What kind of work are we doing?

I’m currently contemplating the language of work, and whether it is in any way possible to decouple that from the concepts of capitalism. Work is intrinsic to capitalism, the whole system is built on the underpaid work and on the unpaid work that the poorest in society are obliged to do.

There are all kinds of things I do that involve effort, commitment and high standards that are not part of capitalism. I wonder how useful it is to tease these different kinds of work out from each other. I think it’s important to assert at the same time that there’s a great deal of unpaid work – domestic work and caring work especially, that are key to keeping capitalism grinding along. These unpaid forms of work are often undervalued in a system that only values people based on what they earn. Domestic work and care work are vital for the wellbeing of people, these aren’t just services provided to the economy.

Sometimes we talk about spiritual work. Anything that feels difficult and important, where we have to put in effort, it can be tempting to describe it in terms of work. We might put work into developing our skills, or into sustaining our relationships. We might work on creating community, and we might work on creating beauty. Work in the vegetable patch, or work on a blanket all have value in our lives, and some of these things will save us money even when they don’t get us paid.

I need to work on taking time off! What a splendid irony. And yet, with my brain infiltrated by capitalist concepts, putting that down is a job of itself. I note how we also use the language of work and jobs to express feelings about things we feel obliged to do but take no joy in. Perhaps that’s a key point for considering language use.

I’m going to have a play around with my own language use and see what happens. Perhaps I should think of some of this as investing in myself. There are places I can swap in words like development, creating, maybe even manifesting. I think it’s important territory to explore, because the words we use have such an impact on how we experience ourselves and the world. There would be a lot of perspective shifts happening between working on myself, and investing in myself and those terms suggest entirely different directions to move in.

About Nimue Brown

Druid, author, dreamer, folk enthusiast, parent, polyamourous animist, ant-fash, anti-capitalist, bisexual steampunk. Drinker of coffee, maker of puddings. Exploring life as a Pagan, seeking good and meaningful ways to be, struggling with mental health issues and worried about many things. View all posts by Nimue Brown

4 responses to “What kind of work are we doing?

  • bish

    I’m hearing a stark differentiation here between work and task. Work is inherently hierarchical, and involves carrying out tasks either for reward or as part of a collaborative goal-based activity. Tasks, on the other hand, are the things that one needs to accomplish in order to live or in order to make ones living more pleasant. The two things are mingled in society, because being in a society means interacting with others and engaging in shared aspirations. Is it possible to live well outside of society? I have no desire to find out. Having achieved nirvana, I no longer get paid for the team based activities I still do, but I was a well-used cog in the machine for a long time, and that now allows me to seek tasks over work. Was my work more worthy than that of others? No, of course not, but it was reasonable well renumerated and I’m very glad of that. Makes the tasks a lot easier now. 😉

  • Mary Walker

    A few years ago I read an essay bu Dmitri Orlov where he declared that we all work. The problem is so much of the work we all do is not seen as work and not valued as work. Unless it can be transacted in some market for cash it isn’t considered real work. A woman can clean someone else’s house for cash and it is work but cleaning her own house isn’t because no cash is involved. Capitalism has robbed so much work of its recognition as work and devalued it. And so much else is devalued as not worth even a subsistence wage. Perhaps that needs to be reclaimed.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: