by Bob Black

    No one should ever work.

    Work is the source of nearly all the misery in the world. Almost any

    evil you'd care to name comes from working or from living in a world

    designed for work. In order to stop suffering, we have to stop working.

    That doesn't mean we have to stop doing things. It does mean creating a

    new way of life based on play; in other words, a ludic conviviality,

    commensality, and maybe even art. There is more to play than child's

    play, as worthy as that is. I call for a collective adventure in

    generalized joy and freely interdependent exuberance. Play isn't

    passive. Doubtless we all need a lot more time for sheer sloth and

    slack than we ever enjoy now, regardless of income or occupation, but

    once recovered from employment-induced exhaustion nearly all of us want

    to act. Oblomovism and Stakhanovism are two sides of the same debased


    The ludic life is totally incompatible with existing reality. So much

    the worse for "reality," the gravity hole that sucks the vitality from

    the little in life that still distinguishes it from mere survival.

    Curiously -- or maybe not -- all the old ideologies are conservative

    because they believe in work. Some of them, like Marxism and most

    brands of anarchism, believe in work all the more fiercely because they

    believe in so little else.

    Liberals say we should end employment discrimination. I say we should

    end employment. Conservatives support right-to-work laws. Following

    Karl Marx's wayward son-in-law Paul Lafargue I support the right to be

    lazy. Leftists favor full employment. Like the surrealists -- except

    that I'm not kidding -- I favor full unemployment. Trotskyists

    agitate for permanent revolution. I agitate for permanent revelry. But

    if all the ideologues (as they do) advocate work -- and not only because

    they plan to make other people do theirs -- they are strangely reluctant

    to say so. They will carry on endlessly about wages, hours, working

    conditions, exploitation, productivity, profitability. They'll gladly

    talk about anything but work itself. These experts who offer to do our

    thinking for us rarely share their conclusions about work, for all its

    saliency in the lives of all of us. Among themselves they quibble over

    the details. Unions and management agree that we ought to sell the time

    of our lives in exchange for survival, although they haggle over the

    price. Marxists think we should be bossed by bureaucrats. Libertarians

    think we should be bossed by businessmen. Feminists don't care which

    form bossing takes so long as the bosses are women. Clearly these

    ideology-mongers have serious differences over how to divvy up the

    spoils of power. Just as clearly, none of them have any objection to

    power as such and all of them want to keep us working.

    You may be wondering if I'm joking or serious. I'm joking and

    serious. To be ludic is not to be ludicrous. Play doesn't have to be

    frivolous, although frivolity isn't triviality: very often we ought to

    take frivolity seriously. I'd like life to be a game -- but a game with

    high stakes. I want to play for keeps.

    The alternative to work isn't just idleness. To be ludic is not to be

    quaaludic. As much as I treasure the pleasure of torpor, it's never

    more rewarding than when it punctuates other pleasures and pastimes.

    Nor am I promoting the managed time-disciplined safety-valve called

    "leisure"; far from it. Leisure is nonwork for the sake of work.

    Leisure is the time spent recovering from work and in the frenzied but

    hopeless attempt to forget about work. Many people return from vacation

    so beat that they look forward to returning to work so they can rest up.

    The main difference between work and leisure is that work at least you

    get paid for your alienation and enervation.

    I am not playing definitional games with anybody. When I say I want to

    abolish work, I mean just what I say, but I want to say what I mean by

    defining my terms in non-idiosyncratic ways. My minimum definition of

    work is forced labor, that is, compulsory production. Both elements

    are essential. Work is production enforced by economic or political

    means, by the carrot or the stick. (The carrot is just the stick by

    other means.) But not all creation is work. Work is never done for its

    own sake, it's done on account of some product or output that the

    worker (or, more often, somebody else) gets out of it. This is what

    work necessarily is. To define it is to despise it. But work is

    usually even worse than its definition decrees. The dynamic of

    domination intrinsic to work tends over time toward elaboration. In

    advanced work-riddled societies, including all industrial societies

    whether capitalist of "Communist," work invariably acquires other

    attributes which accentuate its obnoxiousness.

