Of all the things that the Committee for the Liberation of Autonomous Amusement calls for, it is the immediate refusal of labor on a mass scale and the repudiation of its status as a noble value. Capitalism elevated this system of rigorous discipline to the heights of a religion (quite literally in some places – look at the Protestant work ethic!), yet it was socialism that moved it inwards. The private ownership of the means of production drew these lines across the body, but it was the opposition, those who wanted to have the means of production under communal or collective control, who drew them across the soul.
In the name of defeating capitalism, organized labor reproduced capitalism’s most grievous sin, the assumption that man had a fixed essence and that this essence was work. Organized labor made the ‘worker’ the centerpiece of its politics, and just like the capitalists, it made sure that it was on the worker’s backs that the world moves. In the name of this construct, pinned to the chest of the individual like some badge of honor, centuries of flaccid politics, neutered revolutions, bureaucratic states, bloated unions, boundless hierarchy were launched- every exploitation, fabrication, centralization and denied emancipation under the sun.
Labor made the worker fight for his or her right to be exploited, because it had made itself the very rationale and reason for the worker’s existence. “Exploit me, for I need bread and water. Exploit me, for I will starve if you do not.” Against this threat of death labor makes itself the only choice, and for it we willingly trade our time and autonomy. What we trade, in the end, is the death of bodies and the death of our minds.
Those who organize for labor never stopped to consider that maybe it isn’t fixing the wage regime or the working conditions or even the hours of work in a day that will solve the problem. We ask of them to consider, then, the possibility that it is the liberation from labor itself, as an overcoding process, that may be the clearest path to some sort of emancipation.
At the very least, we ask them why, for all the technological advancements of the last century, has the length of the working day not declined by a larger amount of time? We ask them why, but we already know the answer, because the answer has been there all along: the working day, the submission of the body to that absolute despotism, is a machine of social control. With the majority of hours in the day consumed as service for the bosses, piddling away time for their profit, there is less time for organic disruptions and experimentation with life; we cannot, as long as we enter into those zones where the functions of self-hood evaporate, understand the possibilities explicit, the political dimensions both molecular and molar, in every moment and in the slightest touch. And the hours outside of work? A few hours left-over, cramped time, to recuperate for the next day.
Sometimes we get weekends, yet what can unfold across that short chasm is limited: it is spent either resting, preparing the mind and the body for the coming week, or it is a festival of drunkenness, a bacchanalia. We expend our desiring energies in the quickest way possible, a release-valve to safeguard normalcy against the pressures of discontent.
Every activity is consumed under the labor paradigm. The commodity has colonized the ‘free-time’ from labor while giving it means and a justification to continue. Time is remade in the image of complete optimization, a byproduct of scientific management that persists to hang over us as a smog. Segments of the citizenry deemed undesirable, unstable, anti-social, or dangerous are provided with time-consuming, low-waged jobs as a means to assimilate into this broader society; the fast food chain in the strip mall is the exemplar of the community development plans emerging from within the endless sea of public-private partnerships. Prisoners, people with mental illnesses, the elderly – all are given jobs and tasks to fill their time, so they too can be “productive citizens.” They stitch clothes, stuff envelopes, greet us at the doors of mega-groceries and chain stores, the painted-on smiles desperately trying to hide the misery, the humiliation, while failing to do so all the same.
Under the labor paradigm, sexuality is reduced to reproductive functions to ensure the replication of the workforce through the passage of time. Education becomes the transfer of knowledge for the sake of ensuring jobs, or at least future possibilities of jobs.
Labor is affixed to our understanding of self-worth, and thus, to our understandings of ourselves in relation to other bodies and to our environment. To hold a so-called ‘dead-end job,’ to be ‘over-qualified,’ or to not have a job at all is to be tattooed with a stigma that reflects both inwardly and outwardly. The status of a job, through its correlation with life itself, becomes the gatekeeper to emotions of success or failure, feelings of accomplishment or shame. If one tries for a job, and fails, it is not a reflection of the labor system itself; it is a reflection of errors in the processes of subjectification. Who is the I, why did it fail, and how can I fix it? The self becomes a commodity, it learns to market itself and adapt itself to these external dynamics. It might take public speaking classes, or change the way it talks, dresses, acts. It will shift its behavior, attend seminars, read self-help books and business manuals. Even before one has a chance to hand their time over to the bosses, the labor paradigm produces an entire science of the self.
What is at stake in this science is the notion of socialability; the composition of forces relating to the activities of bodies in laboring modes sets the conditions for the entirety of society. When we consider the urban landscape, we realize that the whole of the city is simply an array of passageways connecting people’s dwellings to their locations of labor; all ‘legitimate’ activities that take place within these spaces are direct corollaries of the job function. As such, to consider a life without labor at first seems to be an impossible proposition. Some believe that a line of flight from labor means to own it, to manage a piece of property circulating things in the market place; these people think that the only escape from labor to return is to the regressive imagery of the rugged individual, the fast-moving entrepreneur, and establish a labor force that works at his or her command. We categorically reject these assumptions, and insist that the terrain of labor itself – not the ownership of production – is the real target of radical action.
Thus, the question of labor becomes a question of imagination, and of developing tactical knowledge and processes that counteract labor while providing equitable replacements. The Committee calls, however, not on an attack on labor rooted in gradualism, but insists that it is only through the immediate refusal of labor and active experimentation with alternative modes that will provide a path to revolutionary becomings.
[The CLAA is an open name, welcome to appropriation. Feel free to fold-up, adapt, mutate, disavow, and/or circulate]