1 March 2011

Big Ideas on work

The prospect of discussing "Is Work Central To Being Human?" drew a heaving crown to the upstairs room of The Wheatsheaf in Fitzrovia for the February meeting of Big Ideas.

I've got in to the swing of these meetings now and was at the pub early for a beer and cheesy chips before heading upstairs a good half an hour before the scheduled 8pm start to secure a seat at a table. I was not the first person up there either and it was soon packed with standing room only, and that in the corridor.

Undaunted by the large crowd, Dr Nina Power led the discussion with some suggestions on what we might mean by work and why that matters. Themes tossed in to the mix included, payment, purpose, activity and convention.

Once opened up to the eager audience the broad theme or work was stretched in various directions purposefully and amiably as various pet ideas (including Marx, of course) and some new concepts emerged.

As usual I was too intent on listening to and participating in the debate to take many notes, though I did manage to swap tweets with Danny sitting next to me. so what follows is a summary of a précis of a synopsis of the rich debate that swirled and looped and danced around the room for an hour and a half.

Most of us now live in some sort of perpetual fear of unemployment now that the jobs for life have gone.

People are meant to feel depressed and unworthy if they are unemployed and to be desperate to get back to work. Somehow this does not apply to the idle rich.

Marx's views of the four alienations of the worker include that of the employed against the unemployed who would like his/her job. It makes us competitors rather than collaborators.

The main purpose of work seems to be to make ourselves rich enough so that we do not have to work. Most of us want to retire as early as possible even if we then carry on doing for free what we used to do for pay, in which case it stops being work in our eyes at least.

Work can give us an opportunity to express ourselves and to do something meaningful. Other jobs, in contrast, just force us to conform to somebody else's idea of how we should behave.

Work is where people are. And it's the people that makes people work who do not need to for financial reasons.

Far from work being a part of human nature, work separates man from nature.

Richard duly called a pause at nine thirty which was time to grab another drink and then to continue the conversations. The throng was still pretty lively when I left around an hour later.

I found the previous Big Ideas meeting a little bit of a disappointment but this meeting was a triumph on many levels. Just the sort of exercise my brain was looking for.

1 comment:

  1. Very interesting subject indeed. Where I come from we sometimes joke about having Luther sitting on our shoulder whispering: work, work, work!

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