First, a quote from the essay:
When work disappears, the genders produced by the labour market are blurred. When socially necessary labour declines, what we once called women’s work – education, healthcare, service – becomes our basic industry, not a ‘tertiary’ dimension of the measurable economy. The labour of love, caring for one another and learning how to be our brother’s keeper – socially beneficial labour – becomes not merely possible but eminently necessary, and not just within families, where affection is routinely available. No, I mean out there, in the wide, wide world.
Work has also been the American way of producing ‘racial capitalism’, as the historians now call it, by means of slave labour, convict labour, sharecropping, then segregated labour markets – in other words, a ‘free enterprise system’ built on the ruins of black bodies, an economic edifice animated, saturated and determined by racism. There never was a free market in labour in these united states. Like every other market, it was always hedged by lawful, systematic discrimination against black folk. You might even say that this hedged market produced the still-deployed stereotypes of African-American laziness, by excluding black workers from remunerative employment, confining them to the ghettos of the eight-hour day.
So, two primary points I'd like to make in response. The first point is that the nature of work available to us is going to change somewhat, but the culture of work will change more. The big shift in culture is that corporate and government work will be what primarily disappears, and much of what is left will be unpaid (or bartered or low-wage), not expected to provide support for a family.
As a result, the relationships involved in the work will change. There will still be buyers and sellers, but bosses won't have much leverage over workers when workers are free to leave any time, or even to move hundreds or thousands of miles away. I predict we'll see a rise in cooperatives and solo/family enterprises for providing various goods and services that for whatever reason (that will mostly boil down to "human touch") we prefer be handled by humans.
Those goods and services will primarily fall in 3 categories:
Create - creating (and performing) works of art, music, drama, literature, software with human interfaces, and so on
Craft - crafting handmade furniture, cabinetry, artisanal soap and pickles and bread, handcrafted jewelry and knits, etc.
Caring - caring for those who are children, elders, injured, ill, grieving, in need/want of assistance or education or training or companionship, as well as caring for our communities
Which leads me to the second point I want to make, what this shift could mean for equality of opportunity and social value. US culture, and much of global culture, has for a very long time devalued work associated with women and lower classes or castes. That work is going to dominate the work available to do, in volume, particularly for exchange of things of value with others (ie, "pay" of some variety). Historically, women's work has risen in social esteem and value when it has begun to be a male-dominated field, such as when men took over the field of computer programming. This shift in available labor should lead to elevation in value of devalued types of work, and by association, the people who do that work.
Additionally, assuming whatever approach is taken (whether dystopian nightmare or wealth distribution scheme with livable benefits) is egalitarian, those of us who do not have the privilege of being in the elite class will probably have a much narrower range of incomes in most of the world because there won't be the same kind of education and labor paths to greater wealth than our neighbors within a given sociopolitical entity (nation-state or otherwise).
That simple fact will take away much of the leverage the elite power class has to keep the proletariat divided by rewarding good little proles with this perk or that, unless they come up with a new way to issue those perks. Should they fail to hold on to the leverage, the incentives for us to reinforce among ourselves arbitrary class divisions based on externally-assigned tribes fall away. Additionally, even if we should continue our irrational practice in the US of basing school funding on property taxes, the mean, median, and mode of incomes will vary much less between communities, so school funding and rents should be much more stable between them. That leads both to more equal opportunity and back to more freedom of movement.
TL;DR: losing jobs as a means of social control will destabilize existing and traditional power structures and provide opportunity for new ones.
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