An Emancipatory Philosophy of Work and Sleep, #3–Why You Should Exit Your Job, Engage in Lifework and Lifesleep, and Help To Save The World In Four Days.
By Robert Hanna
Sleep, you say, is the image of death; for my part I say that it is the image of life. (Pascal, 1995: p. 333)
This essay is being posted in three installments.
The REFERENCES are included in this third and final installment.
You can also download and read or share a .pdf of the complete text of the essay HERE.
III. Why You Should Exit Your Job, Engage in Lifework and Lifesleep, and Help To Save The World In Four Days
As anyone knows who’s been following the news fairly attentively during the 2020–2022 COVID-19 pandemic, “The Great Resignation” is a recent social phenomenon whereby, during 2021, up to 3% of the labor force in the USA have exited their jobs, and it’s also closely associated with a burgeoning antiwork movement (Herrman, 2021; Kaplan and Kiersz, 2021; Susik, 2021). Now, not only do The Great Resignation and the antiwork movement make perfectly good sense to me, in that, in my opinion, they’re fully rationally justifiable and morally permissible — even morally obligatory — but also I think that they can and should be understood as an implicit social surge toward lifework and lifesleep, and also toward what I call paleo-capitalism, and as a truly exciting and real opportunity to help save the world in four days — per week, that is.
Let me explain.
In view of my basic distinction between jobwork on the one hand, and lifework and lifesleep on the other, let’s now consider the concept of capitalism. Here are some contemporary online dictionary definitions of the term “capitalism”:
[A]n economic, political, and social system in which property, business, and industry are privately owned, directed towards making the greatest possible profits for successful organizations and people. (CUP, 2021)
[A]n economic system characterized by private or corporate ownership of capital goods, by investments that are determined by private decision, and by prices, production, and the distribution of goods that are determined mainly by competition in a free market. (Merriam-Webster, 2021)
[A]n economic system in which the factors of production are privately owned and individual owners of capital are free to make use of it as they see fit; in particular, for their own profit. In this system the market and the profit mechanism will play a major role in deciding what is to be produced, how it is to be produced, and who owns what is produced. (OUP, 2021)
For the purposes of my argument, I’ll call the weak disjunction of these three definitions (i.e., any one of them, any two of them, or all of them taken together) advanced capitalism.
Granting that, then I think it’s clear
(i) that the social institution of advanced capitalism emerged in Europe during the 16th and 17th centuries, within the larger and essentially more complex social institution of the early modern Hobbesian classical liberal nation-State (Anderson, 1974; Lachmann, 2002), and
(ii) that the alienation, commodification, and wage-slavery, so famously described by Marx (Marx, 1961, 1964; Fromm, 1961), that naturally flow from advanced capitalism, are simply the early modern liberal equivalents of the fear, obedience, and semi-slavery that characterize what I’ve called “the large-scale protection racket system” of the earliest States (Scott, 2017; Hanna, 2021a).
In other words, what I’ve claimed is that advanced capitalism is essentially a social-institutional sub-system within the modern State, and that advanced capitalism can be explained as a set of anthropological, historical, material, and structural complexifications and transformations of fundamental elements of modern States (Hanna, 2021a). From this point of view, advanced capitalism is essentially a State sub-system for controlling human jobwork or labor by controlling the means and products of production, and also for accumulating property and money far beyond what is required for the satisfaction of true human needs (for a definition of “true human needs,” see below).