    Usually -- and this is even more true in "Communist" than capitalist

    countries, where the state is almost the only employer and everyone is

    an employee -- work is employment, i. e., wage-labor, which means

    selling yourself on the installment plan. Thus 95% of Americans who

    work, work for somebody (or something) else. In the USSR or Cuba or

    Yugoslavia or any other alternative model which might be adduced, the

    corresponding figure approaches 100%. Only the embattled Third World

    peasant bastions -- Mexico, India, Brazil, Turkey -- temporarily

    shelter significant concentrations of agriculturists who perpetuate the

    traditional arrangement of most laborers in the last several millenia,

    the payment of taxes (= ransom) to the state or rent to parasitic

    landlords in return for being otherwise left alone. Even this raw deal

    is beginning to look good. Allindustrial (and office) workers are

    employees and under the sort of surveillance which ensures servility.

    But modern work has worse implications. People don't just work, they

    have "jobs." One person does one productive task all the time on an

    or-else basis. Even if the task has a quantum of intrinsic interest (as

    increasingly many jobs don't) the monotony of its obligatory exclusivity

    drains its ludic potential. A "job" that might engage the energies of

    some people, for a reasonably limited time, for the fun of it, is just a

    burden on those who have to do it for forty hours a week with no say in

    how it should be done, for the profit of owners who contribute nothing

    to the project, and with no opportunity for sharing tasks or spreading

    the work among those who actually have to do it. This is the real world

    of work: a world of bureaucratic blundering, of sexual harassment and

    discrimination, of bonehead bosses exploiting and scapegoating their

    subordinates who -- by any rational-technical criteria -- should

    be calling the shots. But capitalism in the real world subordinates the

    rational maximization of productivity and profit to the exigencies of

    organizational control.

    The degradation which most workers experience on the job is the sum of

    assorted indignities which can be denominated as "discipline." Foucault

    has complexified this phenomenon but it is simple enough. Discipline

    consists of the totality of totalitarian controls at the workplace --

    surveillance, rotework, imposed work tempos, production quotas,

    punching -in and -out, etc. Discipline is what the factory and the

    office and the store share with the prison and the school and the mental

    hospital. It is something historically original and horrible. It was

    beyond the capacities of such demonic dictators of yore as Nero and

    Genghis Khan and Ivan the Terrible. For all their bad intentions they

    just didn't have the machinery to control their subjects as thoroughly

    as modern despots do. Discipline is the distinctively diabolical modern

    mode of control, it is an innovative intrusion which must be interdicted

    at the earliest opportunity.

    Such is "work." Play is just the opposite. Play is always voluntary.

    What might otherwise be play is work if it's forced. This is axiomatic.

    Bernie de Koven has defined play as the "suspension of consequences."

    This is unacceptable if it implies that play is inconsequential. The

    point is not that play is without consequences. This is to demean

    play. The point is that the consequences, if any, are gratuitous.

    Playing and giving are closely related, they are the behavioral and

    transactional facets of the same impulse, the play-instinct. They share

    an aristocratic disdain for results. The player gets something out of

    playing; that's why he plays. But the core reward is the experience

    of the activity itself (whatever it is). Some otherwise attentive

    students of play, like Johan Huizinga (Homo Ludens), define it as

    game-playing or following rules. I respect Huizinga's erudition but

    emphatically reject his constraints. There are many good games (chess,

    baseball, Monopoly, bridge) which are rule-governed but there is much

    more to play than game-playing. Conversation, sex, dancing, travel --

    these practices aren't rule-governed but they are surely play if

    anything is. And rules can be played with at least as readily as

    anything else.

    Work makes a mockery of freedom. The official line is that we all have

    rights and live in a democracy. Other unfortunates who aren't free like

    we are have to live in police states. These victims obey orders

    or-else, no matter how arbitrary. The authorities keep them under

    regular surveillance. State bureaucrats control even the smaller

    details of everyday life. The officials who push them around are

    answerable only to higher-ups, public or private. Either way, dissent

    and disobedience are punished. Informers report regularly to the

    authorities. All this is supposed to be a very bad thing.

