Working and consumption under anarchism?

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explainthingstome
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Jun 24 2019 18:25
Working and consumption under anarchism?

Should an able-bodied adult have to work before said person is allowed to consume the products of anarchist society? Why/why not?

I've always argued for free access no matter if you work or not when discussing the issue with anti-socialists. But I haven't been completely sold on the idea that a big majority of people would work without any punishments on consumption.

Maybe everyone's fed up about the question d but it's not a a easy topic to search for. I haven't found any article about the subject on Libcom so far

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Jun 24 2019 20:55

There'll definitely be stuff about it somewhere, last time I started a similarish thread someone recommended Malatesta's Anarchy which I found really helpful: https://theanarchistlibrary.org/library/errico-malatesta-anarchy#toc7
Maybe some communisationy stuff as well? https://libcom.org/library/z-communisation-gilles-dauv%C3%A9
This might also be the sort of thing Kropotkin is good on, I have to admit I'm not a Kropotkin expert.
I guess the questions are, when you say there's a system other than free access and people have to work first: how much do they have to work? What kind of work? Who measures and who decides? And so on.
I always think that sort of informal social compulsion would play a fairly big role here (probably heresey to some people), like you can have free access to resources but respect has to be earned, that sort of thing. Maybe? I guess it'd be interesting to look at why people work now - obviously the whole "being dispossessed and needing money to live" thing is pretty central, but I think if you asked people they'd give a lot of other reasons as well.

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Jun 24 2019 21:27

It is a difficult idea for regular political folk to swallow but personally I feel very confident that labour requirements would be fulfilled and that whilst it may be annoying to some, a few people not working needn’t be a problem. I’ve come to these conclusions without reading or hearing anything that explicitly addresses the potential problem(at least I don’t think I have).
I’m re-reading Conquest of Bread at the moment but I wouldn’t say Kropotkin is a particularly good thinker to explore for this sort of question - he’s so damned enthusiastic and positive about everything! I love it but it’s a little unrealistic and somewhat exhausting.
It’s been put to me that people choosing not to work would lead to a problematic level of resentment. Maybe that’s the case but it only makes sense if labour requirements aren’t met, or they are only being met by people having to work long hours. I think I’d be happy enough to continue to work whether or not there were some slackers around, as has been suggested, people work for more reasons than just money, and in an anarchist society work will hopefully be organised in such a way as to make it enjoyable, or at least not spirit crushing as it often is under capitalism.

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Jun 24 2019 21:42

I think all of our basic needs would be met, but if someone didn't participate then I don't think they would necessarily have access to other things. But I don't think it would really be a problem, because the amount of work would be much lower and we would actually feel satisfaction. For example if I felt that my job was helping people to communicate across language barriers and access culture, literature and knowledge I would like my job more, rather then doing it because the goernment thinks giving everyone english qualifications is making a 21st century workforce.

And there would be societal pressure, it wouldn't need to be formal or organised, people would just see that others were putting in a few hours a week to make things run and would want to help too.

zugzwang
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Jun 25 2019 03:46
explainthingstome wrote:
Should an able-bodied adult have to work before said person is allowed to consume the products of anarchist society? Why/why not?

I've always argued for free access no matter if you work or not when discussing the issue with anti-socialists. But I haven't been completely sold on the idea that a big majority of people would work without any punishments on consumption.

Maybe everyone's fed up about the question d but it's not a a easy topic to search for. I haven't found any article about the subject on Libcom so far

With technology we have today we can easily satisfy people's needs with few people having to work. This was something dealt with by Kropotkin, in CoB e.g., as well as Berkman in his book-intro to anarcho-communism, and I think we've developed even more since then, so it really shouldn't be a problem.

Berkman wrote:
Our progress in mechanics is so great and continually advancing that most of the hard toil could be eliminated by the use of modern machinery and labor saving devices. In many industries, as in coal mining, for instance, new safety and sanitary appliances are not introduced because of the masters’ indifference to the welfare of their employees and on account of the expenditure involved. But in a non-profit system technical science would work exclusively with the aim of making labor safer, healthier, lighter, and more pleasant.

https://libcom.org/library/what-is-anarchism-alexander-berkman

Kropotkin wrote:
And if in manufactures as in agriculture, and as indeed through our whole social system, the labour, the discoveries, and the inventions of our ancestors profit chiefly the few, it is none the less certain that mankind in general, aided by the creatures of steel and iron which it already possesses, could already procure an existence of wealth and ease for every one of its members.

Truly, we are rich, far richer than we think; rich in what we already possess, richer still in the possibilities of production of our actual mechanical outfit; richest of all in what we might win from our soil, from our manufactures, from our science, from our technical knowledge, were they but applied to bringing about the well-being of all.

https://libcom.org/library/the-conquest-of-bread-peter-kropotkin

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Jun 25 2019 09:27

Explainthingstome #1:

‘But I haven't been completely sold on the idea that a big majority of people would work without any punishments on consumption.’

Free access assumes that the basics for living a human life are freely available. It does not mean everyone gets what they want when they want it. Free communism requires collective decision making, and the only ‘punishment’ is having to persuade others to want what you want.

What will constitute ‘work’ post revolution is an open question. To live ‘the good life’ people have to feel they are being useful. Much of what is considered ‘work’ today in future will be totally redundant. In practice, it will become difficult to differentiate work and what we call ‘play/leisure activities’.

ajjohnstone
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Jun 25 2019 10:14

Has anybody got a source for just how many people work in superfluous jobs that would free them up for more socially useful labour within a money-free society?

If not, what is the guesstimate of such socially useless occupations. Half the jobs under capitalism? Threequarters?

I imagine that some that initially appear only useful under capitalism, can be redeployed...for instance, the insurance actuaries, being skilled in statistics could still have a role in planning projects.

Mike Harman
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Jun 25 2019 12:55

This is a good intro with some examples: https://libcom.org/blog/intro-communism-through-camping-trip-12072018

Mike Harman
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Jun 25 2019 19:13
explainthingstome wrote:
Should an able-bodied adult have to work before said person is allowed to consume the products of anarchist society? Why/why not?

How far does this extend?

1. If you live in a house until you're 18, do you get evicted on your 18th birthday unless you start to put some work in? Who's going to do the evictions?

2. How do you stop people making use of roads, public parks, drinking fountains, bicycle pools etc. these all require work to maintain but they're not individual goods for consumption.

