No More Work: Why Full Employment Is a Bad Idea

No More Work: Why Full Employment Is a Bad Idea

No More Work: Why Full Employment Is a Bad Idea

No More Work: Why Full Employment Is a Bad Idea

Synopsis

For centuries we’ve believed that work was where you learned discipline, initiative, honesty, self-reliance--in a word, character. A job was also, and not incidentally, the source of your income: if you didn’t work, you didn’t eat, or else you were stealing from someone. If only you worked hard, you could earn your way and maybe even make something of yourself.

In recent decades, through everyday experience, these beliefs have proven spectacularly false. In this book, James Livingston explains how and why Americans still cling to work as a solution rather than a problem--why it is that both liberals and conservatives announce that “full employment” is their goal when job creation is no longer a feasible solution for any problem, moral or economic. The result is a witty, stirring denunciation of the ways we think about why we labor, exhorting us to imagine a new way of finding meaning, character, and sustenance beyond our workaday world--and showing us that we can afford to leave that world behind.

Excerpt

I’ve been working my whole life. That’s probably why I wrote this book—I’m sick of it. Don’t get me wrong, I have two more books in progress, and I like to teach. Besides, my 401k needs replenishing after the Great Recession and my ex-wife’s raids on it. Still, I wish I didn’t have to work. Or want to.

This book is a kind of sequel to my last one, Against Thrift, which readers treated—perhaps correctly—as a schizophrenic mix of economic history and moral philosophy. (It’s free as an e-book, so go ahead and download it.) From the Left, I got approval for the history because it demonstrated the economic decrepitude and ethical imbecility of contemporary capitalism. From the same quarter, though, I got disapproval for the philosophy because it suggested that consumer culture is a moral universe superior to the one grounded in the production of goods—the one located on the scene of work. From the Right, well, I got disapproval all around, on the grounds that capitalism . . .

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