Sunday, 8 April 2007

No Work is Good

On 1 December 2006, the Council of the European Union endorsed the European Commission’s proposals to promote "decent work". Amongst other things, the Council's conclusions assert that:

"in order to strengthen the competitiveness of the EU in a socially sustainable way, it is important to improve productivity by promoting decent work and the quality of working life, including health and safety at work, combining flexibility and security, life-long learning, good working relations as well as better reconciliation of work and private life".

Of course, here and elsewhere, the Conclusions are suffused with ideology. However, the ideological dimension is not the underlying proposition that such work is possible within the confines of contemporary capitalism, but rather the presupposition that there is anything desirable or satisfactory about work that possesses these characteristics. All too many millions already labour under just these humane conditions; and yet we suffer still. Whatever the conditions of labour may be, the fact remains that all workers spend each moment of every day serving their employer and the global economy that ultimately dictates and absorbs our every working gesture. However safe and considerate work may be, it nonetheless appropriates the total production of the person performing it. What arises from this alienated labour across society remains a world of alienation, a world of eternally external powers and processes, with all the barely suppressed boredom, depression, frustration, anguish and separation that follows from it. And any improvement in productivity is merely an intensification of submission.