Join the “End of Work” Think Tank.

August 10, 2011 at 8:10 pm (By Amba)

Ron Fisher’s new blog, on a topic he’s been thinking about a lot lately.  The “job” model of human purpose and sustenance is dying a painful death—corporations now raise their profits and productivity by getting rid of people—but what will replace it??  There clearly won’t be anywhere near enough “jobs” for the world’s growing population, and Ron suspects we’re in a third great transition, following those from hunting-gathering to agriculture and from agriculture to industry. But . . . to what?  We’re all thinking about it, we need a place to talk about it.  Go on over and weigh in; throw some thoughts and links on the fire.

Melinda Bruno recently said on Facebook,

At the rate this country is going, the next generation is gonna have two career choices:

1. A Kardashian;

2. A cashier at Wal*Mart.

That oughtta get you started.


  1. Icepick said,

    Join the “End of Work” Think Tank – It’s the last job you’ll ever have!

  2. amba12 said,

    I’ve just been thinking about how a new class division and antagonism is entering the world. Not even the wealthy and the poor — the employed and the unemployed.

    Marx said “The conditions of existence determine consciousness.” That definitely applies.

  3. amba12 said,

    I want to put in the comments here something I wrote you in an e-mail — that on my darker days I sometimes think the solution to “too many people, not enough work (food, water)” is going to be war, plague, and famine, or at best, prostitution, protection, and cannibalism (the sale of female beauty, male strength, and human flesh, the one commodity of which there’s a seemingly endless surplus). There’s your J. Swift for the day, she proposed modestly.

  4. Icepick said,

    As they say, the Four Horsemen are always saddled up and ready to ride. And in the absense of some counter-measure, the Malthusian Solution will always apply.

  5. karen said,

    **A ~superduperpooperscooper~ of elephant dung and ass droppings at the perpetual circus of the professional politicians!!!!!!!!!

    J Swift i remember vividly being taught by Sr Jacqlyn (little red squiggle line says sp incorrect- sorry). She laughed her hitler head off(she looked just like him- w/a veil& minus the mustache:0)) It was such an incredulous thought to her– humanity is better than that.

    Yesteryear’s incredulous imaginings= today’s realities.

    Thanks, ice– now i have to google Malthusian Solution and grow my brain!

  6. karen said,

    Heh- i don’t know if i should go there.

  7. Melinda said,

    “Soylent Green es hombres!”

  8. amba12 said,

    Karen, when I talk to you here now I feel as if we’re sitting across your kitchen table!

    Sister Jacquelyn’s was a false innocence. Things have always been that bad somewhere on earth, and though we’re mostly protected by two oceans and a continent’s worth of inadequately defended treasures, sometimes they’ve even been a lot worse here (Civil War). And there are plenty of people in the Catholic Church who know that perfectly well (the Jesuits, for example: very worldly people, and not afraid to get their own hands dirty). What I love about Catholics is they still don’t hate the world. Jews don’t either.

  9. amba12 said,

    Melinda, I almost added that. I like it better en Español.

  10. wj said,

    I don’t think the big division, at least in the developed world, is between the employed and the unemployed. It is between those who can afford the necessities, and at least a few luxuries, and those who cannot. An economic system which tries to move a lot of people from middle class lives to subsistence levels is going to get replaced. People simply will not put up with it.

    Granted, a lot of the unemployed are going to be the first to feel the pinch. But moving from an upper middle class income to being a greeter at Walmart is only going to be acceptable as a (very) temporary expedient. As soon as it become clear that it is going to be the new normal, it becomes intolerable. And even in an autocracy, let alone a democracy, an intolerable system is going to get changed . . . by whatever means necessary.

  11. amba12 said,

    Two points:

    a) Those in the developed world with upper-middle-class incomes have really wonderful lives and are, in fact, quite spoiled. If we had to, we could do with considerably less and still have wonderful lives, partly because many of us have had the luxury of furnishing our inner lives. That makes us less dependent on the outward comforts and luxuries—to a point. I wouldn’t want to exaggerate the degree to which we would actually be happy campers without, say, air conditioning.

    b) You’ve made the important point that the “many of us,” and especially we happy few having this discussion, are a small minority, and that any solution that does not provide a decent living for the majority is useless. (I hope Ron will expand on what he regards as a “decent” living.)

