Signal, by Jacquie McNish and Sean Silcoff, concerning the lengths to which overzealous mangers would go during the early days of Research In Motion. From pg 39: One RIM manager became so obsessed with deadlines he issued an edict requiring engineers to ask permission before leaving at night. Lazaridis […]

  • The Pains of Work and the Relief of the Refrain

    Another concept I was unfamiliar with introduced in David Frayne’s superb Refusal of Work. From pg 210: For most of us, and for good reason, giving up work seems like an extreme solution, and working less is not always a practical option. When the periodic sense of dissatisfaction swells within, most of us resort to a […]

  • “What do you do?”

    From The Refusal of Work, by David Frayne, pg 199: What do you do? After ‘What is your name?’ and possibly ‘Where are you from?’ this is one of the first questions that strangers usually pose to one another, with convention dictating that this question is almost always an enquiry into our employment situation. ‘What […]

  • The Work Dogma and Contraction of the Existential Imagination

    I found this argument, in David Frayne’s excellent Refusal of Work, deeply persuasive. From pg 110: Employment itself can be held partly responsible for the negative experiences of joblessness because, in allowing people only a limited space in which to cultivate other interests, skills and social ties, full-time jobs can often leave people with few personal […]

  • The intensification of work and the death of imagination

    I’m enjoying The Refusal of Work by David Frayne at the moment. He asks some fundamental questions about the meaning of work in contemporary society. From pg 12: What is so great about work that sees society constantly trying to create more of it? Why, at the pinnacle of society’s productive development, is there still thought […]

  • an uncertain future (for other people’s jobs)

    I gave a lecture earlier this week about the cultural politics of automation and how this might shape the emergence of mass automation as a primarily structural reality.  I wish I’d seen this Pew poll when I was preparing the lecture: This sense of the inexorability of mass automation is deeply worrying. It’s possible that people might begin to see […]