by Scott Ferguson
The following is a brief rejoinder to James Livingston’s “Fuck Work,” an essay based on his book, No More Work: Why Full Employment is a Bad Idea (2016). Specifically, it answers Aeon Magazine’s tagline for Livingston’s piece, “What if jobs are not the solution, but the problem?”
What if we stopped believing that capitalists and automation are responsible for determining how and when we labor together? What if we quit imagining that so-called “leisure” spontaneously organizes itself like the laissez-faire markets we elsewhere decry?
What if we created a public works system, which sets a just and truly livable wage floor for the entire economy? What if we made it impossible for Walmart to exploit women and minorities, while multiplying everyone’s bargaining powers? What if we used such a system to decrease the average work day, to ensure that everyone has healthcare, and to increase the quality of social participation across public and private sectors? What if economic life was no longer grounded solely in the profit motive?
What if we cared for all of our children, sick, and growing elderly population? What if we halved teacher-student ratios across all grade levels? What if we built affordable homes for everyone? What if there was a garden on every block? What if we made our cities energy efficient? What if we expanded public libraries? What if we remunerated historically unpaid care work? What if public art centers became standard features of neighborhoods? What if we paid young people to document the lives of retirees?
What if we guaranteed that Black lives really matter?
What if private industry’s rejection of workers freed the public to organize social labor on capacious, diverse, and openly contested premises?
What if public works affirmed inclusion, collaboration, and difference, transvaluing the hegemonic “work ethic” instead of flatly negating it?
What if we predicated social critique on terms that are not defined by the neoliberal ideology that we wish to circumvent?