This IEET article is interesting, since it comments of technoprogressive “worker movement” views.
Demand 1: Full Automation - We should not fear technology; we
should embrace it. Improvements in automating technologies can free
people from the drudgery and indignity of work. Furthermore,
technological displacement is already happening (to at least some
extent). This demand simply encourages us to push it as far as possible.
That said, Srnicek and Williams accept that there may be limitations to
how far we can go. Some of these might be technical, some economic. But
one of the chief ones is likely to be the moral value we attach to work
via the work ethic. This is something we should aim to dissolve.
Demand 2: Shorten the Working Week - This used to be one of
the central aims of the labour movement, before it dropped out in the
mid-20th century. Srnicek and Williams lament this, noting how the
work-life balance has eroded over time. Nowadays, with 24/7 markets and
communications technologies, we are constantly at the beck-and-call of
work. To resist this, the demand for a shorter working week needs to
resurface. Srnicek and Williams favour a demand for a three-day weekend.
They do so for four reasons: (1) it will allow for increased leisure
time; (2) it is necessary in an era of increasing automation; (3) it
will benefit the environment (reductions in energy consumptions etc.)
and (4) it can enhance the bargaining power of the working class. The
last of these is defended on the grounds that a coordinated withdrawal
of labour supply strengthens the bargaining position of the workers
vis-a-vis the capitalists (this is the standard rationale behind
Demand 3: Universal Basic Income - This will be familiar to readers of this blog.
The UBI is an income grant that is given to all citizens/persons within
a particular political state irrespective of their willingness/ability
to work. The UBI is a popular welfare reform strategy among both left
and right. But one thing Srnicek and Williams insist upon in their
demand is a uniquely leftist version of the proposal. To them,
conservative arguments for the UBI are all about maintaining consumer
demand in an era of increasing inequality and automation. This is not
truly revolutionary in nature. They believe the case for the UBI should
be grounded in an attempt to overthrow the political regime of
capitalism, strengthen the hand of labour, rethink the value of work and
challenge the gendered division of labour. To this end, they insist
upon a UBI that is sufficient to live on, truly universal and
supplementary to other forms of welfare.
Demand 4: Devalue the Work Ethic - The final demand brings us
back to what I said about the work ethic at the start of this section.
Srnicek and Williams think we are far too much in thrall to the
ennobling power of work. Work has become the primary avenue for
self-realisation. This needs to change. As they put it, ‘work, and the
suffering that accompanies it, should not be glorified’ (2015, 125). This necessitates a change in our culture and willingness to articulate a vision for a postwork world.
My own comment on that IEET article:
I agree with the first three demands, but disagree with the last one.
Rather than changing our work ethic, we should change how work works.
If people work for a truly meaningful goal, they don’t need to be
disengaged from work. Sure, even meaningful work can be hard,
challenging, and frustrating, but at least it’s worth doing!
A universal basic income allows people to focus on the meaningfulness
of work, rather than on how much it pays. Work is necessary to get
really meaningful stuff done, even if you use highly automated tools and
machines. Automation allows us to focus on the creative, scientific,
social, and fulfilling aspects of work.
There isn’t enough of such work? Nonsense! There are always enough
dreams and goals that humans have. If they are free to associate and
collaborate at the same time sufficiently prosperous to use the tools
needed to achieve them, they will organize themselves and work towards
reaching those goals. Work will be more self-directed and social, rather
than driven by economic necessities. And that will make work more
Do we have to get rid of work? No, we just should get rid of the idea
that people should work to earn money. Rather, people should work to
improve themselves and the world around them! That is the real