Periodic opinions from The Relentless Liberal, Jerome Grossman
Thursday, August 8, 2013
A World Without Work
A World Without Work
By Jerome Grossman
Our society may soon be rich enough that fewer and fewer people will need to work, where leisure becomes universally accessible, where part time jobs replace the regimented work week and where living standards keep rising even though more people have left the work-force altogether.
If such a utopia were possible, one would expect that it would be achieved first among the upper classes, then the middle class and finally even high school dropouts would be able to sleep late, take four-day weekends for their adventures.
The decline of available work is a basic reality of American life that promises to continue. This decline isn't unemployment in the usual sense where people look for work and can't find it. It's a kind of post-employment in which people drop out of the workforce and find ways to live, more or less permanently without a steady job, so instead of spreading leisure time, wanted or unwanted is expanding from the bottom up. Leisure time, wanted or unwanted is expanding from the bottom up. Long hours are increasingly the province of the rich.
The decline in blue-collar work is often portrayed as a failure to supply good- paying jobs as well as a failure of the American work ethic But even disappointing growth rates are likely to leave more American generations much richer then today.
Those riches will probably find paths to subsidize blue-collar workers as well as governmental and private assistance. However it is unstable to give up on unemployment, altogether. Remember, the right not to have a boss is actually the hardest won of modern freedoms.
The decline of work carries social costs as well as a price tag, providing every day structure for people who live alone and a place for socialization and friendship. In many ways, human flourishing and fulfillment is threatened by the slow decline of work, of workers, and the social institutions that bind us.