What is New Work?
The Briefest Possible Summary
By Frithjof Bergmann
New Work is an ascent, an up-rising through the intelligent and imaginative use of a spate of startlingly innovative technologies, some of which are extremely basic, while others are miles beyond where computers are now.
These technologies have in common that they are all “small-scale and small-space.” They no longer require gigantic factories with long lines of enormous machines that necessitate boatloads of capital. Instead, they can be grouped together in a neighborhood, or village or a community center. In short, one half of New Work is the transformation from Industrial to “Community Production.” The result will be the creation of new enterprises, but also progressively the increasing local production of food, housing, and energy, and equally of furniture, appliances and clothing, and beyond that of still more of what is needed for a pleasurable, modern and fulfilling life.
The foundation of this New Economy, is the base on which a new system of work and eventually a new life-style and culture can be evolved. Instead of being restricted to one ever more problematic mode of work, that of jobs,
a growing number of people will be engaged in Community Production about 10 hours per week. Another 10 hours they will work in one of the new enterprises that utilize the radically innovative “small-scale and small space” technologies that are replacing the industrial technologies of the past. And in the third place, they will be doing the genuinely “New Work” that has been our capstone and goal all along: work that people deeply and seriously want to do, work that gives people strength and meaning and the conviction of a truly lived life.
The Goals of New Work therefore are:
1. The alleviation and eventual eradication of poverty in all countries, everywhere. This cannot be achieved through the ever more desperate efforts to create of more jobs. But it can be attained through the further development and the slow global spread of the new economy of Community Production.
2. A decisive reduction in the amount of body- and spirit– crippling work, and an enormous increase in body strengthening, mind developing and spirit enhancing seriously chosen work.
3. The undoing of the “Seven Tsunamis”. The “Financial,” the Economic,”
the “Desert People” vs. “Oasis People” Guerilla War, but also the “Climate,” the “Natural Resources,” the “Destruction of the Environment,” and the “Destruction of Culture,” (The Burning of the Violins) Tsunamis. All seven of these can be stopped through New Work.
All seven Tsunamis were caused by the decimation, the degradation and the devaluation of work, which fundamentally was brought about by three monster-sized causes: namely by (a) automation, (b) globalization, (c) the worldwide migration from the rural land into the slums. So far the only response to the ever increasing shortage of jobs has been the frantic escalation of Economic Growth. All seven of the Tsunamis – from the Financial Tsunami to the Tsunami of the Destruction of Culture — have been the result of this frenetic escalation of Economic Growth.
New Work puts an end to the ever more calamitous shortage of jobs by adding two new forms of work to the job-work of the past: the work of Community Production and the deeply desired truly chosen work. Thereby New Work obviates the compulsive galloping race for Economic Growth. For once we have an abundance of work, and with these two additions that is what we would have, making the economy grow would no longer be a mortally driven race. But ending that race would in turn stop the seven tsunamis.
4. The fourth goal of New Work is the ascent up to a New Culture. This will require the evolution of a set of new institutions from very different Kindergartens, to schools that have nothing in common with schools as they are now, to new forms of architecture and modes of urban life, but also through the creation of new values, and based on these to the forming of new human relationships, of new social configurations and a wholly new politics. The New Culture will therefore be far more intelligent (far less wasteful), far more humane (with far less poverty than we have now) and also more cheerful (for many more will be doing some work that they deeply want to do.) In its pinnacle this culture will also be more “flamboyant” – which means more Shakespearean – a culture where rage is like that of King Lear and jealousy like that of Othello, and love like that of Juliet.