But advanced capitalism is also partially and significantly grounded on the early modern classical liberal conception of “freedom” as the mutually unhindered, universal pursuit of individual egoism or self-interest. This is the same as what, in The Doctrine of Right, Kant calls “external freedom,” namely, a mere freedom of action, guaranteeing the mutually unhindered, universal pursuit of individual egoism/self-interest, created by means of State coercion, within a civil-juridical-political society, that, because it is based on treating oneself and others merely as means to egoistic/self-interested ends, not only does not entail deep or real freedom of the will, practical freedom, or autonomy (which Kant contrastively calls “inner freedom”) but also in fact is inherently inconsistent with deep or real freedom of the will, practical freedom, or autonomy, aka inner freedom (Kant, 1996a, 1996b: pp. 132–133/Ak 6: 96–97). Thus advanced capitalism, via its State-grounding, is not only inherently rationally unjustified and immoral from a Kantian moral point of view, by requiring the treatment of oneself and others as mere means to egoistic/self-interested ends, or as mere things, but also inherently oppressive in that it systematically violates sufficient respect for human dignity by means of a coercive security system of “enforcers” provided by the State (principally the police and the legal justice system, hence also the punishment-system, often including capital punishment, but always prisons), in order to protect the spoils of advanced capitalists, and also to keep wage-slaves from rebelling and turning into successful bandits and thieves, thereby creating an alternative economy that challenges State-grounded advanced capitalism.
Now, let’s consider what Michelle Maiese and I have called true human needs (Maiese and Hanna, 2019: ch. 3). True human needs are opposed to merely self-perceived and false human needs. It might be that someone perceives within themselves an intense need to own a certain luxury automobile, even though they already own a car that is perfectly adequate to their true human needs. Therefore, it’s neither rationally unjustified nor immoral for us not to cater to this self-perceived and false human need. By a diametric contrast, some true human needs are such that their active satisfaction is a necessary condition of all human dignity. I’ll call those the first-level true human needs. For example, among the lower-level true human needs are everyone’s needs for
(i) adequate nourishment, adequate clothing, and adequate accommodation (provision),
(ii) adequate physical and mental health, as sustained by adequate healthcare,
(iii) adequate access to a healthy natural environment, both local and global,
(iv) adequate scope for human movement and travel across the earth,
(v) adequate protection from coercion by others (safety),
(vi) adequate access to human communication and human interaction, and
(vii) adequate primary and secondary education for the development and exercise of the innate capacities that collectively constitute human real personhood (see Hanna, 2018a: chs. 6–7).
By “adequate” in each case, I mean sufficient, in view of all relevant empirically well-supported tests that also fully conform to basic moral principles of human dignity (Hanna, 2018b, 2021b). Since satisfying these first-level true human needs is a necessary condition for human dignity, then sufficient respect for human dignity morally demands that everyone, everywhere should always have enough of whatever it takes to satisfy their first-level true human needs.
Over and above the first-level true human needs, all other true human needs are those whose satisfaction most fully conform to the absolute, nondenumerably infinite, intrinsic, objective value of human dignity (Hanna, 2021b). Indeed, they’re humanity-realizing needs. More precisely, the satisfaction of such needs allows people to activate and to exercise their various capacities and realize their potentiality for being autonomous, for individually flourishing, and for collectively flourishing, in ways that also are fully compatible with and fully supportive of the agential autonomy, relational autonomy, individual flourishing (i.e., personal happiness), and collective flourishing (i.e., interpersonal or social happiness) of everyone else. I’ll call these the second-level true human needs, since
(i) they presuppose the satisfaction of first-level basic human needs,
(ii) their satisfaction most fully realizes the innate capacities of our human real personhood (Hanna, 2018a: chs. 6–7), and
(iii) their satisfaction brings about individual and collective human flourishing.
For example, among the second-level basic needs are everyone’s needs for
(i) aesthetic enjoyment of all kinds,
(ii) personal relationships of all kinds, for example, families, life-partners, lovers, close friends, a wider circle of friends, comrades, etc.,
(iii) social and political solidarity of all kinds,
(iv) free thought and free speech of all kinds,
(v) creative self-expression of all kinds,
(vi) meaningful work of all kinds,
(vii) higher education of all kinds, and
(vii) spirituality of all kinds.
Since it’s arguable that the ultimate goal, purpose, or meaning of human life is no more and no less than to pursue the satisfaction of second-level true human needs, then sufficient respect for human dignity also demands that everyone, everywhere, should always have enough of whatever it takes for them to be able to pursue their second-level true human needs (Maiese and Hanna, 2019: ch. 3).