    And so it is, although it is nothing but a description of the modern

    workplace. The liberals and conservatives and libertarians who lament

    totalitarianism are phonies and hypocrites. There is more freedom in

    any moderately deStalinized dictatorship than there is in the ordinary

    American workplace. You find the same sort of heirarchy and discipline

    in an office or factory as you do in a prison or monastery. In fact,

    as Foucault and others have shown, prisons and factories came in at about

    the same time, and their operators consciously borrowed from each

    other's control techniques. A worker is a par-time slave. The boss

    says when to show up, when to leave, and what to do in the meantime. He

    tells you how much work to do and how fast. He is free to carry his

    control to humiliating extremes, regulating, if he feels like it, the

    clothes you wear or how often you go to the bathroom. With a few

    exceptions he can fire you for any reason, or no reason. He has you

    spied on by snitches and supervisors, he amasses a dossier on every

    employee. Talking back is called "insubordination," just as if a worker

    is a naughty child, and it not only gets you fired, it disqualifies you

    for unemployment compensation. Without necessarily endorsing it for

    them either, it is noteworthy that children at home and in school

    receive much the same treatment, justified in their case by their

    supposed immaturity. What does this say about their parents and teachers

    who work?

    The demeaning system of domination I've described rules over half the

    waking hours of a majority of women and the vast majority of men for

    decades, for most of their lifespans. For certain purposes it's not

    too misleading to call our system democracy or capitalism or -- better

    still -- industrialism, but its real names are factory fascism and

    office oligarchy. Anybody who says these people are "free" is lying or

    stupid. You are what you do. If you do boring, stupid monotonous work,

    chances are you'll end up boring, stupid and monotonous. Work is a much

    better explanation for the creeping cretinization all around us than

    even such significant moronizing mechanisms as television and education.

    People who are regimented all their lives, handed off to work from

    school and bracketed by the family in the beginning and the nursing home

    at the end, are habituated to heirarchy and psychologically enslaved.

    Their aptitude for autonomy is so atrophied that their fear of freedom

    is among their few rationally grounded phobias. Their obedience

    training at work carries over into the families they start, thus

    reproducing the system in more ways than one, and into politics, culture

    and everything else. Once you drain the vitality from people at work,

    they'll likely submit to heirarchy and expertise in everything. They're

    used to it.

    We are so close to the world of work that we can't see what it does to

    us. We have to rely on outside observers from other times or other

    cultures to appreciate the extremity and the pathology of our present

    position. There was a time in our own past when the "work ethic" would

    have been incomprehensible, and perhaps Weber was on to something when

    he tied its appearance to a religion, Calvinism, which if it emerged

    today instead of four centuries ago would immediately and appropriately

    be labeled a cult. Be that as it may, we have only to draw upon the

    wisdom of antiquity to put work in perspective. The ancients saw work

    for what it is, and their view prevailed, the Calvinist cranks

    notwithstanding, until overthrown by industrialism -- but not before

    receiving the endorsement of its prophets.

    Let's pretend for a moment that work doesn't turn people into stultified

    submissives. Let's pretend, in defiance of any plausible psychology and

    the ideology of its boosters, that it has no effect on the formation of

    character. And let's pretend that work isn't as boring and tiring and

    humiliating as we all know it really is. Even then, work would still

    make a mockery of all humanistic and democratic aspirations, just

    because it usurps so much of our time. Socrates said that manual

    laborers make bad friends and bad citizens because they have no time to

    fulfill the responsibilities of friendship and citizenship. He was

    right. Because of work, no matter what we do we keep looking at out

    watches. The only thing "free" about so-called free time is that it

    doesn't cost the boss anything. Free time is mostly devoted to getting

    ready for work, going to work, returning from work, and recovering from

    work. Free time is a euphemism for the peculiar way labor as a factor

    of production not only transports itself at its own expense to and from

    the workplace but assumes primary responsibility for its own maintenance

    and repair. Coal and steel don't do that. Lathes and typewriters don't

    do that. But workers do. No wonder Edward G. Robinson in one of his

    gangster movies exclaimed, "Work is for saps!"

    Both Plato and Xenophon attribute to Socrates and obviously share with

    him an awareness of the destructive effects of work on the worker as a

    citizen and a human being. Herodotus identified contempt for work as an

    attribute of the classical Greeks at the zenith of their culture. To

    take only one Roman example, Cicero said that "whoever gives his labor

    for money sells himself and puts himself in the rank of slaves." His

    candor is now rare, but contemporary primitive societies which we are

    wont to look down upon have provided spokesmen who have enlightened

    Western anthropologists. The Kapauku of West Irian, according to

    Posposil, have a conception of balance in life and accordingly work only

    every other day, the day of rest designed "to regain the lost power and

    health." Our ancestors, even as late as the eighteenth century when

    they were far along the path to our present predicament, at least were

    aware of what we have forgotten, the underside of industrialization.