3. How are you going to record the entitlement to consume? Does this mean everywhere that goods are available to take there needs to be someone making a record of who took them? A central database of who's eligible to take them or not? Do people have to carry around a time card that proves they did some work?

Parecon tried to answer these questions, and we did an exchange with them about a decade ago here: http://libcom.org/library/participatory-society-or-libertarian-communism

I just don't see how you can restrict stuff like this without building a whole coercive/surveillance apparatus which would require more work than not restricting things. There might be particular events or distributions that someone who's well known for never contributing to anything might get some funny looks at if they turned up, but that's similar to crashing a party or similar now.

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Jun 25 2019 22:35

I agree with many points made.

I think it's not necessary to worry that much about how to compel people to do useful work under anarchism, & that consumption would be based on need and not productivity.

It wouldn't be productive to monitor individuals and police their consumption / work. It would be wasted effort, and create a hierarchy, and likely some oppressive force to go with it.

If we were free of the burden of the unnecessary work that only exists for capitalist profit / other pointless shit, a huge chunk of time that's freed up will inevitably be spent on more productive stuff.

I think people will (and do) want to be part of a cooperative effort to be productive, and be useful to each other as individuals, because it makes sense to do. Capitalism is characterised by freeloading off the work of others (by capitalists), but under anarchism freeloading wouldn't make much sense.

There will be more to enjoy from being someone who is helpful, and gives according to their ability to supporting communal wellbeing, rather than being an unpopular freeloader for the sake of it.

I think the social cost of not helping out just wouldn't be worth it, even without a set of rules to penalise freeloading - there are a huge number of productive things that can be fun or rewarding to do and I think people will find the tasks that suit them, and those that take on the difficult / dirty jobs will benefit from the gratitude of others, and satisfaction of helping out.

Consumption and production will be organised so differently, they would look very very different to what we know, and we probably can't really properly grasp how awesome living in a properly free communist world would be, work basically wouldn't exist, just doing useful stuff for each other.

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Jun 26 2019 06:13

Howdy Wotsit, good to ‘see’ you! Great post as usual.

Quote:
I think people will (and do) want to be part of a cooperative effort to be productive, and be useful to each other as individuals, because it makes sense to do

Indeed, I don’t necessarily have to do things around the house but I’m happy to wash the dishes or decorate the bathroom just because these things need to be done for everyone’s benefit and doing them(and a thousand other things) just isn’t a big deal. If I didn’t do these things my partner would but a combination of a sense of responsibility and the desire not be to be selfish asshole or be thought of as one is more than enough motivation to carry out even the jobs I particularly dislike such as the aforementioned painting!

Quote:
and those that take on the difficult / dirty jobs will benefit from the gratitude of others, and satisfaction of helping out

True, but also, for the most part what are considered difficult/dirty jobs is highly subjective - as an example, my absolute dream job is to be a street sweeper! I fantasise about this regularly and have even invented(in my head) two special tools that would enable me to make my patch spectacularly clean and tidy! Worryingly, I’m unemployed atm but my usual work is creative, well paid and pretty enjoyable, but it lacks true satisfaction because mostly my efforts are put to no practical use on account of the fact that the architectural timber work that I install or restore mostly resides in the rooms of mansions that are never used by their millionaire owners, which means they have no communal value.
To keep the streets of the small country town near where I live on the other hand would be of value to the whole community which would be good for everyone in general and for my sense of purpose and self worth in particular and would also give me the opportunity to interact with a variety of people.
Unfortunately, due to past difficulties and debts accrued I simply couldn’t live on the wages this type of work would afford me so I’m kind of stuck, at least for now, in my current profession.
Anyways, the point I’m making is that I’m sure that positions considered unpleasant will always be filled by people that don’t really recognise that unpleasantness. I think it’s also true that jobs that are currently considered lowly - street sweeping is often used as an example of a person without much social standing - will be elevated in their social status whereas currently prestigious jobs will be demoted or very often eliminated.

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Jun 27 2019 09:36

Thanks for all the replies everyone
The articles that Mike linked have some things I would like to respond to. I'll start with that.

"The first problem is that ‘effort and sacrifice’ aren’t valid measures for reward on account of people's different abilities - women being pregnant possibly, disabled people (nearly 10 million in the UK), ill people or temporarily injured people, etc. Not to mention normal stuff like some being stronger, taller, quick with numbers, etc."

The issue of people being stronger, taller and quicker with numbers seems like a small issue because there are different types of work that needs to be done.
It's unlikely that a coal mine under communism would have 50% tall, strong people and 50% weak, short people with broken arms. Short and weak people would probably prefer work that were more "intellectual" or physically easy.

"Now parecon attempts to address this by peer-effort ratings, everyone filling out a form of some kind on their workmates, rating how much effort people have put in despite their natural talents or disabilities. Aside from the fact this could make for an atmosphere of suspicion rather than solidarity, this introduces further problems of its own."

I don't understand why it would create an atmosphere of suspicion.

"For instance how does one distinguish between a gifted slacker and a slightly dim grafter?"
I don't understand what this question means.

"People could also get more pay for less work by saying they are dyslexic for example, or dyspraxic. But how would you know if it was true? Do you give everyone mandatory medicals and psychological examinations? Psychometric testing?"

I think the problem of people lying about these sorts of conditions would be easy to see if they became common. If you have a workplace where 40% of people claim to have a disablity, then it's pretty easy to discover that some people are lying. These could then be tested.
If only 4% of the workplace claims to have a disablity, then who cares? It's not really a big deal.
Here are my spontaneous answers to Mikes questions:

"1. If you live in a house until you're 18, do you get evicted on your 18th birthday unless you start to put some work in? Who's going to do the evictions?"

If an eviction would happen, it could be just a group of members of society. But I don't think people should be evicted for not working.
I think maybe there should be a communist equivalent to the reformist idea of the universal basic income (*insert anarchist laugh track*). Basically, a non-working person is given coupons for food and a place to live etc, and is allowed to use roads and stuff (i.e. those things mentioned in question 2) but is not allowed to consume much else.

"3. How are you going to record the entitlement to consume? Does this mean everywhere that goods are available to take there needs to be someone making a record of who took them? A central database of who's eligible to take them or not? Do people have to carry around a time card that proves they did some work?"

I think time cards might be enough. You go into a storage facility and a cashier looks at your card and sees how much it's worth.

