What does “work” mean in the 21 Century? (grand title, small rambling post)

Fascinating (if somewhat scattered) post on the Cyborgology blog about hyperemployment, technology  and femininity. The link makes sense once you read it. Read it! (http://thesocietypages.org/cyborgology/2013/11/29/femininity-as-technology/)

In a nutshell, it takes up the term “hyperemployment” (= we all work all the time and not just in the workplace) and argues that women have always had to work all the time but now thanks to new technologies and the increasingly precarious and competitive labour market  we all have to work all the time, attaching second and third and fourth shifts to our working lives. Think about checking your work emails on your Blackberry. Think also of self-grooming practices or housework (which is no longer restricted to women). So basically we are all hyperemployed, and the real price of this is time. Fascinating stuff and some great ideas in that article.

However, I have a major quibble with the way this argument relies on the idea of “traditional employment”. Don’t take me wrong, I’ve also fallen prey to this idea, especially when I studied the marketisation of seafaring jobs. But actually it’s important to realise that the”golden age” of masculinised and standardised “full employment” never quite existed, and that its partial existence is but a short blip in the history of labour. Historically, everyone has had to work to survive – apart from those very thin socio-economic elites who controlled the power and resources and didn’t have to work). So perhaps technologies have destroyed that temporary standardisation of labour and reverted humanity and the nature of labour to the usual state of things – but we now notice this and call it “employment” because we have begun to think in market terms about everything?

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One thought on “What does “work” mean in the 21 Century? (grand title, small rambling post)

  1. I think that we need to be a little more aware of the value of our own time. An interesting economic and philosophical line of thought.

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