To Guardian 21/1/18
Writers on ‘post-work’ present us with a choice between just two alternatives: continuation of neoliberal capitalism, or autonomous, creative, artisanal work, including caring work, paid and unpaid, located in homes or community workplaces (Andy Beckett, ‘Post-work: is the job finished?’, 19 January). This, however, blanks out work which requires medium or large workplaces, large enterprises, large scale investment and social coordination. Post-work writers assume either that the large scale economy will remain under the control of capital (Andre Gorz’s assumption) with post-work existing alongside it, or that it will disappear through future technological change – unlikely, and anyway impossible to know.
But there is another strategy: the major means of production both physical and financial under popular ownership and control; organisation of industries and enterprises by their workers and users; collective design of products and production processes; democratic setting of wages, working hours and overall consumption. This can interact productively with domestic, small-scale artisanal and community work. In short, socialism.
The support for post-work utopias on the left comes out of the defeats of the labour movement in the late twentieth century, and consequent acceptance of the neoliberal argument that only capital can organise the formal economy. But, as a number of writers such as Pat Devine and Michael Lebowitz have recently explored, an economy planned by ordinary people at every scale from the workplace to the world is feasible. People and the planet cannot afford to leave the organisation of the large scale economy to capital.