"I just don't see how you can restrict stuff like this without building a whole coercive/surveillance apparatus which would require more work than not restricting things."

But coercion isn't by necessity wrong. If most people want to put restrictions on consumption based on whether or not people make a work effort, then we should.
Not restricting things could lead to things running out fast because a lot of able-bodied people won't do the amount of labour that society needs.

Moving on, here are some answers to some ideas that are floating around in this thread.

"There would be less work under communism because a lot of work activities would dissappear." [Paraphrasing]

But how do we know that? While some types of work would dissappear, new types of work would surely also be created?

"Work and leisure will be hard to separate under communism."

I doubt that this would be the case for most people. I don't think I or most people would have a hard time between deciding which activity is more enjoyable: cleaning a toilet or doing anything that we today would call a leisure activity.
Even more likeable activities such as teaching would still feel like work, because that what it is. It means keeping discipline in the classroom, correcting tests etc. Not that work can't lead to satisfaction. But it's still work.

"I guess the questions are, when you say there's a system other than free access and people have to work first: how much do they have to work? What kind of work? Who measures and who decides? And so on."

The quantity of work people would have to perform depends on how much products people in society want. Are most people okay with their present consumption level? If not, what is it that they're missing? More corn? A new type of shoe? We'll need more people working in corn, anybody willing to sign on for that? If yes, great. If no, then screw it, we can't produce more corn.
The decision making could be made by a city council consisting of a sample of the population. Said council is replaced every week or month.

"There will be more to enjoy from being someone who is helpful, and gives according to their ability to supporting communal wellbeing, rather than being an unpopular freeloader for the sake of it."

What more would they enjoy than a freeloader? The sense of accomplishment? The respect of others? I think that would personally motivate me, but I've known several people, especially in school, who simply didn't give a crap what other people thought of them not doing any work in an assignment for example. And whenever I walk out I see trash on the pavement, thrown there by people who don't seem to care about how their behaviour affects others.

"Anyways, the point I’m making is that I’m sure that positions considered unpleasant will always be filled by people that don’t really recognise that unpleasantness."

That kind of implies that most of the people working in fields that are considered to be unpleasant enjoy their work. I don't believe that's the case. It sounds likely that most do it either because of the pay or because of a lack of options.
If the reply to that is "well, they don't like it under capitalism, but under communism people will no longer be alienated", my reply is that I think that's a bit of a weak answer. There isn't much proof that this is the case as far as I know.

zugzwang
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Jun 26 2019 22:35
explainthingstome wrote:
Thanks for all the replies everyone
The articles that Mike linked has some things I would like to respond to. I'll start with that.

"The first problem is that ‘effort and sacrifice’ aren’t valid measures for reward on account of people's different abilities - women being pregnant possibly, disabled people (nearly 10 million in the UK), ill people or temporarily injured people, etc. Not to mention normal stuff like some being stronger, taller, quick with numbers, etc."

The issue of people being stronger, taller and quicker with numbers seems like a small issue because there are different types of work that needs to be done.
It's unlikely that a coal mine under communism would have 50% tall, strong people and 50% weak, short people with broken arms. Short and weak people would probably prefer work that were more "intellectual" or physically easy.

The fact that differences in individual skills/abilities disappear when you group enough people together (and you then get an average skill etc.) is kind of beside the point. Work should be something one chooses to do and not something hated by them that they only do because they need a wage, or piece of paper saying they worked, in order to survive. Also, if all that's left is technical work, of maintaining machines or other specialized tasks, that doesn't really leave much room for employment of the mass of people who have no interest in that (or who can't do that), which I hope doesn't mean they don't get to consume stuff.

Quote:
"Work and leisure will be hard to separate under communism."

I doubt that this would be the case for most people. I don't think I or most people would have a hard time between deciding which activity is more enjoyable: cleaning a toilet or doing anything that we today would call a leisure activity.
Even more likeable activities such as teaching would still feel like work, because that what it is. It means keeping discipline in the classroom, correcting tests etc. Not that work can't lead to satisfaction. But it's still work.

I think people using, say, community toilets would see that it's in their interests to keep them clean and sanitary (assuming we don't just use cleaning robots, etc.) if they're going to continue using them; much like how people see that it's in their interests to brush their teeth if they want to continue using them.

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Sike
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Jun 26 2019 22:25

If you make consumption dependant upon ability your going to have a society that is compelled to keep tabs on people to judge whether or not they are doing their fair share in the work of production. Certainly, this is impossible to do accurately because any attempt to do this will inevitably be based upon conclusions which cannot hope to accurately compensate for the subjective attributes and circumstances of each and every individual.

So just how would anarchist society decide what constitutes ability and need, and is it possible to to so while upholding the anarchist principal of negative freedom? While I could see an anarchist society appointing delegates to the administrative task of gather and collating statistical data necessary to maintain production based upon the projected needs of society, I have a much harder time imagining an anarchist society that is also going to appoint delegates to investigate suspected shirkers to discover whether or not their individual right to partake the products of society should be curtailed. Seen in this light, the refrain "to each according to their ability, to each according to their need" appears not only as a plea for rationing, but also as a plea for the bureaucratic control of production through the formation of an agency that is at the very least tasked with the regulation of distribution and the structural persecution of non-producers.

So, in conclusion, I think that as long as someone does not deliberately sabotage, or attempt to sabotage, the institutions of a society based upon libertarian-communist principals that they should then be entitled to partake of the products of society with the only limitation being that they don't in turn attempt to hoard or marketize those products.

ajjohnstone
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Jun 27 2019 00:39

Free Access

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Jun 27 2019 09:35

"Work should be something one chooses to do and not something hated by them that they only do because they need a wage, or piece of paper saying they worked, in order to survive."

But let's say there a universal basic income which means that everyone, including able-bodied people who refuse to work, gets to consume the basic necessities for survival like water, food and shelter.
Do you still find it unreasonable that in order to get access to more products, they would have to work?

"Also, if all that's left is technical work, of maintaining machines or other specialized tasks, that doesn't really leave much room for employment of the mass of people who have no interest in that (or who can't do that)"

Cleaning, nursing and teaching are all going to remain important types of work, and I wouldn't call them "technical".
I think even if all work that would be left would be technical work or other specialized tasks, I wouldn't argue for a situation where many able-bodied people wouldn't work.
If there's less work to be done, said work should be divided, which would decrease the work day for each individual.