  12. wj said,

    I think that someone might tolerate going from an upper middle class life to a lower middle class life. We have, as you say, rich enough inner lives to sustain us. What would be intolerable would be going from even a lower middle class life to a subsistence-level situation — the sort of thing you get on long-term welfare.

    Too much of that, and something will be changed. Especially if those being forced into the transition are middle aged, accustomed to having at least some control over their lives, and still with plenty of energy to force changes. To call it a “populist” uprising would, I suspect, be to put an optimistic gloss on what would be a really ugly restructuring of our political economy.

  13. Icepick said,

    Just the other night I heard yet another person say “But we did eveerything we were supposed to do! Why are we getting screwed?” That time it was from a friend. I’ve heard that from friends, strangers, anonymous people on the internet.

  14. Melinda said,

    Ice: I’m hearing it from people, and also reading it in this book I just borrowed from the library:

    “Bait and Switch”-Barbara Ehrenreich

  15. Melinda said,

    Also reading this one, less political but acknowledges reality rather than a lot of empty “think positive” hogwash:

    “You know it’s time for a radical shift in your career management strategy because you realize that the advice you’ve been given–choose one thing you like and stick to it for the next fifty years; get an education, choose a career, settle down to it and do a good job; patience and loyalty will be rewarded with job security and life success–doesn’t make sense in today’s rapidly changing world. We live in a world where greed has turned your life into a disposable commodity that will be used and discarded, unless you take control and change the trajectory of your life. And if you hope to achieve consistent professional success and financial stability in this world, you must take control.”

    I think what we’re talking about on this thread and over on Ron’s blog is redefining our ideas about “professional success” and “financial stability” and even “control.”

    Or as I want to say in the faces of people who went to business school instead of art school and drama school: “Ha ha! Now you’ve all gotta be like me!”

  16. amba12 said,

    I can just hear some ruthless, devious, manic entrepreneurial Barnum type saying, “Suckers do what they’re supposed to do.”

    Check out that link (despite the despicably small print; just do Control + a few times). One troubling aspect of American culture is the assumption that everybody ought to be an entrepreneur, and if you’re not, it’s a failure of will. But not everybody is cut out to be an entrepreneur, for many reasons, one of which is temperament: introverts and depressives, who surely have something unique (and antidotal) to offer, are not. Gartner believes America was disproportionately settled by hypomanic types, who were the ones who were driven, restless, and optimistic enough to immigrate. And generally speaking they are our culture heroes and role models, which makes those of us lacking that temperament the silent . . . majority?

    This is related to Barbara Ehrenreich’s book on the plague of positive thinking and also to this essay I reposted on AmbivaBlog that was, to my mind mistakenly, rejected by many conservatives as nothing but liberal whining (are more conservatives hypomanic? what do you do if you’re a depressive conservative?). It may have been that but to my mind, it was also a cri de coeur of the non-manic drowning in a sea of mania.

    Psychologist James Hillman has also spoken eloquently in defense of the depressive temperament.

    We introverts and depressives are a poor fit for the competitive, go-go workplace to begin with (we can do really good work, but we procrastinate and circle it and work in fits and starts, and we don’t feel very adept at playing office politics), and so perhaps prone to get laid off. Working at home and interacting online has been something of a boon for us if we can swing it.

    Just another notion to throw into the mix.

  17. Melinda said,

    Ha! I just borrowed the “Positive Thinking” book too!

    I’m gonna have to be Evelyn freakin’ Wood!

  18. amba12 said,

    “Ha ha! Now you’ve all gotta be like me!”

    My grandmother used to advise me to get a nice secure corporate job. Ha ha! I’ve been living with insecurity for 40 years, so I’m much more used to it than people who took the route my grandmother recommended. Times have indeed changed out from under us.

  19. kngfish said,

    I had a friend who was buried in corporate America…and then decided to take on jobs that others didn’t want to do, including moving to places most didn’t want to go to either! His reasoning was that you always want to do something that people don’t know how to evaluate. They can’t grade you when they don’t get what you do!

  20. amba12 said,

    That could be a good post over on your blog — or maybe it already is.

  21. karen said,

    Not only am i a tad lazy, apparently i’m a little slow because the whole hypomanic/manic twist is a bit hard to figure. Guess i’m not one, then:0).

    I look at where we are today as- what goes up must come down. I don’t even think we’ve hit the pavement and gone ~splat~, yet.