Against the backdrop of the concept and fact of true human needs, I’ve raised this hard question (Hanna, 2021a): Is every form of capitalism rationally unjustified and immoral? By way of answering that question, I argued that it’s extremely important to compare and contrast advanced capitalism, and especially neoliberal global technocratic corporate advanced capitalism — with what I’ll call paleo-capitalism, in which there’s:
(i) modest individual ownership of private property, sufficient for satisfying and sustaining people’s true human needs and individual tastes,
(ii) non-commodifying, non-exploitative, non-wage-enslaving (for example, under a larger system of truly generous universal basic income and universal basic eco-sensitive/sustainable jobs, aka eco-jobs [Hanna, 2018c: sections 3.3–3.4]), eco-sensitive/sustainable, small-scale business enterprises for the production of goods and the provision of services, sufficient for satisfying and sustaining people’s true human needs and individual tastes,
(iii) modest individual profit-making accumulation of wealth, sufficient for satisfying and sustaining people’s true human needs and individual tastes, and
(iv) modest, non-commodifying, non-exploitative, non-wage-enslaving, collective profit-making and collective profit-sharing enterprises (aka cooperatives), sufficient for satisfying and sustaining workers’ true human needs and individual tastes.
Therefore, paleo-capitalism is perfectly consistent with a social-institutional system in which human work is not only not alienating, not commodifying, not exploitative, not wage-enslaving, and non-oppressive, but in fact creative, meaningful, and sufficiently human-dignity-respecting: in a word, lifework.
In the context of this essay, I intend the sub-term “paleo-“ (meaning: ancient, or pre-modern) in “paleo-capitalism” to be taken in an essentially social-institutional and structural sense, not a strictly historical sense. I do think it’s really possible that during the 4000 years prior to the earliest States, some social arrangements relevantly similar to paleo-capitalism existed as a set of open-textured but stable social institutions in nomadic pre-State life (Scott, 2017). But that’s not necessary for my argument. All that’s necessary for my argument is that it be really possible for paleo-capitalism to exist in a non-State or post-State condition of humankind. Since the modern State is the social-institutional ground of advanced capitalism, however, then pure or unmixed paleo-capitalism cannot exist in it. But since impure or hybrid versions of a non-State or post-State condition can and actually do fly under the radar of the State apparatus in certain special circumstances, for example, disasters (Solnit, 2009), even in contemporary neoliberal nation-States, then it’s also really possible that impure or hybrid versions of paleo-capitalism could fly under the radar of the State apparatus in certain special circumstances, even in contemporary neoliberal nation-States.
And here’s where The Great Resignation and the antiwork movement come back into my argument. I do think that the 2020–2022 COVID-19 pandemic counts as a global disaster, hence it’s really possible that impure or hybrid paleo-capitalism could fly under the radar of the State apparatus under recent and current conditions. So what I’m proposing is that all the people
(i) who are currently participating in The Great Resignation and/or the antiwork movement, or
(ii) who are seriously considering participating in the near future, or
(iii) who are simply self-consciously and painfully aware that their job is not satisfying their true human needs,
not only can but also should immediately and spontaneously engage in a peaceful activist program that consists in individual and collective lifework and lifesleep, together with impure paleo-capitalism, for their own sake, for the sake of their families, and for the sake of the rest of humankind.
For a great many people, THIS MEANS YOU; so, here’s how you can do this.
Let’s do a quick state-of-the-world checklist for 2022 —
- Ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
- Climate change disaster fully underway worldwide.
- Radical income disparity and poverty worldwide.
- Millions of global and internal refugees.
- Authoritarian and all-too-often racist police coercion in the USA.
- Daily gun violence in the USA.
- Billions of people worldwide working for almost their entire adult lives in boring, pointless, oppressive jobs in the global neoliberal advanced capitalist economy, like a sickness unto death.
So the question naturally arises:
Should we let the world go to hell, or should we try to save it?
Because I’ve presented and defended a view I call broadly Kantian nonideal dignitarian moral theory, which holds that everyone, everywhere has absolute, non-denumerably infinite, intrinsic, objective value (aka dignity) , and also that everyone, everywhere should be treated with sufficient respect for their human dignity, and never treated like a mere means or like a mere thing (Hanna, 2018b, 2021b), I vote wholeheartedly for the latter. And I also have a fairly simple plan for doing it in four days — per week, that is — that I’m hereby strongly recommending to everyone who’s currently participating in The Great Resignation or in the antiwork movement, as a program for immediate and spontaneous globally-oriented ecological, moral, and sociopolitical peaceful activism that’s also essentially combined with lifework, lifesleep, and impure paleo-capitalism.
During July 2021 I read an interesting and indeed important essay by Slavoj Žižek on the impending ecological apocalypse that’s caused by climate change and by humanly-created natural environmental damage and exploitation more generally, “Last Exit to Socialism” (Žižek, 2021). This was followed a few weeks later by the release of a U.N.-sponsored Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report (IPCC, 2021), prominently highlighted in the New York Times (Plumer and Fountain, 2021), which nailed down the factual grounds for Žižek’s claims. Leaving aside Žižek’s patented edgy, ironic, and mordant prose style, he’s cogently arguing for
(i) a robustly anthropocentric approach to ecophilosophy and
(ii) immediate worldwide activism,
both of which I strongly endorse too, because, as I mentioned above, I’m committed to a broadly Kantian nonideal dignitarian moral theory. What I’d also want to add to those, however, is the broadly (and also radically, since this deviates from orthodox Kantianism) Kantian thesis that I call cosmic dignitarianism, which says
(iii) that the all-inclusive natural or physical universe, i.e., the cosmos, together with its proto-dignity, is the metaphysical ground of all rational human animals, especially including our consciousness, our free agency, and our dignity; and, insofar as we’re unconditionally morally obligated to treat all people with sufficient respect for their human dignity, so too we’re unconditionally morally obligated to treat the cosmos, and especially our natural or physical environment here on Earth, with sufficient respect for its proto-dignity, never treat it like a mere means or a mere thing, and always treat it in ways that are fully consistent with sufficient respect for human dignity (Hanna, 2022a: section 2.5).
Thinking more about this four-part package — i.e., broadly Kantian nonideal dignitarian moral theory, a robustly anthropocentric approach to ecophilosophy, immediate worldwide activism, and cosmic dignitarianism — it then occurred to me that immediate worldwide action could be taken as follows: all governments anywhere on the Earth could collectively create and implement a program I call Global Dignity Days (GDD).
GDD would have three parts.
Part 1 would consist in the governments of all nations implementing most if not all of the worldwide immediate actions recommended by climate scientists (IPCC, 2021; Plumer and Fountain, 2021).
Part 2 would consist in people 18 years of age and over, whether they currently have a wage-paying job or not, voluntarily agreeing
(i) to their not working anywhere but at home for four days a week, for example, Thursday through Sunday (aka the Global Dignity Days),
(ii) their also staying very close to home, say, 2–3 miles, and their traveling locally by car/gas-powered transit only for essential purposes (grocery shopping or hospital visits, etc.) for those four days, every single week, and
(iii) more generally, to the extent that it’s humanly possible, to their not engaging in any industrial production or any non-trivially environmentally damaging or exploitative activities at all for those four days, every single week.
So in a four-word phrase, GDD would mean practicing green four-day weekends.
Part 3 would consist in governments agreeing, in return for people’s participation in GDD and for as long as they continued to participate,
(iv) to pay GDD participants the equivalent of (for example, although this is obviously open to revision upwards, depending on what’s required to satisfy people’s first-level true human needs) $200.00 USD per day, tax free, for those four days = the equivalent of (again for example, and again obviously open to revision upwards, depending on what’s needed to satisfy people’s first-level true human needs) $3, 200.00 USD, tax free, per month,
(v) to give GDD participants and their dependents free adequate health care,
(vi) to give GDD participants and their dependents free college/higher education tuition, and also
(vii) to give the GDD participants the equivalent of (yet again for example, and subject to the same qualifications mentioned twice under GDD provision (iv) above) a $50.00 USD supplement, tax free, per day for any care-needing dependent, for example, children or elderly infirm parents, etc., they were looking after, for each of the four days they’re participating in GDD per week, and above all,
(viii) to make it illegal for employers to lay off or cut the existing salaries of working people who choose to engage in GDD and would thereby be working somewhere other than at home for only three days per week, for example, Monday through Wednesday.