"I think people using, say, community toilets would see that it's in their interests to keep them clean and sanitary (assuming we don't just use cleaning robots, etc.) if they're going to continue using them; much like how people see that it's in their interests to brush their teeth if they want to continue using them."

But my teeth is not public property. Therefore, I know that nobody else is going to clean my teeth but me.
In a situation where twenty people use a bathroom, I believe there's a high risk that most people will go "somebody else will clean it, besides I wasn't the one making a mess in there". And those that do clean it might eventually feel angry about doing all the work and just think "screw this, I'm not your mom, I'm not even getting compensated for this crap".

"If you make consumption dependant upon ability your going to have a society that is compelled to keep tabs on people to judge whether or not they are doing their fair share in the work of production. Certainly, this is impossible to do accurately because any attempt to do this will inevitably be based upon conclusions which cannot hope to accurately compensate for the subjective attributes and circumstances of each and every individual."

What if there's a minimum level, based on the work that the least effective able-bodied person does? Working more than the minimum level does not increase consumption privileges.

"While I could see an anarchist society appointing delegates to the administrative task of gather and collating statistical data necessary to maintain production based upon the projected needs of society, I have a much harder time imagining an anarchist society that is also going to appoint delegates to investigate suspected shirkers to discover whether or not their individual right to partake the products of society should be curtailed."

Wouldn't it be pretty noticeable if there was a high number of "shirkers"?
Why not just have a computer system at workplaces where you stamp in and stamp out when you start working and stop working?

"[B]ureaucratic control of production through the formation of an agency that is at the very least tasked with the regulation of distribution and the structural persecution of non-producers."

Persecution is a loaded term. If someone was stopped by force from hoarding the products of society, you wouldn't say that said person was being persecuted.
I wouldn't call someone who gets the basic necessities and is not imprisoned or physically harmed "persecuted".

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Jun 27 2019 10:41

I'm for a free-access system, or as it's sometimes called, "full communism." grin

Others have brought up the concern that monitoring how much labor people are contributing, in order to restrict the consumption of those not adequately contributing, will itself require a considerable amount of labor.

This is surely true.

They also suggest that the labor lost in doing this would be greater than the labor saved as a result of restricting their consumption, and labor gained as a result of pressuring these people to work.

I don't necessarily disagree, but I also think we can't just assume this to be the case. It's an empirical question, and not one that we can be certain of before the fact.

I'm still for free access, though. I believe this will create a much better social environment for humanity. This is what we should be aiming for.

But still, I'm not certain that, immediately after workers seize the means of production, we can immediately begin free access, without it resulting in shortages. Perhaps we can, and I like to believe that we can, but I know that I can't be certain.

So I'm open minded to a possible transition period where we have either non-transferable labor vouchers or perhaps, as you (Explainthingstome) suggest, a universal basic income, so long as the vouchers were non-transferable (this is necessary to prevent the re-emergence of a market, profit, etc.).

To be clear, I'm not prescribing this transition as a necessity, either. I'm just saying I'm not ruling it out.

If we did have such a transition period, though, it would have its dangers, such as those pointed out by others in this thread (i.e. having people whose job it is to monitor people and place restrictions on them), so we'd want to try to move past it quickly.

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Jun 27 2019 14:56

Explainthingstome #12:
(a)
‘Basically, a non-working person is given coupons for food and a place to live etc., and is allowed to use roads and stuff (i.e. those things mentioned in question 2) but is not allowed to consume much else.’

So everyone has to be means tested and is given the heads up or down. Would the ‘testers’ qualify for special rations?

(b)
‘I think time cards might be enough. You go into a storage facility and a cashier looks at your card and sees how much it's worth.’

The free society requires cashiers to make sure we all get our just deserts. Perhaps as an incentive the cashiers could be awarded any leftover goodies.

(c)
‘But coercion isn't by necessity wrong. If most people want to put restrictions on consumption based on whether or not people make a work effort, then we should.’

Yes, and if anyone is caught cheating the system then righteous coercion would fall upon their heads. Can I use a pointed stick?

(d)
‘Not restricting things could lead to things running out fast because a lot of able-bodied people won't do the amount of labour that society needs.’

Not sure I understand the logic of this statement.

Next on many jobs becoming redundant:
(e)
‘But how do we know that? While some types of work would disappear, new types of work would surely also be created?’

All the enterprises relating to finance disappear. Capitalism creates work only if it generates profit. If we were creating things because they were needed, the drive to endless creation of commodities solely for profit/consumption would wind down. Think of all the clever creative people involved in advertising crap, who would be free to do other things.

(f)
‘I don't think I or most people would have a hard time between deciding which activity is more enjoyable: cleaning a toilet or doing anything that we today would call a leisure activity.’

The point being made is that today there are jobs we do that are useful and necessary (like cleaning the toilet), jobs we do only to earn money to keep us alive (and most/many hate), and things we do purely for pleasure. With the end of wage slavery, the drudgery of everyday life shrinks. People are free to pursue new or deferred activities.

(g)
‘Even more likeable activities such as teaching would still feel like work, because that what it is. It means keeping discipline in the classroom, correcting tests etc. Not that work can't lead to satisfaction. But it's still work.’

Not everyone who teaches likes the job. I believe key to creating the new free world is to rethink education:

‘Many students, especially those who are poor, intuitively know what the schools do for them. They school them to confuse process and substance. Once these become blurred, a new logic is assumed: the more treatment there is, the better are the results; or, escalation leads to success. The pupil is thereby ‘schooled’ to confuse teaching with learning, grade advancement with education, a diploma with competence, and fluency with the ability to say something new. His imagination is ‘schooled’ to accept service in place of value. Medical treatment is mistaken for health care, social work for the improvement of community life, police protection for safety, military poise for national security, the rat race for productive work. Health, learning, dignity, independence, and creative endeavour are defined as little more than the performance of the institutions which claim to serve these ends, and their improvement is made to depend on allocating more resources to the management of hospitals, schools, and other agencies in question.’
Ivan Illich Deschooling Society

(h)
‘What more would they enjoy than a freeloader? The sense of accomplishment? The respect of others? I think that would personally motivate me, but I've known several people, especially in school, who simply didn't give a crap what other people thought of them not doing any work in an assignment for example. And whenever I walk out I see trash on the pavement, thrown there by people who don't seem to care about how their behaviour affects others.’