    Amba, i see you tucked in the corner of our absurdly large couch w/your feet underneath you- looking relaxed and blessedly at home. It was too short a visit and, like when Randy was hhere- i wish that i could have shown you so much more– our heifers out in their pastures, the view of Jay Peak from East Hill…

    We have to be flexible and we have to be kind.

  22. karen said,

    UK Prime Minister David Cameron: “This is not about poverty, it’s about culture.”
    “A culture that glorifies violence, shows disrespect to authority, and says everything about rights but nothing about responsibilities.”
    This is a post from Althouse, and it is exactly what i was trying to say on Anchoress when she quoted Regan and the more ~enlightened~ got all- extreme- on the Tea Party.


    That is a sentiment running neck-n-neck w/our economic woes- or am i off base?

  23. amba12 said,

    Good for Cameron!! He nailed it.

    The good thing about responsibilities is, they are within your own power. Your very existence creates them — you have to clean up your own body and living space, for instance. So in a sense responsibilities are an inalienable possession. Carrying them out well is the beginning of possessing more (and being entrusted with wider responsibilities). Responsibility is the root of power.

    The only people who can’t begin there are the ill and the starving. I don’t think the London rioters are starving. If they were, they wouldn’t have the energy to riot.

  24. wj said,

    Annie, I have to complain. Loudly! I went to End of Work, and now I’m getting distracted from the work I am supposed to be doing. And it is all your fault!

    That’s my story, and I’m sticking to it.

  25. amba12 said,

    sorreeee . . .

    The End of Work: the blog with the self-fulfilling name!

  26. wj said,

    Too true. too, too true . . .

  27. chickelit said,

    I’ve just been thinking about how a new class division and antagonism is entering the world. Not even the wealthy and the poor — the employed and the unemployed.

    That’s pretty astute, amba. Another emerging division is the gap between debtors and lenders. They used to “need” each other, so long as business was cordial. Now, I’m not so sure.

  28. kngfish said,

    chickelit, your remark about lenders is interesting…how do you mean how things are different from before? In what way?

  29. chickelit said,

    In what way?

    The acceptance of default for one. That runs from the “micro” i.e., people I know bailing out of mortgages they couldn’t handle to the “macro” –nations threatening default on aggregated loans.
    How should individual nations respond to an extra-nation economic threat? How should Greece, Portugal, Ireland respond to EU? How do fiscally reponsible Americans respond to their reckless neighbors beyond “Love They neighbor?”

    Debt is social contract as well as a fiscal one.

    One thing I’ve not heard discussed here is the difference between traditional usury and modern debt. Historically, I believe usury was just the charging of interest on money lending. Charging interest became both accepted and expected in the West, and the miserable term “usury” disappeared from normal parlance save for “loan sharking.” The general public of course never warmed to loan sharking which could be reduced/defined as loaning a nominal (and normal) principle amount coupled with an exorbitant interest rate. Modern debt seems to involve something new: a low, almost non-existent interest rate coupled with an enormous principle amount. Are they the same or different?

  30. chickelit said,

    Ron, Please excuse all the usual typos and omissions of words. Everyone, especially me, needs an editor.

  31. kngfish said,

    Ah! I see what you mean….Y’know I find this whole thing odd, because I grew up with the notion that it was the banks were firewall of the serious! You, as a borrower, could ask for any silly amount/interest rate you thought you could get and it was up to the bank to say “no”. And if they said, “yes” that became the definition of a ‘responsible loan’.

    But somehow this system got bent/ twisted around into some weird form of kabuki borrowing. Is it due to the banks no longer holding the loans themselves? or what then?

  32. amba12 said,

    Kabuki borrowing!! Samurai delicatessen! Firewall of the serious??

  33. chickelit said,

    Kabuki borrowing!! Samurai delicatessen!

    Not being well-enough read on those topics, the humor flew over my head.

  34. chickelit said,

    You, as a borrower, could ask for any silly amount/interest rate you thought you could get and it was up to the bank to say “no”. And if they said, “yes” that became the definition of a ‘responsible loan’.

    That reminds me of some Russian friends we had with whom we’ve lost since touch. They came here after the thaw and met in Denver. She was a single mother with a background in molecular biology. She landed a great job at the CU Medical school. She met and married another Russian who, besides being a great guy, believed that he was entitled to as much money as any stupid bank was willing to lend him. He was a programmer by training.

  35. amba12 said,

    Samurai delicatessen . . . a famous John Belushi skit from SNL. It’s probably on YouTube. It’s what “Kabuki borrowing” (which I love) reminded me of.

