Resistance and Change
They often begin in art, and very often in our art, the art of words.
Quote of the Moment
We live in capitalism. Its power seems inescapable. So did the divine right of kings. Any human power can be resisted and changed by human beings. Resistance and change often begin in art, and very often in our art, the art of words.
| Ursula Le Guin
I have increasingly come to believe that I might need to throw off the rent and wrinkled cloak of neutrality and adopt an outright adversarial stance regarding work injustice. More to follow.
Even With a Dream Job, You Can Be Antiwork, writes Farhad Manjoo:
In its sudden rearrangement of daily life, the pandemic might have prompted many people to entertain a wonderfully un-American new possibility — that our society is entirely too obsessed with work, that employment is not the only avenue through which to derive meaning in life and that sometimes no job is better than a bad job.
“The pandemic gave us a kind of forced separation from work and a rare critical distance from the daily grind,” Kathi Weeks, a professor of gender, sexuality and feminist studies at Duke University, told me. “I think what you’re seeing with people refusing to go back is a kind of yearning for freedom.”
Weeks, the author of “The Problem With Work,” is among a handful of scholars who have been pushing for a wholesale reappraisal of the role that work plays in wealthy societies. Their ideas have been dubbed “post-work” or “antiwork,” and although they share goals with other players in the labor market — among them labor unions and advocates for higher minimum wages and a stronger social safety net — these scholars are calling for something even grander than improved benefits.
They’re questioning some of the bedrock ideas in modern life, especially life in America: What if paid work is not the only worthwhile use of one’s time? What if crushing it in your career is not the only way to attain status and significance in society? What if electing to live a life that is not driven by the neuroses and obsessions of paid employment is considered a perfectly fine and reasonable way to live?
It's great that mainstreamers like Manjoo discover #antiwork and thinkers like Kathi Weeks, but it's all because of the pandemic and the short-term disruptions, even when they dig into the 'bedrock' thinking about work.
Manjoo cites Do These Viral Stories About Shitty Bosses Signal an Anti-Work Revolution?, which looks at r/antiwork on Subreddit:
For eight years, the subreddit has had a modest following, but over the past few months, its membership has increased sevenfold as the U.S. undergoes what folks are calling the Great Resignation: a mass exodus of workers fed up with bad treatment and worse pay. New users seem to be lured in by texts with screenshots of employees telling their bosses to fuck off in deeply satisfying ways. Last year at this time, the board had 175,000 “idlers,” according to moderator Doreen Ford; r/antiwork folks refer to themselves as idlers, a dig at what Protestants would call “idle hands.” At press time, r/antiwork has more than 700,000 members and is on track to break 1 million by the end of the year.
“This is bonkers,” Ford, a 30-year-old dog walker in Boston, tells Rolling Stone. “We never really thought anything like this would happen. I’ve never been a part of something so successful in my life.”
For more Kathi Weeks:
I love a good chart, and Axios What’s Next offered up a good one:
Companies are responding to the Great Resignation/Migration/Reconsideration and finding that money talks. But they are missing the boat on benefits:
While firms have raised wages, they have been slow to improve benefits.
Less than a quarter of employers have bolstered benefits in order to reduce turnover, per a new survey from Joblist. But a whopping 70% of workers surveyed for the same study said they'd like to see better benefits.
The perks that workers say they're looking for from their employers include flexible schedules and options for fully remote work. Many workers — especially working mothers — are continuing to balance work with responsibilities like child care, and they're looking for companies that allow them to do so.
Here’s an idea: what if employers instituted on-site/near-site child care as a perk to attract mothers back to full-time employment. Because the US government is certainly floundering in that regard.
Last week, 10,000 John Deere workers went out on strike, and 60,000 film and television workers in the union IATSE went to the very precipice of the most massive strike of all. Interspersed in these have been hundreds of other strikes, or near-strikes – from healthcare workers, factory workers, university workers and more. The cumulative effect of all of this has been a weirdly invigorating feeling that has gripped the nation, as Hemingway once said, gradually, then suddenly.
Americans aren’t used to this. Everyone over the age of 30 is still working through a neoliberal psychological hangover, a deeply rooted resignation in the face of the long-running primacy of the shareholder class. That feeling is the product of decades of Democratic politicians who have mostly seen organized labor as a group that is supposed to write them checks, shut up and be happy they are not actively trying to crush them, like the Republicans are.
Ever since Ronald Reagan fired the striking air traffic controllers 40 years ago, there has been a distinct public perception that labor was on the back foot in the fight against the mighty steamroller of global capital. Despite some isolated bright spots, this perception has mostly been true. The sudden specter of workers publicly asserting their own power on the national stage can seem a little freaky to many Americans, who peek out tentatively like survivors emerging from a nuclear fallout shelter, only to find that a huge dance party has started outside.
Maybe we should all join the dancing?
In ‘The End of Bias’ Says There’s Hope for Meaningful Change, Jennifer Szalai reviews Jessica Nordell’s The End of Bias:
As Nordell knows, the very concept of unconscious bias can sound exculpatory — suggesting that people can’t be responsible for something if they’re oblivious to it. But this isn’t a book that lets anyone off the hook. If anything, “The End of Bias” argues for a more profound sense of responsibility; Nordell describes bias as a kind of theft, one that deprives individuals and undermines entire societies. She also compares encounters between humans to the environmental concept of an edge, the place where two ecosystems meet. It can be a fraught space, full of peril; but it can also be a place of stunning fertility and biodiversity. “In the ferment of that edge,” Nordell writes, “something new can grow.”
Noam Scheiber looks into a survey by the Conference Board that revealed ‘55 percent of millennials expressed doubts about returning to work, versus 36 percent of baby boomers. By August, with Delta raging, that figure had dropped to 48 percent of millennials. Nearly two-thirds of millennials expressed concern about a “lack of connection” with colleagues, more than any other age group.’
But the comment that really caught my eye:
Partners and more senior associates seemed to regard personal interaction as a kind of workplace luxury good that the firm had purchased for them through its safety policies.
Jacob Bogage makes an obvious correlation about pay rising:
Although the average U.S. worker’s hourly pay was up 4 percent in September compared with a year ago, according to the St. Louis Federal Reserve, inflation grew 5.4 percent over the same period.
We’re upside down.