You appear to be suggesting that the present situation of uncaring individualism, would be replicated in a libertarian communist world. We want to end capitalism not mend it. It will mean springing the yoke of scarcity off of humanities back and ending centuries of barbarism. If so, human behaviour will reflect this revolution.

zugzwang
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Jun 28 2019 05:05
explainthingstome wrote:
Cleaning, nursing and teaching are all going to remain important types of work, and I wouldn't call them "technical".
I think even if all work that would be left would be technical work or other specialized tasks, I wouldn't argue for a situation where many able-bodied people wouldn't work.
If there's less work to be done, said work should be divided, which would decrease the work day for each individual.

Of course not all work can or should be mechanized. Most cleaning-type work can however, and I don't imagine a lot of people would object to that. These discussions about "who will scrub the toilets" or "who will do the dishes" are pretty out of touch imo, considering we have restaurants today that are fully automated, automated commercial vacuum cleaners, automated "lights out" factories, and so on. It really seems like child's play to create a self-cleaning restroom (could maybe take inspiration from Sanisettes which I'm just now reading about), or to create a robot to do that, in a money-less, needs-meeting communist society, where as Kropotkin noted science could be applied to its fullest to make people's lives easier. But assuming we don't just mechanize restrooms, people can just take turns doing chores like cleaning toilets, or do it collectively, or people can clean up after themselves (assisting those who can't) etc. As mentioned a transformation of capitalist society to libertarian communist society also involves a transformation in people's thinking, so we'll have a society based more on co-operation and mutual aid instead of individualism and competition and so on.

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Jun 28 2019 05:44

Many of these questions are akin to an ancient Egyptian asking who, if there are to be no more slaves, will be building temples to the sun god. The premise of the question is fundamentally flawed; building temples for solar deities was one aspect of the same society of which slavery was another aspect, and if you abolish one, the other will disappear with it.

explainthingstome wrote:
Even more likeable activities such as teaching would still feel like work, because that what it is. It means keeping discipline in the classroom, correcting tests etc. Not that work can't lead to satisfaction. But it's still work.

"Teaching", to the extent that it will exist in communism, will definitely not involve classrooms (let alone "keeping discipline" therein) or tests – things that very clearly exist only to prepare a large part of the population for a life of wage labor. The assumption that these things could somehow persist in communist society is even stranger if we consider that in some places they have been partially abolished already – that is to say, within capitalism, through the efforts of capitalist reformers. The communist society of the future will likely go further than that, and abolish the distinction between learning and doing, just as the general abolition of the division of labor will spell the end of the "teacher" as a profession.

explainthingstome wrote:
But my teeth is not public property. Therefore, I know that nobody else is going to clean my teeth but me.
In a situation where twenty people use a bathroom, I believe there's a high risk that most people will go "somebody else will clean it, besides I wasn't the one making a mess in there".

That is the mentality of the private proprietor – a socially and historically conditioned response to the existence and continued reproduction of private property. A society that knows nothing of property (private or otherwise) will engender different mentalities. It is not improbable that the members of communist society will see their their bodies (or parts thereof, given that the example involved teeth) in the same way as the public utilities they will use (such as bathrooms) – namely as their usufruct; something that has been entrusted to their care, for the sake of the human species present and future.

explainthingstome wrote:
What more would they enjoy than a freeloader? The sense of accomplishment? The respect of others? I think that would personally motivate me, but I've known several people, especially in school, who simply didn't give a crap what other people thought of them not doing any work in an assignment for example.

And it was an understandable response on their part to their activity being alienated from them. In capitalism, wage laborers alienate their living, creative activity in the form of commodity-producing labor – because they have to, in order to survive. Fredy Perlman made quite a profound observation about this fifty years ago:

Fredy Perlman wrote:
[S]since labor is painful, [the worker] may desire to be "happy," namely inactive, all his life (a condition similar to being born dead).

Conversely, if activity no longer takes the form of labor, and as such is no longer painful, then inactivity ceases to appear as happiness, as something desirable. "Motivating" or "compelling" people to "work" is as likely to be a problem for communist society as building temples to the sun god: not at all, as both would be responses to social and historical conditions that no longer exist.

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Jun 28 2019 10:26

"So everyone has to be means tested and is given the heads up or down."

Why would everyone have to be "means tested"?

"The free society requires cashiers to make sure we all get our just deserts. Perhaps as an incentive the cashiers could be awarded any leftover goodies."

I don't really understand why you bring up the idea that cashiers should become more privileged than others. I haven't suggested this.

"Yes, and if anyone is caught cheating the system then righteous coercion would fall upon their heads. Can I use a pointed stick?"

1) Why would cheaters have to be physically harmed or imprisoned? If my baby escaped his crib I would just put him back in it, I wouldn't attack the baby with a pointed stick.

2) Do you oppose any kind of coercion? Beacause it's going to be pretty hard to abolish private property unless you're going to use the threat of force.

"Not sure I understand the logic of this statement."

People don't have to work > A sizeable amount of able-bodied people might not work > less people working means less products or less units, which in a free access society could mean that there's too many people consuming and not enough people working to make enough products.

"All the enterprises relating to finance disappear. Capitalism creates work only if it generates profit."

And you don't think that communism would produce any new important types of work?

"If we were creating things because they were needed, the drive to endless creation of commodities solely for profit/consumption would wind down."

If I've understood you correctly (and I might not have done so), you're saying that consumption would be lower under communism because the advertising industry would dissappear.
I think that's true to an extent, but I'm not sure if that's really going to mean that people are going to want only a fraction of what they presently consume.

"With the end of wage slavery, the drudgery of everyday life shrinks. People are free to pursue new or deferred activities."

But that's just a statement, it's not an argument to what I said.

"Not everyone who teaches likes the job."

I never said so.

"These discussions about 'who will scrub the toilets' or 'who will do the dishes' are pretty out of touch imo, considering we have restaurants today that are fully automated, automated commercial vacuum cleaners, automated 'lights out' factories, and so on."

But that's the exception and not the rule though is it? I think it would take a lot of work and time to make a majority of bathrooms and restaurants automated.

"Conversely, if activity no longer takes the form of labor, and as such is no longer painful, then inactivity ceases to appear as happiness, as something desirable."

So why would activity no longer take the "form of labor"?

