Ordinary Lifestyles: Popular Media, Consumption and Taste

By David Bell; Joanne Hollows | Go to book overview

15 Sabotage, slack and the
zinester search for non-
alienated labour

Stephen Duncombe


Taking work seriously

I've got a problem with work. I HATE IT! … Yet millions of
people, including me, participate in the 9 to 5 death march each
and every day. Ants carrying crumbs into a life long deathhouse
so that a measly 1 to 2% of the rich fuckers in the world have all
the good things in life. Why do we do it?

(Keffo, Welcome to the World of Insurance)

That Keffo has a problem with work is not surprising; most of us probably do. What's remarkable is how much time and effort he expends ranting and writing about it. For 50 pages in his fanzine, Welcome to the World of Insurance, he exposes the parasitical practices of the insurance company he works for, ridicules the servility of his fellow workers and the stupidity of his bosses, reprints public relations booklets and advertisements (after ‘doctoring’ them), advocates sabotage and union organization, then, finally, recounts his day of working in the mailroom, doing absolutely nothing.

Keffo isn't the only zine writer who rants about work. For a medium born out of commentary upon leisure activities (science fiction, punk music and, especially in the UK, sport), fanzines contain an inordinate amount of writing about labour. This chapter explores how zine writers' personal discussion of their jobs is, in fact, a general critique of the nature of work under advanced capitalism as well as an assertion of a different model of labour and life. Promoting practices like sabotage and slacking off, zinesters share resistant strategies designed to restore a psychic sense of victory over their deadening and demeaning jobs. But this is not pure negation; what begins in rejection leads to an ideal of a life in which labour plays a meaningful and creative part, and where the sharp distinctions between work and play which hold sway in the world outside melt away. Identifying work under capitalism as inherently alienating, they valorize their own work creating a zine as an act of non-

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