Monday, May 25, 2009

The Decline and Fall of Work

The Latin word labor means 'suffering'. We are unwise to forget this origin of the words 'travail' and 'labour'. At least the nobility never forgot their own dignity and the indignity which marked their bondsmen. The aristocratic contempt for work reflected the master's contempt fo the dominated classes; work was the exploitation to which they were condemned for all eternity by the divine decree which had willed them, for impenetrable reasons, to be inferior. Work took its place among the sanctions of Providence as the punishment for poverty, and, because it was the means to a future salvation, such a punishment could take on the attributes of pleasure. Basically, though, work was less important than submission.

The bourgeoisie does not dominate, it exploits. It does not need to be master, it prefers to use. Why has nobody seen that the principle of productivity simply replaced the principle of feudal authority? Why has nobody wanted to understand this?

* 'The Revolution of Everyday Life' Chapter 5. 'The decline and fall of work'.
by Raoul Vaneigem. A translation from French of 'Traite de savoir-vivre a l'usage des jeunes generations' which was first published in 1967. Page 53

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