Themes : Redefining wealth
The close link between wealth, employment and production is a 19th century legacy. Production provides the consumer with goods and services, so the work that enables this production is what “enriches” society. Redefining wealth raises the question of the notion of employment, paid or otherwise. Traditional representations of employment, work and activities, having already suffered from the transformation of forms of production, are currently being reshaped as part of the alternative vision of the economy. There are several ways of producing, strengthening social ties to varying degrees and offering varying degrees of social utility.
Employment remains almost always synonymous with inclusion or social integration, even though it is increasingly failing to live up to its promises in terms of quality, stability or even a sufficient income to live on (creation of the working poor). Following The Glorious Thirty, the rise of unemployment and lack of job security in rich countries changed the situation. Nevertheless, socio-cultural representations of employment are still tied into stable income, a “status” within society, the idea of being useful to others, and even a moral obligation on reaching adulthood. Even in southern countries, the increasing monetarization of the economy demands access to work that generates income. Public policies are designed to integrate people into the job “market” in various ways, buying into the myth of a full employment society.
Ecological crises such as climate change, peak oil and loss of biodiversity raise the question of why we need to keep producing more. Would it not be possible to use the vision of an alternative economy to move towards a full employment society based on a care economy, with human beings and the planet at the heart of economic activity?
For instance, the New Economics Foundation proposes reducing working time to 21 hours and redistribute economic wealth so as to create activities that are more likely to produce the conditions for living well together and a level of well-being that does not harm the planet. Proposals that move even further away from wage-driven society argue for setting up a universal allowance that would guarantee a financial economy while encouraging increasingly autonomous activities that would help make our life styles more sustainable. These two solutions, combined with recognition of the great quantity of activities necessary for social reproduction, are possible foundations stones for a liberated form of employment where the link between work and income would be broken and employment would re-appropriate its initial purpose, before the wage element took over, as a creative activity vital to personal development.
This Proposal Paper is a summary of the work resulting from the electronic forum of the « Work, Employment » workshop, the Summary Congress, carried out in Florianopolis/Brazil, from April 27 to 29, 2001, and the Congress of the 15 WSSE workshops, in Findhorn, Scotland, from June 9 to 15, 2001. The document deals with transformations in the world of work as well as with trade unions, related to the problem of urban management. The text is followed by a questionnaire.
Mauricio Sarda de Faria, November 2001
The deep and profound changes due to the technological revolution reinforce and increase the power of the capitalist logic on one side and deepen the problems on the other side. The author tries to demonstrate how these changes produce new contradictions that will allow, in a paradoxical manner, to surpass the actual modern-industrial-urban way of living.
Armando de Melo Lisboa, January 1998