___

One point that some people here appear to have made is that I'm talking as though communism has been established by non-communists. And that's true, I have. If we have a communist population, these problems of slacking shouldn't be a problem. So let's change the question a bit.
Is it really possible to make the slackers and the selfish people of this world into good communists? Or are they too small to matter? Is everyone already so willing to help out for free, without any economic repercussions?
Each new generation under communism will produce new slackers who need to be convinced of the communist principle of helping out in society. But that doesn't mean that each new generation of slackers can't be convinced, I just wanted to mention it is all.

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Jun 28 2019 11:07

Explainthingstome #21:

‘Why would everyone have to be "means tested"?’

You have written that people should be tested to ascertain whether they can perform ‘work’. Means = ‘that by which a result is brought about’.

‘I don't really understand why you bring up the idea that cashiers should become more privileged than others. I haven't suggested this.’

‘Why would cheaters have to be physically harmed or imprisoned? If my baby escaped his crib I would just put him back in it, I wouldn't attack the baby with a pointed stick.’

I suggested this as most people would resent having to ‘police’ their fellows so some incentive may be required. You do advocate coercion, so wouldn’t a ‘carrot’ be more humane?

I enquired about a pointed stick, as a metaphor for your attitude about the necessity to control ‘lazy’ people’s lives. Treating people as children – lord love a duck!

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Jun 28 2019 13:12

(Hey Noah!)

I’ve not caught up with all replies so apologies for repeating stuff

The phrase “how does one distinguish between a gifted slacker and a slightly dim grafter?” basically means - how do you tell the difference between a person who is lazy, but good at appearing to be productive / being productive with little effort, and someone who works hard as hard as they are able, but is not that smart.

Re. "What more would they enjoy than a freeloader? The sense of accomplishment? The respect of others? I think that would personally motivate me."

I think the things you listed are a big part of what would motivate most people. Being an active participant in productive social life will present us with more opportunities for fulfilling experiences and building meaningful relationships with those around us.

Regarding the impact of people who don't care, I think they would soon learn to care, as it would benefit them beyond peoples’ perception of them. There would be positives in terms of their general social wellbeing, and possibly on a material level as well.

I think when we don't have an external authority to appeal to in terms of dealing with anti-social behaviour, people will soon collectively intervene where they see someone doing something harmful, and the culprits wouldn't persist for long. I also think there won't be as much litter because who is going to bother wasting their time manufacturing single use disposable packaging, and then managing the waste. We'll find better ways to produce, store, move and consume things when we take collective responsibility

I guess if anything was scarce, those who actively participated in making it would probably be the first to have an opportunity to enjoy whatever product it was, and decide how to share it with others. I think scarcity will be less of a problem and we’ll all be clothed, housed and fed with a fraction of the wasted effort put into capitalism - with our abundant free time we can help create abundance of whatever type we want. I think most people will want to grow, cook and share great food, create comfortable spaces to live in, make beautiful and useful stuff they can share with others, pursue their own interests, support those around them and look after each other.

“But how do we know that? "There would be less work under communism because a lot of work activities would disappear."

No one will be spending any time selling anything, or making stuff purely for profit, call centres or retail jobs - that’s most current jobs gone! No more politics jobs or military or police.
Much less transport and warehousing of shoddy consumer goods which are designed to break and could be made local to where they’re needed.
No more banking or finance jobs or estate agents, no one would have to clean or drive or cook or garden or do PR etc etc etc for the rich.
Anything we make under communist conditions will be built as well as we can make it, because we actually want it and need it.
Basically, everything would be different.

“While some types of work would dissappear, new types of work would surely also be created?”

What would be created by replacing capitalism with communism is free time, and better conditions for organising the necessary tasks we need to complete in order to enjoy life to the fullest.

I think unpleasant jobs now are primarily unpleasant because of capitalism. For example cleaning for a couple of hours, before moving on to another task, is OK, cleaning for 8 hours a day, 5 days a week, is too much. Polishing the furniture in a mansion or waxing the floors of a mall, feel pointless, helping someone who isn't able to clean themselves, or participating in maintaining a communal space on your own terms, is worth doing.

Some difficult and unpleasant tasks will remain, but the way they are divided will be much less unequal and much more down to people participating in what seems necessary.

““under communism people will no longer be alienated", ..there isn't much proof that this is the case as far as I know.”

Non-capitalist societies have existed at various points in history, people still worked together (admittedly many societies used coercion and hierarchy of other forms, but not always and at all times) and there are relationships that aren’t directly mediated by capital / class that are evidence of this today - such as helping out a stranger you see struggling with something, or any relationship based on companionship / mutual aid rather than employment and wage labour or coercion.

If anarchism / communism exists as the dominant form of social organisation, social relationships would have undergone a profound transformation via the revolution. No more bosses and workers, no more officials and citizens, just each other, and looking out for one another. If you saw someone in need you would be free to help out, and I think most people do help, especially when the social conditions are right.

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Jun 28 2019 16:01

I think it’s important to remember here that cooperation and mutual aid have been a massively important part of humanity’s development and progress. It appears to be ingrained in us to consider others as well as ourselves. Essentially it’s our nature to help each other and to take responsibility for our part in our communities. It’s a mistake to judge ourselves on the way we behave in a capitalist society, where our nature is denied and we are pitted against each other.
Of course there will be problems, this perversion won’t be eradicated overnight, but to try to deal with this by creating a meritocratic culture would be a big mistake.

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Jun 28 2019 16:05

Well put, young Noah.

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Jun 28 2019 18:49
explainthingstome wrote:
So why would activity no longer take the "form of labor"?

Because it will not be alienated from those who engage in it; it will not have to be exchanged for wages in order for people to obtain their means of survival.

explainthingstome wrote:
And you don't think that communism would produce any new important types of work?

Why should it?

explainthingstome wrote:
Each new generation under communism will produce new slackers who need to be convinced of the communist principle of helping out in society.

No, it will not, just as there is no need to convince each new generation born under capitalism that they should not keep slaves for the purpose of building temples. Instead, capitalist society structures their behavior in such a way that the thought never even crosses their minds, and if it does, then only as what it is – a comical, clearly impracticable anachronism, incompatible with the way society operates and with their continued existence within it. You are making the very basic mistake of seeing people respond to the currently existing social relations in which they are embedded (e.g., by being, or wanting to be, "slackers" or "freeloaders" who need to be "motivated" to "work") and assuming that those responses are natural and eternal, part of some intrinsic and transhistorical "human nature". They are not. New and different social relations will correspond to new and different modes of behavior.