    The first time I told someone I liked “Don’t Fear the Reaper” and they said “More cowbell!” I was similarly blank.

  36. kngfish said,

    chickelit, fret not the typos….I’m a Malaproppalloza festival….Kabuki borrowing…what I mean is that the old more hardass rules have become some kind of stage acting — people getting loans with no verification of paperwork? Negative equity loans? (You gotta be kidding me!) Banks selling off loans that get magically poofed into “traunches” of Credit Default Swaps? The Basically Sound Belief in American Home Ownership turning into a perversion of the idea of sound belief?

    Amba, you see me continuing my Belushi theme…as I get older, I’ll morph it into Sydney Greenstreet ( ) that’s me right there!

  37. Icepick said,

    SPeaking of Barbara Ehrenreich, I was just reading an essay of her’s the other day, on the increasing criminalization of poverty in the US. My favorite bit:

    That could be me before the blow-drying and eyeliner, and it’s definitely Al Szekeley at any time of day. A grizzled 62-year-old, he inhabits a wheelchair and is often found on G Street in Washington, D.C. — the city that is ultimately responsible for the bullet he took in the spine in Phu Bai, Vietnam, in 1972.

    He had been enjoying the luxury of an indoor bed until December 2008, when the police swept through the shelter in the middle of the night looking for men with outstanding warrants. It turned out that Szekeley, who is an ordained minister and does not drink, do drugs, or cuss in front of ladies, did indeed have one — for “criminal trespassing,” as sleeping on the streets is sometimes defined by the law. So he was dragged out of the shelter and put in jail.

    “Can you imagine?” asked Eric Sheptock, the homeless advocate (himself a shelter resident) who introduced me to Szekeley. “They arrested a homeless man in a shelter for being homeless?”

    Welcome to the new reality!

  38. Melinda said,

    “Neither seemed unduly afflicted by the recession, but only because they had already been living in what amounts to a permanent economic depression.”

    One of these days I’ve gotta put up an article I kept from the Village Voice about 20 years ago. It was called “Lifestyles of the Privileged Poor.” These are people who are college educated and from middle class backgrounds, but the professions they’ve chosen: Artist, musician, freelance writer, etc., give them the income of someone close to poverty.

    I showed it to several co-workers at the last corporate graphics center I worked at, and they could all relate.

    The good thing is that once you’ve spent your youth living on a ramen noodle budget, anything after that looks like a windfall. I was one of the few groups of people to benefit from trickle-down economics in the litigious 80’s because I subsidized my acting and writing with working odd shifts doing document processing at law firms. The money I was able to put aside kept me afloat during the 1991 recession.

  39. joared said,

    I grew up observing the adults and the world around me. Very early on I reached several conclusions including: focus on what you like but keep your options open, be flexible, persevere, just to name a few. Those few helped me to survive and seem quite applicable in the world today and whatever comes.

  40. amba12 said,

    That’s an excellent short recipe for survival under changing circumstances. You can tell it’s good because it seems contradictory (“be flexible, persevere”).

  41. amba12 said,

    Guess where these proverbs come from.

    Wealth is hard to come by, but poverty is always at hand.

    The poor are the silent ones of the land.

    Answer: ancient Sumeria.

  42. amba12 said,

  43. amba12 said,

    “To be wealthy and insist on demanding more is abominable.”

  44. amba12 said,

    “Talking endlessly is what humankind has most on its mind.” :)

  45. amba12 said,

    “Nothing at all is to be valued, but life should be sweet. You should not serve things; things should serve you.”

    “This gift of words is something which soothes the mind.”

  46. amba12 said,

    “A palace will fall of its own accord.”

  47. amba12 said,

    In regard to Joared’s recipe for survival:

    “Moving about defeats poverty. He who knows how to move around becomes strong. He will live longer than the sedentary man.”

  48. chickelit said,

    Moving about defeats poverty. He who knows how to move around becomes strong. He will live longer than the sedentary man.

    I know that that pertains to physical exercise, but it relates to employment as well. Mobility. I’ve moved for jobs across the country and also to Europe-not recently (since having kids). I can see it again in the future.

  49. mockturtle said,

    “Can you imagine?” asked Eric Sheptock, the homeless advocate (himself a shelter resident) who introduced me to Szekeley. “They arrested a homeless man in a shelter for being homeless?”

    At least he’ll probably have a bed in jail and maybe meals?

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