In a rhetorical and outdated build up of work, it is assumed that “a fix job” is the ticket out of instability and “making money” is the ticket out of fear. This kind of rhetoric states also that “hard working for making money” is the only sense- giving an approach to a healthy life.
How is it possible that “fix and steady job”, come to embody the hope of instantaneously ridding oneself of psychological suffering? For a social cure to hold such a phantasy it is necessary to give the “fix and steady job” a central role in our societies. Just as for the language of the self it has become integrated that we employ terms as “Prozac” and “depression”, to say something about ourselves and our existence, so we employ terms as “job” and “happiness” to say something about our personal fulfillment and social existence.
The idea of “hard working for making money” is too primitive to compensate the contemporary individual and its dilemmas and lack of sense in life.
If, as A. Ehrenberg points out (1998, La fatigue d’etre soi. Dépression et societè), society has moved from a disciplinary model for behaviors, rules of authority and observance of taboos that gave social classes specific destiny, into a model that invited us to undertake personal initiative by enjoining us to be ourselves, then unhappiness, depression, are tied with “failure” more than unemployment. Depression is an “illness of responsibility” in which the dominant feeling is that of failure. This idea of being unemployed, with no job, roots into the conflict between capital and labor, but contemporary sociology has excluded the notion of “class”(Rifkling, Moulier Boutang, Negri, Nash), for this conflict, between capital and labor, have been replaced by information and communication flows (Appadurai).
In this communication flows, notions as “finding a job”, “employment” can be replaced by the idea of working as the acquisition of knowledge and insights. In short, “hard-working” should refer to evolution rather than property.
The Wealth of Nations (1776) is fading away in globalization era. If everything is interconnected and deterritorialized (Eriksen 2001; Rosa 2013), the single individual, inevitably, conflicts with “the Nation” or with the economy theorized by Adam Smith, which was based on the division of labor to increase the production.
To be super-skilled and hyper-specialized is out-of-date and obsolete. “Specialized” does not mean deepness, but rather an insulation.
A blacksmith in the middle age was making swords during wars, shoeing horses during peace. When his work as a blacksmith was not enough to feed his family, he was used to moving, maybe working as a bricklayer or stonemason. It was normal to change work and it was normal to move and find another place. And it was normal to travel light. Travel light, or lightness, means to distinguish between the necessary and the unnecessary. Are we actually capable of doing such a distinction?
“To make money” is just a little and not substantial part of working. In the south of Europe trying to follow political events is a waste of time since we don’t have any influence at all on these events. To counteract the unemployment acquires the meaning of “not being employed anymore”, of not depending on any kind of employer, but ourselves. This epochal change carries some unexpected opportunities. To come back into the cyclical trend of nature, to self-determinate our horizon, to change life’s values, to acquire a new knowledge, to cooperate, to distinguish between what we need and what is imposed by the market, to spend the less time as possible in “making money”, thanks to our higher knowledge, resilience, evolution.
Right after the second world war, the need of an optimistic vision inculcated the idea that life is linear: same salary, same bills, same life’s style, same future, constant growth. Like for the production of goods, workers life was regulated by the production’s timing. The factory and its production were the new life’s pacemaker.
Nowadays, instead, some questions are rising and floating on the surface. What does it mean to invest most of our time seeking or keeping a fix job just to pay the loan for the house? Why do we invest so many energies and efforts for buying a house?
The economy is amoral. Adam Smith theorized a self-regulating system based on people’s death in periods of overproduction and people growth in periods of demand exceeding the offer. The economy was a monstrous inhuman place, and workers just as parts of the production’s plant, increasingly less specialized and easily replaceable. The economic boom in the 1960′ made people believe that it would have been possible to overcome Adam Smith’s cynical view. But the real anthropological problem connected with Smith’s notion of the nation was in the last analysis the loss of human skills as individuals. The “boom” and the factory, the fix job and life as linear, made human unskilled.
Adam Smith dismays the man as a whole. He writes: “A common smith, who, though accustomed to handle the hammer, has never been used to make nails, if, upon some particular occasion, he is obliged to attempt it, will scarce, I am assured, be able to make above two or three hundred nails in a day, and those, too, very bad ones”. The economy of the Nations (1776) establishes the end of the blacksmith’s life-free- decision and introduces the notion of division of labor (Chapter I) in order to increase the Nation’s productivity.
In the post-industrial age, workers are now thrown into the “free-wild- market” and its unpredictable future. These workers are persons who have lost some basics surviving skills.
They have lost this capacity of adapting them fluently to cyclical changes. For some individuals, to change the place of living is a traumatic experience. Nevertheless, we have to know that we are going to change job several times during our life’s time, we are going to know periods of unemployment followed by periods of hard working. We are going to change place and to change city and country and state. We are going to learn new languages and new professions. We are going to improve our skills and our education. We are going to have multi jobs at the same time. And last, we are going to lose democracy in the sense of demos (population) that takes decisions about the cities’ future.
The linear life’s trend is more and more unrealistic. We have to exchange the idea of career with the idea of surviving, where this “surviving” has to be taken in a broader sense, inasmuch words as “surviving” or “working” can be related to other words, like “improving”, “evolving”, “cyclical”, “interests”, “frugal life”, “cooperating”, “necessary” and, the most important, “culture”.
Culture, in the sense of humanistic knowledge, has been taken over by technology; in turn, Technics does not have any memory and the last technical solution floats on the surface while the previous sinks to the bottom. This kind of technological behavior is the same of information. The last news is the most important. In the past, radical changes took place over centuries but now they occur in only a few years. These constant changes over time make people feel uneasy and insecure.
Gurdjieff, was an early 20th century very controversial mystic, spiritual teacher, born in what was then an Armenian region of Russia. Regardless his own philosophy, which doesn’t have any solid theoretical structure, what is interesting, in reading his biography, is his way of living. He was constantly traveling in Asia, Russia, Europe, India following his own spiritual interests. When he needed some money, he found a job as a teacher, as a worker, as a market seller. After having earned enough he moved again. When he was in a new country he learned new languages. The job was not connected to earning money but, instead, to gain knowledge, whatever it was. Gurdjieff taught that most humans live their lives in a state of hypnotic “waking sleep”, but that it is possible to transcend to a higher state of consciousness and achieve full human potential. In short, to achieve a kind ability to self-determination.
The Nation has become in the South of Europe countries, an abstract concept. Governments are detached from reality, daily citizen’s life. Just think that GDP of Spain, after 8 months without a government, grew by 3%. (September 2016 INE).
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Smith A, An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations, 1776.
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Tomlinson, John, 1999, Globalization and Culture, Cambridge: Polity Press.
Rosa, Hartmut, 2013, Social Acceleration: A New Theory of Modernity, New York: Columbia University Press.
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