"Work" vs. labor, and obligations 

"No one should have to work" is a fine sentiment that I have often agreed with, but I'm not sure I really stand by it anymore. I think it only makes sense for a certain definition of "work" and "have to"—the one where to survive you have to find a paying job, and things like "being a parent" don't count.

How about this, instead? "Everyone has a moral obligation to perform what labor they can for their community."

Maybe that labor is physical, emotional, spiritual, artistic, cerebral... but whatever it is, there's an awful lot of work to be done in this world.

"Work" vs. labor, and obligations #2 

And sure, all some people will be able to do is enough labor to survive, and can't do anything for others. Or they have some leisure time, but not much. OK! That's legit!

But I don't accept the image of a post-capitalist utopia in which everyone lives a life of leisure. I don't think that's healthy for individuals, and I don't think that's sustainable. There will *always* be things that need doing—planting and harvesting, educating and mentoring, cleaning and building. Global warming alone will bring plenty of challenges that we'll need to meet with willing hands.

Decoupling labor from survival sounds great. But there's no world in which I would want to give up doing labor.

"Work" vs. labor, and obligations #2 

@varx There's the Marxist slogan "From each according to their ability, to each according to their needs", which I think is very important (regardless of one's view of Marx and his ideas).
I feel it works even better in an anarchist context, because of how anarchism is against unjust and forced hierarchies.

For a society to work, everyone needs to have their needs met, but also everyone need to contribute what they can. The main point is that this duty needn't be enforced by threat of homelessness and hunger.

For my part I don't believe "no one should have to work", but I certainly believe "no one should be forced to work for the benefit of privileged"

"Work" vs. labor, and obligations #2 

@gaeel @varx

For me, part of the mindset of "no one should have to work" is the assumption that if no one was forced to work, it would turn out that most people actually would do various kinds of labor anyway. How does this interact with what the two of you are saying?


"Work" vs. labor, and obligations #2 

@dynamic i think it's more of a messaging thing. when you say "no one should have to work", people hear "i believe in a society that somehow magically provides everyone with all their wants and needs without anyone ever lifting a finger".
or they hear "i'm lazy and i don't want to work, and i'm arguing in bad faith for the right to stay home and play video games".

if what you mean is "i believe everyone's needs should be met, and that people, when given the opportunity to provide for society, will happily self-organise and do their best", then that's what you should say. be clear and direct about your beliefs, take away any opportunity for misinterpretation

"Work" vs. labor, and obligations #2 

@dynamic and then more specifically, i don't believe that "no one should have to work"
i believe everyone has a duty to work to the best of their ability to help one another, but that duty should come from a sense of community rather than the threat of homelessness and hunger

some people might not be able to provide much or anything at all, due to their health or other reasons, but i'm able bodied and well educated, i have a duty to provide my labour to the community


On the core points, I think we are in agreement, but I'm not sure I agree with you on rhetoric. I'm not particularly concerned with adherents to the Puritan work ethic model being disturbed by, or dismissive of, the phrase "no one should have to work." To whatever extent that the statement is provocative, I think there is also value in it. I think it does people good to have their core values directly challenged from time to time.

What I'd *really* like for them to think about, though, is the fact that a lot of the labor that they value so highly is actively destructive. It's well and good to say "all people capable of positive labor should do so" but maybe it'd also be super valuable to put some energy into getting people whose labor is actively harmful to *stop*.


I don't know what the numbers are, but it really feels like, in the status quo situation in places like the U.S., more than half of the jobs are neutral at best. "No one should have to work" might not be the perfect vision of eutopia, but it creates space for the imagination. If you tell people who work to live, and whose paid labor harms the health and wellbeing of other people, that they have a duty to contribute, the likely outcome is for them to say "I'm barely making it as is, how am I supposed to make time to do something positive." But if you say "I don't think you should have to work" that opens up the question of "what would you do if you weren't required to work?"

I think that's a useful question to consider.

@gaeel @varx

The other thing I'm wondering about here is how do we evaluate contributions that don't directly relate to meeting basic needs. If you say that everyone has a duty to contribute, does anyone get to be a full time artist? Would it be better or worse if that option were left open? What about spiritual leaders?

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