    Their religious devotion to "St. Monday" -- thus establishing a de

    facto five-day week 150-200 years before its legal consecration -- was

    the despair of the earliest factory owners. They took a long time in

    submitting to the tyranny of the bell, predecessor of the time clock.

    In fact it was necessary for a generation or two to replace adult males

    with women accustomed to obedience and children who could be molded to

    fit industrial needs. Even the exploited peasants of the ancien

    regime wrested substantial time back from their landlord's work.

    According to Lafargue, a fourth of the French peasants' calendar was

    devoted to Sundays and holidays, and Chayanov's figures from villages in

    Czarist Russia -- hardly a progressive society -- likewise show a fourth

    or fifth of peasants' days devoted to repose. Controlling for

    productivity, we are obviously far behind these backward societies. The

    exploited muzhiks would wonder why any of us are working at all. So

    should we.

    To grasp the full enormity of our deterioration, however, consider the

    earliest condition of humanity, without government or property, when

    we wandered as hunter-gatherers. Hobbes surmised that life was then

    nasty, brutish and short. Others assume that life was a desperate

    unremitting struggle for subsistence, a war waged against a harsh Nature

    with death and disaster awaiting the unlucky or anyone who was unequal

    to the challenge of the struggle for existence. Actually, that was all

    a projection of fears for the collapse of government authority over

    communities unaccustomed to doing without it, like the England of Hobbes

    during the Civil War. Hobbes' compatriots had already encountered

    alternative forms of society which illustrated other ways of life -- in

    North America, particularly -- but already these were too remote from

    their experience to be understandable. (The lower orders, closer to the

    condition of the Indians, understood it better and often found it

    attractive. Throughout the seventeenth century, English settlers

    defected to Indian tribes or, captured in war, refused to return. But

    the Indians no more defected to white settlements than Germans climb the

    Berlin Wall from the west.) The "survival of the fittest" version --

    the Thomas Huxley version -- of Darwinism was a better account of

    economic conditions in Victorian England than it was of natural

    selection, as the anarchist Kropotkin showed in his book Mutual Aid,

    A Factor of Evolution. (Kropotkin was a scientist -- a

    geographer -- who'd had ample involuntary opportunity for fieldwork

    whilst exiled in Siberia: he knew what he was talking about.) Like most

    social and political theory, the story Hobbes and his successors told

    was really unacknowledged autobiography.

    The anthropologist Marshall Sahlins, surveying the data on contemporary

    hunter-gatherers, exploded the Hobbesian myth in an article entitled

    "The Original Affluent Society." They work a lot less than we do, and

    their work is hard to distinguish from what we regard as play. Sahlins

    concluded that "hunters and gatherers work less than we do; and rather

    than a continuous travail, the food quest is intermittent, leisure

    abundant, and there is a greater amount of sleep in the daytime per

    capita per year than in any other condition of society." They worked an

    average of four hours a day, assuming they were "working" at all. Their

    "labor," as it appears to us, was skilled labor which exercised their

    physical and intellectual capacities; unskilled labor on any large

    scale, as Sahlins says, is impossible except under industrialism. Thus

    it satisfied Friedrich Schiller's definition of play, the only occasion

    on which man realizes his complete humanity by giving full "play" to

    both sides of his twofold nature, thinking and feeling. As he put it:

    "The animal works when deprivation is the mainspring of its activity,

    and it plays when the fullness of its strength is this mainspring,

    when superabundant life is its own stimulus to activity." (A modern

    version -- dubiously developmental -- is Abraham Maslow's counterposition

    of "deficiency" and "growth" motivation.) Play and freedom are, as

    regards production, coextensive. Even Marx, who belongs (for all his

    good intentions) in the productivist pantheon, observed that "the realm

    of freedom does not commence until the point is passed where labor under

    the compulsion of necessity and external utility is required." He never

    could quite bring himself to identify this happy circumstance as what

    it is, the abolition of work -- it's rather anomalous, after all, to be

    pro-worker and anti-work -- but we can.

