Richard Barbrook on Mon, 2 Jun 1997 03:02:58 +0200 (MET DST)

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<nettime> Re: The Piran Nettime Manifesto


While I really enjoyed most of the manifesto, I'd like to point out some
reactionary concepts lurking behind its ultraleft rhetoric:
>We are still, until this day, rejecting make-work schemes... 
>Participate in the Nettime retirement plan, zero work by age 40. 

On superfical reading, these points seem like a restatement of the old
Marxist demand for 'the right to be lazy'. However, once you think about
them more deeply, it soon becomes obvious that these points are much closer
to the fantasies of rentier capitalism than elements of a social democratic

First, the rejection of so-called 'make-work schemes' is grotesque. We live
on a continent where a large percentage of our fellow citizens are condemned
to poverty and misery because they are prevented from earning an income by
contributing their labour to meet social needs. There is absolutely nothing
radical about condemning efforts by governments to 'make work' for those
excluded and marginalised from society. By rejecting state employment
initiatives, the manifesto is in effect supporting the social deprivation
being imposed on our fellow citizens by neo-liberalism. Its signatories are
guilty of exactly the same sort of social autism displayed by the
Californian ideologues!

Secondly, the demand for 'zero work by age 40' is similarly elitist. The
call for 'zero work' is simply the desire of aristocrats to live off the
forced labour of others. Of course, we reject the alienation of work imposed
by capitalist organisations. But, unlike aristocrats, we take pride in how
we can contribute through our efforts to improving society. As Hegel pointed
out, we have only liberated ourselves from feudalism, superstition and other
oppressions through our own labour. What we want is forms of work which
allow us to express our creativity, autonomy and skills. We also want to be
able to earn a decent living without having to work every hour of the day. 

On Sunday, the French Socialist Party was elected to office on a manifesto
whose key demand is the systematic and steady reduction of the working week
with no loss of pay. This is a 'make-work scheme' which also liberates some
time for everyone. Instead of 'zero work' for an aristocratic elite, the
French Socialists are extending the 'right to be lazy' for all workers. As
in earlier stages of modernity, social democracy in practice is once again
more radical than anarchism in theory.


Dr. Richard Barbrook
Hypermedia Research Centre
School of Design & Media
University of Westminster
Watford Road
Northwick Park

+44 (0)171-911-5000 x 4590

"...the History of the World is nothing but the development
of the Idea of Freedom." - Georg Hegel

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