deus ex macchiato

Fabian Bazant-Hegemark's blog

Bullshit Jobs

The difference between work and employment

[I wrote this last night while watching 24. Sorry if that fact can be read out of the text]

Sometimes things seem so obvious and reasonable to me, that it is hard for me to explain them to those who don’t understand. This is an attempt to do so, which concerns my lack of employment ethics, which shouldn’t be taken for a lack of work ethics. I’ll explain in a second.

I did a lot of different jobs, by far not as many as others had to do, it seems I often had a lot of luck with my employment. I was never unemployed for a longer period, which I’m grateful for. But I don’t think that this luck will last, and I can see that most people in situations that I was in weren’t as fortunate.

What I mean is: obviously there’s a lot of things to do in every society. Traditionally every person had to pull their weight to make the world go round. I feel like it is only natural in such an environment of division of labor that your economic functioning down to the bare necessities of food, shelter, education, social interaction, et cetera, were included in the resulting system of exchange of virtual goods via money. It makes sense. But the facts that are the premise of this system of exchange changed in the last decades. That every member of society needs to take part in the production cycle and thus _earn their living_ is a toxic presumption when an ever decreasing percentage of the population is able to hold a job.

There are of course reasons for the factual renunciation of virtual policy of full employment. People don’t die like they used to. Computers and machines make jobs less labor intensive. Objects that once were status symbols become redundant gimmicks. I think all of those are great changes. But I think they will necessarily lead to a kind of a breakeven point of labor. And I think that our society might be at the brink of said point.

A breakeven point usually describes the financial situation where a business or endeavor starts to not cost the entrepreneur money, but makes a profit. I use this image here to point out something different: the obsoletion of labor.

Let’s take the example of a house. If you start your endeavor of living in a house, you need lots and lots of labor. You need to build the damned thing, you need the materials which have to be produced, transported, assembled. If you want to do this fast you won’t do it alone. So you find yourself with a couple of gals and you pile up walls and bathrooms and windows until you have a house. Done. Now, let’s say you’re not a dick and built that house for not only you, but for your family. Great! Now there’s 4-5 people who have a roof over their head. And if you built said house with your family, there’s 4-5 people who no longer need to build a house. There is no house-building-job to be done any more.

Yes, economy is more complicated than that. But I don’t know shit about it, so stick with me, yeah?

My point is, eventually all that needs to be done will be done. There will still be some maintenance, but it won’t require the work force of 4-5 people all the time. As soon as the internet connections up, the rest of your family can go watch porn while you fix the boiler for a couple of minutes each year. The rest of the time the house doesn’t require your assistance.

Let’s say that in my last example, you are the employer. Your family are your employees. And the house is your company, or, more abstract, your endeavor. Apart from the fact that your business model would kinda suck in this example, a similar thing is happening with the job market. Most endeavors still require some kind of dumb work, but only to a certain extent, and not enough to provide a whole family with paid labor.

Yet, politics still value a person, all rhethorics aside, almost exclusively as a workforce. The GDP defines the worth of the country, and it’s citizens contributions to it define their value for society. Thus people who earn less are in general treated worse by their governments, since their contribution to society seems smaller — because their paychecks are slimmer. This in turn makes them less avid consumers, which is the second quality a capitalist country needs people to have — since consumption requires production, and production means labor.

This merry-go-round can in theory work. But alas, it doesn’t. (You know when all your teenage friends said “communism is a nice theory, but it just doesn’t work”? After the fall of the iron curtain, that was hindsightly obvious. But guess what: neither does real-world-capitalism. -Isms rarely do. They don’t because their a theoretical proof of concept, not a proven concept. It’s not that your respective founding fathers looked through the “social economy models” catalog and picked the one that sounded best. Or was cheapest, for that matter. They just made shit up as they went. Look at the great US constitution. It started one of the first democracies. That’s why it’s one that’s most fucked up, because it was an early draft. They kinda forgot about things like ownership of people or argued against it. It’s a child of it’s time, as any document or work of fiction always happens to be. So I don’t see why it should be as sacrosanct as it is treated. Especially when it has flaws.

This takes us too far though. My main point is: Our economic system is based on the assumption that people+workforce=income and income+production=products. and products+(people+income)=workload. While that is basically correct, it means that if you don’t have — or rather find — a job, your worth for society is gone, since you are no longer a possible buyer of goods.

But as long as participation in society is barricadized by your net income, not to say your net worth, you will find a secluded class of impoverishment sweeping over your demographics. The fact that this effect can be witnessed in countries which are ranking in the top 10 concerning quality of life should make us all very aware that something is flawed. That doesn’t mean the system is rigged, but seriously, how low do you wanna set the benchmark?

[Picture is me doing one of the more annoying jobs I ever held, working in a Kitsch-Christmas store selling Chinese assembly line trinkets at winter temperatures. Damn was I slim back then.]