    The aspiration to go backwards or forwards to a life without work is

    evident in every serious social or cultural history of pre-industrial

    Europe, among them M. Dorothy George's England In Transition and

    Peter Burke's Popular Culture in Early Modern Europe. Also

    pertinent is Daniel Bell's essay, "Work and its Discontents," the first

    text, I believe, to refer to the "revolt against work" in so many words

    and, had it been understood, an important correction to the complacency

    ordinarily associated with the volume in which it was collected, The

    End of Ideology. Neither critics nor celebrants have noticed

    that Bell's end-of-ideology thesis signaled not the end of social

    unrest but the beginning of a new, uncharted phase unconstrained and

    uninformed by ideology. It was Seymour Lipset (in Political Man),

    not Bell, who announced at the same time that "the fundamental problems

    of the Industrial Revolution have been solved," only a few years before

    the post- or meta-industrial discontents of college students drove

    Lipset from UC Berkeley to the relative (and temporary) tranquility of


    As Bell notes, Adam Smith in The Wealth of Nations, for all his

    enthusiasm for the market and the division of labor, was more alert to

    (and more honest about) the seamy side of work than Ayn Rand or the

    Chicago economists or any of Smith's modern epigones. As Smith

    observed: "The understandings of the greater part of men are necessarily

    formed by their ordinary employments. The man whose life is spent in

    performing a few simple operations... has no occasion to exert his

    understanding... He generally becomes as stupid and ignorant as it is

    possible for a human creature to become." Here, in a few blunt words,

    is my critique of work. Bell, writing in 1956, the Golden Age of

    Eisenhower imbecility and American self-satisfaction, identified the

    unorganized, unorganizable malaise of the 1970's and since, the one no

    political tendency is able to harness, the one identified in HEW's

    report Work in America, the one which cannot be exploited and so

    is ignored. That problem is the revolt against work. It does not

    figure in any text by any laissez-faire economist -- Milton Friedman,

    Murray Rothbard, Richard Posner -- because, in their terms, as they

    used to say on Star Trek, "it does not compute."

    If these objections, informed by the love of liberty, fail to persuade

    humanists of a utilitarian or even paternalist turn, there are others

    which they cannot disregard. Work is hazardous to your health, to

    borrow a book title. In fact, work is mass murder or genocide.

    Directly or indirectly, work will kill most of the people who read these

    words. Between 14,000 and 25,000 workers are killed annually in this

    country on the job. Over two million are disabled. Twenty to

    twenty-five million are injured every year. And these figures are based

    on a very conservative estimation of what constitutes a work-related

    injury. Thus they don't count the half million cases of occupational

    disease every year. I looked at one medical textbook on occupational

    diseases which was 1,200 pages long. Even this barely scratches the

    surface. The available statistics count the obvious cases like the

    100,000 miners who have black lung disease, of whom 4,000 die every

    year, a much higher fatality rate than for AIDS, for instance, which

    gets so much media attention. This reflects the unvoiced assumption

    that AIDS afflicts perverts who could control their depravity whereas

    coal-mining is a sacrosanct activity beyond question. What the

    statistics don't show is that tens of millions of people have heir

    lifespans shortened by work -- which is all that homicide means, after

    all. Consider the doctors who work themselves to death in their 50's.

    Consider all the other workaholics.

    Even if you aren't killed or crippled while actually working, you very

    well might be while going to work, coming from work, looking for work,

    or trying to forget about work. The vast majority of victims of the

    automobile are either doing one of these work-obligatory activities or

    else fall afoul of those who do them. To this augmented body-count

    must be added the victims of auto-industrial pollution and work-induced

    alcoholism and drug addiction. Both cancer and heart disease are modern

    afflictions normally traceable, directly, or indirectly, to work.

    Work, then, institutionalizes homicide as a way of life. People think

    the Cambodians were crazy for exterminating themselves, but are we any

    different? The Pol Pot regime at least had a vision, however blurred,

    of an egalitarian society. We kill people in the six-figure range (at

    least) in order to sell Big Macs and Cadillacs to the survivors. Our

    forty or fifty thousand annual highway fatalities are victims, not

    martyrs. They died for nothing -- or rather, they died for work. But

    work is nothing to die for.

