"For unlike someone devoted to the life of contemplation, a total worker takes herself to be primordially an agent standing before the world, which is construed as an endless set of tasks extending into the indeterminate future."
A bunch of you (mostly those with white collar jobs) should read this and consider how close you are to the sort of ideology this article discusses. I think it'll feel uncomfortable, but may help motivate you toward new opinions.
Time, an enemy, a scarcity, reveals the agent’s limited powers of action, the pain of harrying, unanswerable opportunity costs.
Together, thoughts of the not yet but supposed to be done, the should have been done already, the could be something more productive I should be doing, and the ever-awaiting next thing to do conspire as enemies to harass the agent who is, by default, always behind in the incomplete now.
The burden character of total work, then, is defined by ceaseless, restless, agitated activity, anxiety about the future, a sense of life being overwhelming, nagging thoughts about missed opportunities, and guilt connected to the possibility of laziness. Hence, the taskification of the world is correlated with the burden character of total work. In short, total work necessarily causes dukkha, a Buddhist term referring to the unsatisfactory nature of a life filled with suffering.
In addition to causing dukkha, total work bars access to higher levels of reality. For what is lost in the world of total work is art’s revelation of the beautiful, religion’s glimpse of eternity, love’s unalloyed joy, and philosophy’s sense of wonderment. All of these require silence, stillness, a wholehearted willingness to simply apprehend... What is lost is seeking why we’re here.
@yam655 I've enjoyed kinda watching you read this through the notifications.
@emsenn yep that's something i very much struggle with
@KitRedgrave I don't have much response beyond yup, I think we all (in our broad culture) do.
I'm wondering if there's some intersection between this theory and the "must win conversations" ideology that 4chan cultivates, that i wrote about in the post-modern conservative piece, and post-modernism as a whole, that leads to like, all 3 being a perfect storm for radicalizing a certain demographic (of young upper-middle-class white man)
@KitRedgrave I work really hard to give myself a life of contemplation. I even took a job that's based around physical maintainence of a building, to make it so i didn't have to be "productive" for my dayjob, but just... maintain. Continue.
And even I feel the push - I SEEK OUT the push - to make things Work (as in, total Work, not "make them function,")
I also wonder if - hmm, please try not to judge but I'm going to allude to christianity in the next message
@KitRedgrave I'm wondering if a lot of these things couldn't be reduced down to one of the mortal sins and just written off as bad, no specific explanation needed. i.e. consumerism is bad because it's gluttony. i can explain why gluttony is bad, and i can explain why consumerism is gluttonous, but i don't really need to prove consumerism is bad ontop of that.
I think maybe by taking out religion we lost that baseline for guiding quick moral-decisionmaking that makes it easier to resist...
@KitRedgrave this sort of social/logical pitfall: if the "bad" comes from its long-term negative consequences, those can be negotiated with individually and as they come. if the bad is because the action, itself, is immoral (because you view it holistically and not as a series of discrete issues), then it's a lot easier, in the sense of less mental work, to, in a phrase, nope the fuck out.
@KitRedgrave Which isn't to say "believe gluttony is a sin because the bible says, and then don't buy random shit because the bible says."
But, "learn to understand why gluttony is a vice, and then don't buy random shit because you understand it to be immoral."
@emsenn ah, yeah. i'm with you when you phrase it like that
@KitRedgrave phew! I know referencing back to religion can be tricky, but I'm really more interested in extracting out the sort of logic they used to approach moral problems than the information they put into the logic, since it's years out of date and I might've disagreed even had i been alive then, and since the inputs are bad, the conclusion will be too.
But I really think there's probably something to the logic. I mean I know I haven't thought as much about vice as a benedictine monk.
@KitRedgrave but like, you wouldn't believe how many essays there are from long-dead orthodox priests discussing about how the means of production should be distributed to be owned by the most people possible, and how quasi-state systems would need to exist to facilitate the transition and establishment of a new property-order, etc.
It's some good shit, and honestly "public domain" is about as nonsense term as "godhead" so whatever.
@emsenn wow! that's pretty wild
@emsenn A spooky read!!! This stands out to me: "Finally, the constant, haranguing impulse to get things done implies that it’s empirically impossible, from within this mode of being, to experience things completely."
> a total worker takes herself to be primordially an agent standing before the world, which is construed as an endless set of tasks extending into the indeterminate future
oh hey, it me
@solder_on even your username kinda matches!
hey, I never said that I bleed subtly 🤷
@emsenn Ack this is pretty much me. Always feeling the overwhelming need to be productive and be useful. It's a hard line to balance with allowing time for personal leisure. There's a strong part of me that feels if I don't make use of this time I have I will fade into insignificance. Part of me is okay with that because I like to live my life through my relationships and creative expression. But the part of me that's ambitious struggles to accept not being productive every second I'm awake.
It’s ironic that this puts the onus of solving the problem on the people exploited by the problem. Sounds like more work for the overworked 😇
@requiem or is it a symptom of total work that "stop" is seen as work?
(I think I agree with you, but I imagine the author would say this.)
@emsenn I considered that (“stop”), but then realized that it equates to death...
@requiem But does it though? How is that "stop making all of life work" has become equivalent with "stop working enough to live."
I don't DENY that they're equivalent, but... they can't be, for people ot be able to find any sort of balance.
As the article says, I'm still unconvinced by the threat this poses so am kinda devil's advocating more than anything.
@emsenn I definitely believe that we can survive (and thrive) without centering life around work (sidenote: by work I think they mean specifically, a job, or working for someone else’s benefit as opposed to fun, etc.).
But we can’t just stop, we have to pave a path from here to there, if we expect anyone other than the most privileged to make the jump.
@requiem Ahh - I /don't/ think they just mean a professional role. I think they mean that everything, from labor to art to personal introspection, has become done through the same means with which we do work.
So when they - I - say "stop" they mean: stop applying work tactics to personal contemplation. Not "stop working" or "go off the grid" or similar.
@emsenn ah, I see, I think we’re on similar wavelengths then.
@emsenn Wellp, I'm feeling extremely called out by this.
@emsenn The existence of "total work" as a concept suggests that capitalism is just another totalitarianism that needs to be overthrown.
@emsenn timely, I'm giving a talk tomorrow to some hs students about using your hobbies to develop your skills... In the unspoken context of findinga job, honestly.
I don't think it's bad to live in a state of constant optimization. One of my core beliefs is that I should try to live efficiently and stave off a little bit of entropy. I think the danger comes in when you do that on behalf of a profit seeking entity, rather than yourself or your community
@rubah I agree with this. Labors toward efficiency literally create value from nothing but our determination, and that (can) means free and good prosperity.