[Marxism] A world without work

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Wed Feb 27 10:54:42 MST 2013

On 2/27/13 12:49 PM, michael perelman wrote:
> Marx suggests that work can morph into play.  Among rich people,
> self-directed work becomes a hobby,  such as when farm work becomes
> gardening or  when executives  do cabinet work in their spare time.


Handicrafts, once the basic form of production, were virtually wiped out 
by the development of capitalism because of their comparative 
inefficiency, and many of the old skills of the artisans have been lost. 
The cooperative machine process, which produced more things faster and 
easier, eliminated handicraft as a serious factor in the productive 
process, and this progressive historical development can never be reversed.

But under socialism, where machine industry will be developed to the 
highest degree, producing even more abundantly many times over than at 
the present stage of its development, I can foresee a revival, a new 
flowering of handicrafts on a new basis. If this is theoretically 
inadmissible as a form of labour in the socialist society, perhaps my 
speculative suggestion can be considered under the heading of art.

I spoke before of the artificial division between intellectual and 
manual labour, and the half-men this division produces. The whole man of 
the socialist future will not be content merely to know what he reads in 
books, or to write books, or to confine himself exclusively to any other 
purely intellectual occupation. He will be trained from childhood to use 
his hands productively and creatively, and he will have plenty of time 
to exercise his skills in any way he sees fit; to do what he wants to 
do, what he likes to do.

I should imagine that under such conditions man, the tool-using animal, 
will assert himself once again. There will be a resurgence of freelance 
cabinetmakers, shoemakers, hand tailors, bookbinders, etc. These 
artisans of the future won’t compete with machine industry—that would be 
anachronistically absurd—but will ply their crafts as a special form of 
recreation and artistic self-expression, and to make gifts for friends. 
If they want to do it that way, who is going to stop them?

In the present society very few get a chance to do the work they really 
want to do, and thereby they are deprived of life’s most solid 
satisfaction. “Blessed is he who has found his work”, said Carlyle. But 
how many are so blessed? Most people do what seems best to make a 
living. Those who are able to choose their work, and to persist in it at 
all costs, are very rare.

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