    Bad news for liberals: regulatory tinkering is useless in this

    life-and-death context. The federal Occupational Safety and Health

    Administration was designed to police the core part of the problem,

    workplace safety. Even before Reagan and the Supreme Court stifled it,

    OSHA was a farce. At previous and (by current standards) generous

    Carter-era funding levels, a workplace could expect a random visit from

    an OSHA inspector once every 46 years.

    State control of the economy is no solution. Work is, if anything, more

    dangerous in the state-socialist countries than it is here. Thousands

    of Russian workers were killed or injured building the Moscow subway.

    Stories reverberate about covered-up Soviet nuclear disasters which

    make Times Beach and Three-Mile Island look like elementary-school

    air-raid drills. On the other hand, deregulation, currently

    fashionable, won't help and will probably hurt. From a health and

    safety standpoint, among others, work was at its worst in the days when

    the economy most closely approximated laissez-faire.

    Historians like Eugene Genovese have argued persuasively that -- as

    antebellum slavery apologists insisted -- factory wage-workers in the

    Northern American states and in Europe were worse off than Southern

    plantation slaves. No rearrangement of relations among bureaucrats and

    businessmen seems to make much difference at the point of production.

    Serious enforcement of even the rather vague standards enforceable in

    theory by OSHA would probably bring the economy to a standstill. The

    enforcers apparently appreciate this, since they don't even try to crack

    down on most malefactors.

    What I've said so far ought not to be controversial. Many workers are

    fed up with work. There are high and rising rates of absenteeism,

    turnover, employee theft and sabotage, wildcat strikes, and overall

    goldbricking on the job. There may be some movement toward a conscious

    and not just visceral rejection of work. And yet the prevalent feeling,

    universal among bosses and their agents and also widespread among

    workers themselves is that work itself is inevitable and necessary.

    I disagree. It is now possible to abolish work and replace it, insofar

    as it serves useful purposes, with a multitude of new kinds of free

    activities. To abolish work requires going at it from two directions,

    quantitative and qualitative. On the one hand, on the quantitative

    side, we have to cut down massively on the amount of work being done.

    At present most work is useless or worse and we should simply get rid of

    it. On the other hand -- and I think this the crux of the matter and

    the revolutionary new departure -- we have to take what useful work

    remains and transform it into a pleasing variety of game-like and

    craft-like pastimes, indistinguishable from other pleasurable pastimes,

    except that they happen to yield useful end-products. Surely that

    shouldn't make them less enticing to do. Then all the artificial

    barriers of power and property could come down. Creation could become

    recreation. And we could all stop being afraid of each other.

    I don't suggest that most work is salvageable in this way. But then

    most work isn't worth trying to save. Only a small and diminishing

    fraction of work serves any useful purpose independent of the defense

    and reproduction of the work-system and its political and legal

    appendages. Twenty years ago, Paul and Percival Goodman estimated that

    just five percent of the work then being done -- presumably the figure,

    if accurate, is lower now -- would satisfy our minimal needs for food,

    clothing, and shelter. Theirs was only an educated guess but the main

    point is quite clear: directly or indirectly, most work serves the

    unproductive purposes of commerce or social control. Right off the bat

    we can liberate tens of millions of salesmen, soldiers, managers, cops,

    stockbrokers, clergymen, bankers, lawyers, teachers, landlords, security

    guards, ad-men and everyone who works for them. There is a snowball

    effect since every time you idle some bigshot you liberate his flunkeys

    and underlings also. Thus the economy implodes.

    Forty percent of the workforce are white-collar workers, most of whom

    have some of the most tedious and idiotic jobs ever concocted. Entire

    industries, insurance and banking and real estate for instance, consist

    of nothing but useless paper-shuffling. It is no accident that the

    "tertiary sector," the service sector, is growing while the "secondary

    sector" (industry) stagnates and the "primary sector" (agriculture)

    nearly disappears. Because work is unnecessary except to those whose

    power it secures, workers are shifted from relatively useful to

    relatively useless occupations as a measure to assure public order.

    Anything is better than nothing. That's why you can't go home just

    because you finish early. They want your time, enough of it to make

    you theirs, even if they have no use for most of it. Otherwise why

    hasn't the average work week gone down by more than a few minutes in the

    past fifty years?