You seem to think that this argument lacks force ("[…] a bit of a weak answer"), and in some ways that's completely fair. We have been embedded in capitalist social relations our whole lives, and so were the generations of our parents and grandparents; we cannot extricate ourselves from them by our individual efforts. We know nothing else; there is nothing exterior to them, no living example of how things could be done differently. And yet, all of that used to be true of completely different social relations, too. To use what has almost become a communist cliché, a European peasant in the year 1000 would have felt exactly the same way about the divine right of kings.

But yes, the currently existing social relations obviously have a material force that no intellectual argument can match, and for now, intellectual arguments are all we have: by analyzing the workings and contradictions of the present-day society, and with the help of people like Marx and Bordiga in whose thought there crystallized the experience of years of proletarian struggles, we can glimpse some of the features of the society that will come to replace it.

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Jun 28 2019 20:34

I think this "Who is going to clean the toilets?" arrgument is a bit flawed. Pub toilets are disgusting because they are used by drunk people (so not the most thoughtful or precise) who know that they don't personally have to clean them. In a communist society, if you missed you wouldn't think "glad I'm not sitting on that seat" you'd clean it off. Collective responsibility is not just about doing things, it is also about not doing things.

Quote:
Even more likeable activities such as teaching would still feel like work, because that what it is. It means keeping discipline in the classroom, correcting tests etc. Not that work can't lead to satisfaction. But it's still work

Teaching is a difficult job, partly because our system is about teaching, not about learning. I am not entirely sure what communist education would be like, but it would be much more intensive in terms of labour, it wouldn't be groups of 30 kids listening to someone at a board. (Incidentally independent learning generally does require a carefully thought out framework, but may not do so under communism, where we won't have bludgeoned out a child's love of learning)

So many more people would be involved in education, I think there would be specialists, but people would largely participate. Instead of grades and qualifications we would look at skills and knowledge, once someone has mastered a skill there is no reason to keep them in a class. But education would be life-long, not just something we put together to provide a supply of trained workers. That would also remove the tyranny of choice, the -Alevels you choose limit degree choices, then your degree limits your employment choices, and for some the career that they worked towards doesn't please them. But they can't afford to leave it.

We can't always trust children to make the decisions, but an education system that involved them would certainly reduce the pointless imposition of discipline.In a real system there wouldn't be this pressure, when a student was ready to start applying their knowledge they would do so, and their participation in the community would increase/change. For example a five year-old might be expected to clear up their toys, but a 10 year-old miught be expected to help make dinner, or do the laundry. A fifteen year-old might do something else or extra, depending on whether it was needed and what skills they had.

Obviously some jobs are more pleasurable than others, but a big part of that is because we can pay or coerce people (poorer, browner, more female) to do them. If we can crack equal participation in the home (obviously what we consider a household will probably change too) then people will be able to accept that if a job needs doing, it needs doing.

Society would coerce, but society would also instil values of solidarity that changed mindsets. So a man wouldn't ignore the washing up because on some level he believes it is 'women's work'
People wouldn't hire a cleaner because they wouldn't be able to, there would be no money to coerce. So you would need to provide for yourself on a day to day basis, building an idea of contribution to the collective.

pi
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Jun 28 2019 23:36

Great thread. I've found it informative and uplifting actually. Ta.

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Jun 29 2019 15:19

"You have written that people should be tested to ascertain whether they can perform ‘work’. Means = ‘that by which a result is brought about’."

You and I seem to both believe that most able-bodied people would work. These people will never have to be tested, it's the inactive people that would be tested.
A lot of them would be old people, so they wouldn't have to be tested. I.e. look at the inactive people and exclude those who have old birthyears.

"I suggested this as most people would resent having to ‘police’ their fellows so some incentive may be required. You do advocate coercion, so wouldn’t a ‘carrot’ be more humane?"

So what carrot do you have to offer to lazy people like Jeffrey Lebowski?

"I enquired about a pointed stick, as a metaphor for your attitude about the necessity to control ‘lazy’ people’s lives. Treating people as children – lord love a duck!"

Treating jerks as children, not all people. You're probably not in favour of letting serial killers roam free but you probably don't describe that as "treating people as children".

"how do you tell the difference between a person who is lazy, but good at appearing to be productive / being productive with little effort, and someone who works hard as hard as they are able, but is not that smart."

I don't think we'd have to be able to do that. That's why I mentioned the idea of a reasonable bare minimum amount of labour that people wouldn't consider to be unrealistic.

"Regarding the impact of people who don't care, I think they would soon learn to care, as it would benefit them beyond peoples’ perception of them. There would be positives in terms of their general social wellbeing, and possibly on a material level as well."

What positives of their general social wellbeing would exist?
Assuming that everyone else is working, there is no material gain for the slacker.

"We'll find better ways to produce, store, move and consume things when we take collective responsibility"

That's a good point, but there's probably still going to be garbage around, won't it?

"Non-capitalist societies have existed at various points in history, people still worked together (admittedly many societies used coercion and hierarchy of other forms, but not always and at all times)"

But weren't their consumption levels much lower than now? If so, do you want to go back to their consumption levels?

"Essentially it’s our nature to help each other and to take responsibility for our part in our communities."

I don't think human nature is that narrow. I don't think capitalism could've been established if human nature couldn't mean more than compassion and helping eachother out.

"[Activity would no longer take the form of labor] because it will not be alienated from those who engage in it; it will not have to be exchanged for wages in order for people to obtain their means of survival."

But do you think the only problem people have with work has to do with it being wage labour? Is that really the only reason we're not constantly baking bread and creating automobiles?

"Why [would communism would produce any new important types of work]?"

To me, it sounds like you're implying that capitalism has fulfilled all our material needs and the only thing to do now is to get rid of some types of work. But under capitalism, loads of people have a lesser way of living than for example Frenchmen from a material standpoint.
What about building good housing? Or making everyone have access to good water supplies? Doesn't that require a lot more workers in those fields?
(I'm aware I'm somewhat moving the goalposts but just replace "new important types of work" with "more demand for workers in currently existing fields".)

"No, it will not, just as there is no need to convince each new generation born under capitalism that they should not keep slaves for the purpose of building temples."

In what world is being indifferent comparable to believing in slavery for the purpose of building temples? I believe indifference is a "natural" human emotion that's not limited to any type of society, just like empathy or hatred, and I haven't heard a good argument in favour of a different view on it.
If societies only created the individuals that they wanted to have there would be no anarchists or other critics of capitalism under capitalism. Wouldn't you have to deny your own existence if you're going to maintain your view on this issue?

