Thursday, April 26, 2012

Noam Chomsky on two different ways of looking at "work"

Noam Chomsky:

 there are fundamentally two different ways of looking at work. One is capitalist ideology. That basically takes for granted that the natural state of a person is to vegetate. You have to be driven to work. If you aren’t driven to work you’ll lie around watching television or take your money from the welfare office and you won’t do anything. So therefore there have to be punishments for not working and rewards for working.

There’s a different conception, which goes right back to the Enlightenment. And that’s one that regards work as one of the highest goals in life. But they’re referring to a special kind of work: creative work taken under your own control and under your own initiative. That’s a very different conception of work, one that’s pretty familiar to all of us. If you just walk down the halls around here [at MIT], you’ll see people working, maybe 80 hours a week, working hard. Because they like what they’re doing! They’re fundamentally controlling their own work––challenging issues, etc.

But you don’t have to be an engineer and a scientist to do that. The same is true of carpenters, plumbers. I know artisans who just love their work; they’ll do it in their spare time. Maybe they have to do it in a factory during the day, but during the weekend they’ll go in the garage and build a car or something like that. Because it’s something they want to do. And I think almost all work can be like that.

But, fundamentally, it’s back to just different conceptions of what work is. And what human beings are. I mean, are they, kind of, in their nature, dependent couch potatoes? Or are they people who want to become involved in creative, exciting, challenging work that they control themselves and cooperatively with others?

Again, if you walk down the halls you see students talking to each other. A lot of the work that gets done is cooperative work. That’s the way things happen almost anywhere.

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