    Next we can take a meat-cleaver to production work itself. No more war

    production, nuclear power, junk food, feminine hygiene deodorant -- and

    above all, no more auto industry to speak of. An occasional Stanley

    Steamer or Model-T might be all right, but the auto-eroticism on which

    such pestholes as Detroit and Los Angeles depend on is out of the

    question. Already, without even trying, we've virtually solved the

    energy crisis, the environmental crisis and assorted other insoluble

    social problems.

    Finally, we must do away with far and away the largest occupation, the

    one with the longest hours, the lowest pay and some of the most tedious

    tasks around. I refer to housewives doing housework and

    child-rearing. By abolishing wage-labor and achieving full unemployment

    we undermine the sexual division of labor. The nuclear family as we

    know it is an inevitable adaptation to the division of labor imposed by

    modern wage-work. Like it or not, as things have been for the last

    century or two it is economically rational for the man to bring home the

    bacon, for the woman to do the shitwork to provide him with a haven in a

    heartless world, and for the children to be marched off to youth

    concentration camps called "schools," primarily to keep them out of

    Mom's hair but still under control, but incidentally to acquire the

    habits of obedience and punctuality so necessary for workers. If you

    would be rid of patriarchy, get rid of the nuclear family whose unpaid

    "shadow work," as Ivan Illich says, makes possible the work-system that

    makes it necessary. Bound up with this no-nukes strategy is the

    abolition of childhood and the closing of the schools. There are more

    full-time students than full-time workers in this country. We need

    children as teachers, not students. They have a lot to contribute to

    the ludic revolution because they're better at playing than grown-ups

    are. Adults and children are not identical but they will become equal

    through interdependence. Only play can bridge the generation gap.

    I haven't as yet even mentioned the possibility of cutting way down on

    the little work that remains by automating and cybernizing it. All the

    scientists and engineers and technicians freed from bothering with war

    research and planned obsolescence would have a good time devising means

    to eliminate fatigue and tedium and danger from activities like mining.

    Undoubtedly they'll find other projects to amuse themselves with.

    Perhaps they'll set up world-wide all-inclusive multi-media

    communications systems or found space colonies. Perhaps. I myself am

    no gadget freak. I wouldn't care to live in a pushbutton paradise. I

    don't what robot slaves to do everything; I want to do things myself.

    There is, I think, a place for labor-saving technology, but a modest

    place. The historical and pre-historical record is not encouraging.

    When productive technology went from hunting-gathering to agriculture

    and on to industry, work increased while skills and self-determination

    diminished. The further evolution of industrialism has accentuated what

    Harry Braverman called the degradation of work. Intelligent observers

    have always been aware of this. John Stuart Mill wrote that all the

    labor-saving inventions ever devised haven't saved a moment's labor.

    Karl Marx wrote that "it would be possible to write a history of the

    inventions, made since 1830, for the sole purpose of supplying capital

    with weapons against the revolts of the working class." The

    enthusiastic technophiles -- Saint-Simon, Comte, Lenin, B. F. Skinner --

    have always been unabashed authoritarians also; which is to say,

    technocrats. We should be more than sceptical about the promises of the

    computer mystics. They work like dogs; chances are, if they have

    their way, so will the rest of us. But if they have any particularized

    contributions more readily subordinated to human purposes than the run

    of high tech, let's give them a hearing.

    What I really want to see is work turned into play. A first step is to

    discard the notions of a "job" and an "occupation." Even activities that

    already have some ludic content lose most of it by being reduced to

    jobs which certain people, and only those people are forced to do to the

    exclusion of all else. Is it not odd that farm workers toil painfully

    in the fields while their air-conditioned masters go home every weekend

    and putter about in their gardens? Under a system of permanent revelry,

    we will witness the Golden Age of the dilettante which will put the

    Renaissance to shame. There won't be any more jobs, just things to do

    and people to do them.

    The secret of turning work into play, as Charles Fourier demonstrated,

    is to arrange useful activities to take advantage of whatever it is that

    various people at various times in fact enjoy doing. To make it

    possible for some people to do the things they could enjoy it will be

    enough just to eradicate the irrationalities and distortions which

    afflict these activities when they are reduced to work. I, for

    instance, would enjoy doing some (not too much) teaching, but I don't

    want coerced students and I don't care to suck up to pathetic pedants

    for tenure.