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Jun 30 2019 05:03
explainthingstome wrote:
But do you think the only problem people have with work has to do with it being wage labour?

Let me turn that question back on you: do you really believe that when wage labor is abolished, nothing else will change about the ways in which people engage in creative activity? That everything else about it will go on just like before, except that people will no longer receive monetary remuneration for it?

Actually, scratch that. It's a rhetorical question, because it is obvious from your posts that you do believe that. You think that in communism, teachers will still go to work every morning to keep discipline in the classroom, distribute tests, and then grade them. There will still be restaurants whose bathrooms will need to be cleaned, and workers who will swipe in and out as they are entering or leaving their workplace. All the stuff that people do in capitalist society will still have to be done, and then some. (No world without restaurants, I guess.) And not just that; it will need to be done in the same old ways.

That's absurd. For one thing, it implies that wage labor, the fundamental capitalist relationship that structures the reproduction of all of our daily life, is just some unimportant superstructure, a kind of afterthought or outgrowth on top of this daily life, which will continue to be reproduced much like before once wage labor is abolished. With all due respect, to suggest this betrays not just a lack of imagination – no one can be reasonably faulted for insufficient imagination – but a certain intellectual laziness as well. True, we cannot all be Marx or Bordiga, who thought about these issues longer and harder than any of us, but it is another thing entirely not to be able to entertain the possibility of any changes at all, not even slight ones. We do have tools at our disposal that allow us to do that. We can examine the everyday life of pre-capitalist societies, such as the classless ("primitively communist") communities of hunters and gatherers. We can subject our own daily life to critique to reveal the full extent to which it is conditioned by wage labor and other social relations derived therefrom. The one thing we cannot do is assume that everything is set in stone exactly the way it is now, and it's going to be the same old shit from now until the sun burns out.

I don't know exactly what creative activity will look like in communist society; no one does. But – and this is an important point – we can be reasonably sure of some things, because communism is not an empty placeholder for "what will come after the revolution"; there is content to it. There will be no division of labor, no boring or difficult or dirty job one could get stuck in ("to hunt in the morning, fish in the afternoon, rear cattle in the evening, criticise after dinner, just as I have a mind, without ever becoming hunter, fisherman, herdsman or critic"). Membership in any given association of producers "will normally change many times over the course of a person’s active life". The whole boundary between work, a forced, alienated activity one performs for a set number of hours at a dedicated workplace, and leisure, a period of inactivity that is perceived as desirable because it grants one a respite from the unpleasantness of work, will collapse when creative/productive activity is no longer unpleasant.

explainthingstome wrote:
To me, it sounds like you're implying that capitalism has fulfilled all our material needs and the only thing to do now is to get rid of some types of work.

It has not fulfilled all our material needs, but it has developed productive forces to an extent that makes the fulfillment of our needs possible. In fact, it has overdeveloped them. So yes, getting rid of some types of work will be the priority.

Gilles Dauvé wrote:
As someone said forty years ago, half of the factories will have to be closed.

explainthingstome wrote:
What about building good housing? Or making everyone have access to good water supplies? Doesn't that require a lot more workers in those fields?

Maybe. Maybe it will just require some of the work already done in those fields to be done in other places instead. Other than that, the notion that communism is somehow tied to great feats of construction seems to be an anachronistic echo of the 1930s Stalinist industrialization drive.

Jasper Bernes wrote:
[F]or those in the industrialized global north, no more cement, very little steel, almost no air travel, walkable human settlements, passive heating and cooling, a total transformation of agriculture, and a diminishment of animal pasture by an order of magnitude at least.

explainthingstome wrote:
If societies only created the individuals that they wanted to have there would be no anarchists or other critics of capitalism under capitalism. Wouldn't you have to deny your own existence if you're going to maintain your view on this issue?

You misunderstand. My anarchism is a response to the conditions of my daily life: to the fact that I go to work 40 hours a week, where I alienate my activity in exchage for a salary; that I have to pay monthly rent for the apartment where I live; that the food I eat, the electricity that keeps me warm are commodities I have to buy with the money I receive in wages. It is a response to the knowledge that if I stopped doing any of those things, I would quite likely die of starvation, or exposure, or some easily preventable or treatable disease.

A hypothetical wish to keep slaves for temple-building would not be a response to the conditions of my daily life. That's what makes the whole suggestion so facetious that you almost seem annoyed to have to reply to it; it has no connection with our lived reality whatsoever.

All my analogy was intended to illustrate was that your hypothetical communist "slackers" would be like the latter, rather than the former. A wish to remain permanently inactive would not be a response to the conditions of daily life in communist society. It would have no connection whatsoever with its lived reality.

explainthingstome wrote:
In what world is being indifferent comparable to believing in slavery for the purpose of building temples? I believe indifference is a "natural" human emotion that's not limited to any type of society, just like empathy or hatred, and I haven't heard a good argument in favour of a different view on it.

I made it clear why I refuse to deal in transhistorical "human natures" of any kind. But that doesn't matter, because your argument is not about the emotion of indifference. It is about the action, the decision of refusing to engage in creative activity. And once again, there is nothing much to be said about it, except that in the conditions of abundance and highly developed productive forces, only human beings scarred by capitalism and capitalist labor can perceive creative activity as pain, and inactivity as happiness.

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Jun 30 2019 10:05

Explainthingstome #29:

You go to the left, you go to the right.
I do not want to labour the point, though by stating only some people would undergo the ‘lazybones testing’, means a preliminary selection panel.

‘Carrots’ and lazy people.
There is strong evidence that people generally like to fit in. This can be positive or negative. Social conformity can lead to all kinds of bad results. On the positive side it is possible to ‘model’ desirable behaviour. This is used a lot in primary education, particularly once corporal punishment was outlawed. When I was an apprentice I was expected to emulate good working practices. In turn, I tried to set a positive example when I was given an apprentice. Backed with positive reinforcement, it’s a better carrot, than a kick in the butt.

Evidence on indifference.
Indifference/apathy are ineffectual ways of attempting to mitigate the effects of an often cold and heartless society. It belies the real damage inflicted on many people. Mental illness, suicide, violent crime, etc., are all symptomatic of this attack on human sensibilities. Genuine ‘indifference’ is I would suggest very rare.