The Abolition of Work

Wednesday, September 5, 2001

In a few short months, the entire staff of Chucklehound Entertainment will be unemployed and what better way to celebrate this joyous event than with a rereading of Bob Black's 1985 essay "The Abolition of Work."

In short, Black advocates, well, the abolition of work (I love authors who state their thesis in the title). The first half of the essay is dedicated to why work is bad, which, for most employees, isn't a very hard argument to make. Not only does work create a social situation not unlike that of a prison in regards to pointless drudgery and humiliation, but the bulk of all work seems to serve no particular purpose. Black is in favor of trimming away the majority of most jobs, and replacing those that are absolutely essential to existence (producing food, housing, etc.) with a play-based system of product generation.

At this point, Black's argument gets a little thin. I am all for removal of work. Work is obviously a pointless excercise in which the able are forced to perform demeaning and repetitive tasks for their cruel taskmasters. On the other hand, I really like to eat and don't really want my food production/distribution to be determined by people's willingness to "play" at farming/trucking/vending. Black never really investigates why the labor-saving inventions of the past two centuries have failed to actually make people work less. If you're going to posit a removal of a work-based economy, we're either talking about a return to a hunter-gatherer lifestyle (toward which I'm afraid Black's hypothesis would lead) or a technology-based economy (as best expressed in Robert Anton Wilson's Schrödinger's Cat trilogy).

Still, you can't argue too much with any essay that ends with "No one should ever work. Workers of the world... *relax*!"

You can read "The Abolition of Work" at or purchase a copy from Loompanics.

Rating: B (A great idea, but never fully realized)

Reviewed by Padgett Arango
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