    Second, there are some things that people like to do from time to time,

    but not for too long, and certainly not all the time. You might enjoy

    baby-sitting for a few hours in order to share the company of kids, but

    not as much as their parents do. The parents meanwhile, profoundly

    appreciate the time to themselves that you free up for them, although

    they'd get fretful if parted from their progeny for too long. These

    differences among individuals are what make a life of free play

    possible. The same principle applies to many other areas of activity,

    especially the primal ones. Thus many people enjoy cooking when they

    can practice it seriously at their leisure, but not when they're just

    fueling up human bodies for work.

    Third -- other things being equal -- some things that are unsatisfying

    if done by yourself or in unpleasant surroundings or at the orders of an

    overlord are enjoyable, at least for a while, if these circumstances are

    changed. This is probably true, to some extent, of all work. People

    deploy their otherwise wasted ingenuity to make a game of the least

    inviting drudge-jobs as best they can. Activities that appeal to some

    people don't always appeal to all others, but everyone at least

    potentially has a variety of interests and an interest in variety. As

    the saying goes, "anything once." Fourier was the master at speculating

    how aberrant and perverse penchants could be put to use in

    post-civilized society, what he called Harmony. He thought the Emperor

    Nero would have turned out all right if as a child he could have

    indulged his taste for bloodshed by working in a slaughterhouse. Small

    children who notoriously relish wallowing in filth could be organized

    in "Little Hordes" to clean toilets and empty the garbage, with medals

    awarded to the outstanding. I am not arguing for these precise examples

    but for the underlying principle, which I think makes perfect sense as

    one dimension of an overall revolutionary transformation. Bear in mind

    that we don't have to take today's work just as we find it and match it

    up with the proper people, some of whom would have to be perverse

    indeed. If technology has a role in all this it is less to automate

    work out of existence than to open up new realms for re/creation. To

    some extent we may want to return to handicrafts, which William Morris

    considered a probable and desirable upshot of communist revolution. Art

    would be taken back from the snobs and collectors, abolished as a

    specialized department catering to an elite audience, and its qualities

    of beauty and creation restored to integral life from which they were

    stolen by work. It's a sobering thought that the grecian urns we write

    odes about and showcase in museums were used in their own time to store

    olive oil. I doubt our everyday artifacts will fare as well in the

    future, if there is one. The point is that there's no such thing as

    progress in the world of work; if anything it's just the opposite. We

    shouldn't hesitate to pilfer the past for what it has to offer, the

    ancients lose nothing yet we are enriched.

    The reinvention of daily life means marching off the edge of our maps.

    There is, it is true, more suggestive speculation than most people

    suspect. Besides Fourier and Morris -- and even a hint, here and there,

    in Marx -- there are the writings of Kropotkin, the syndicalists Pataud

    and Pouget, anarcho-communists old (Berkman) and new (Bookchin). The

    Goodman brothers' Communitas is exemplary for illustrating what forms

    follow from given functions (purposes), and there is something to be

    gleaned from the often hazy heralds of

    alternative/appropriate/intermediate/convivial technology, like

    Schumacher and especially Illich, once you disconnect their fog

    machines. The situationists -- as represented by Vaneigem's

    Revolution of Daily Life and in the Situationist

    International Anthology -- are so ruthlessly lucid as to be

    exhilarating, even if they never did quite square the endorsement of the

    rule of the worker's councils with the abolition of work. Better their

    incongruity, though than any extant version of leftism, whose devotees

    look to be the last champions of work, for if there were no work there

    would be no workers, and without workers, who would the left have to


    So the abolitionists would be largely on their own. No one can say what

    would result from unleashing the creative power stultified by work.

    Anything can happen. The tiresome debater's problem of freedom vs.

    necessity, with its theological overtones, resolves itself practically

    once the production of use-values is coextensive with the consumption of

    delightful play-activity.

    Life will become a game, or rather many games, but not -- as it is now

    -- a zero/sum game. An optimal sexual encounter is the paradigm of

    productive play, The participants potentiate each other's pleasures,

    nobody keeps score, and everybody wins. The more you give, the more you

    get. In the ludic life, the best of sex will diffuse into the better

    part of daily life. Generalized play leads to the libidinization of

    life. Sex, in turn, can become less urgent and desperate, more playful.

    If we play our cards right, we can all get more out of life than we put

    into it; but only if we play for keeps.

    No one should ever work. Workers of the world... relax!