work and home intertwined

Capitalism is on trial.  In its most virulent form it seems to be failing entire classes of people in many corners of the world.  There is an awakening of masses of people from North Africa to Europe and North America to how a dogmatic form of capitalism has insidiously and systematically undermined their ability to make for themselves dignified and fruitful lives.

For those of you so inclined, the passage below is a damning list of the effects of capitalism.  But it’s much more than just a list.  It makes the argument that capitalism has made us profoundly passive in our personal and social lives, and that this translates into an inability to demand basic freedoms in our shared economic lives.

So, if we accept that we should be workaholics, that it is proper that only the ‘brightest and best survive’ and by implication others deserve failure, that we should disdain art and philosophy as irrelevant to our lives, that the ‘public good’ should mean nothing to us, and that efficiency should be the only measure of every social pursuit and institution; then we have capitulated fully to the social view of market fundamentalism and by our capitulation have no voice left to demand economic justice.

A way out is implied, like a great unravelling, a sprung spring.  We regain our freedom – personal and economic – by the rejection of desk slavery, by believing again that all people – including the weak – contribute to society and are deserving, by our love for art and wisdom, by embracing the public good, and by delighting in experiment and circuitous thought.  Are these the foundation stones of a new great society?

Here is the passage on capitalism and its discontents by Ellen Willis:

People’s working lives, their sexual and domestic lives, their moral values are intertwined.  Capitalism is not only an economic system but a pervasive social and ideological force:  in its present phase, it is promoting a culture of compulsive work, social Darwinism, contempt for ‘useless’ artistic and intellectual pursuits, rejection of the very concept of public goods, and corporate ‘efficiency’ as the model for every social activity from education to medicine.  In every sphere, Americans face the question of whether they will act, individually and collectively, in behalf of their own desires and interests, or allow established authority to decree what they must do, what they may not do, what they deserve, what they have a right to expect.  If they do not feel entitled to demand freedom and equality in their personal and social relations, they will not fight for freedom and equality in their economic relations.

Ellen Willis quoted in Public spaces, private lives: beyond the culture of cynicism,  By Henry A. Giroux

2 Comments so far
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Reading the above makes me wonder if Americans – USAers – might have the work life balance wrong. Perhaps you need a bit more holiday – a little less nose to the grindstone? Easing off a little doesn’t equal everything immediately going to hell in a handbasket.

Comment by blackwatertown

Yes, I think you’re right. We are a generation that works longer for less return, and we forego time away from our desks with our families and friends. I think it extends beyond America though, to at least a certain degree. The reason I like to write about this topic is that I think with exposure, people will see that the equation has become skewed and will choose to change their lives. Thus the posts on bohemianism and dada and status anxiety etc. Thanks for your comment.

Comment by Peter Rudd

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