Furthermore, there would be two further nonideal dignitarian moral necessary conditions that must be satisfied in order for people to participate in GDD:
(ix) all GDD participants would provide provide a duly-signed legal commitment and legally witnessed proof to the effect that as long as they participate in GDD, they will neither own, nor carry, nor use guns, and also, for those who currently own guns, that they will engage in a government-funded and government-administered buy-back of any guns and ammunition that they currently own before they can participate in GDD, and finally
(x) for any zone (town, city, area, region, etc.) that reaches a majority of its residents participating in GDD, then the police in that zone would be specifically and strictly required not to carry or use guns, or engage in any bully-boy, “broken-windows”-sweeps-style, “up-against-the-wall-motherfucker”-style policing in that zone, 24–7.
So, now in a five-word phrase, GDD would mean practicing peaceful green four-day weekends.
Obviously, actual nations and their governments, actual people, actual morality, and actual sociopolitics all being what they actually are, not everyone would choose to participate in GDD; but I do think that a great many nations and their governments, and a great many people, would choose to participate. I also think that, of those people who do choose to participate, many would also quit their current wage-paying jobs, precisely because those jobs are shitwork, i.e., boring, pointless, oppressive, or all three, then get together with some other people doing the same thing, set up housekeeping, pool their GDD money, engage in doing various creative or otherwise productive, proto-dignity-respecting, dignity-respecting, non-wage-paying activities that they actually enjoy doing, or at least find it meaningful and valuable to do — i.e., lifework — together with their engaging in lifesleep, and live much better lives.
And I also think that if all three parts of GDD were implemented, then this would simultaneously
(i) significantly reduce environmental degradation and the rate of climate change to the tipping-point of indefinitely avoiding the impending ecological apocalypse,
(ii) significantly slow down and reduce neoliberal advanced capitalist production and its oppressions,
(iii) provide truly generous universal basic income, healthcare, and higher education for any adult who chooses to participate in GDD, and thereby effectively end poverty and other morally scandalous sociopolitical inequalities,
(iv) significantly reduce the further moral scandal and tragedy, particularly in the USA, of daily gun violence (Hanna, 2022b, 2022c), and above all,
(v) significantly improve a great many people’s well-being, especially including the dependents, children, aged infirm parents, etc., of the people who participate in GDD.
I re-emphasize that people participating in GDD could still work elsewhere than at home in industrial production jobs or in any other kind of wage-paying jobs, and could still freely travel, etc., if they wanted to, but only from Monday to Wednesday. But even if GDD participants don’t work in wage-paying jobs — for example, and most especially, participants in The Great Resignation and/or the antiwork movement — then they would still be working for their own sake and that of their families, and for the sake of the rest of humankind, at least four days a week, by sufficiently respecting the proto-dignity of the Earth’s natural environment, and by sufficiently respecting everyone’s human dignity.
Now, GDD could be paid for by vigorously taxing the wealthiest 1%, their property, and their corporations, by progressive ordinary taxes on the less-wealthy 99%, and by vigorously reducing military spending, worldwide. In view of the fairness of this system of raising money for GDD, and because participating in GDD would be strictly voluntary and fully non-coercive, and also because the necessary conditions for participating in GDD jointly express sufficient respect for human dignity, no one could justifiably complain that they’re being discriminated against or unfairly treated, if they don’t choose to participate in GDD. No one has a moral right to choose or do what’s not sufficiently human-dignity-respecting: for example, owning, carrying, or using a gun (Hanna, 2022b); or systematically carrying out brutal, oppressive activities on behalf of coercive authoritarian social institutions.
Finally, here’s the two-part bottom line of my argument.
First, according to the Bible, God created the world in seven days; but, providing that what I’ve written in this essay is cogent, and provided that humakind acts immediately and worldwide by implementing all three parts of GDD, and whether God or any god exists or doesn’t exist, then we really and truly can avoid the (self-inflicted) end of the world in only four days — per week, that is; and we can do it simply by making it really possible for people everywhere to engage in lifework and lifesleep, and practice peaceful green four-day weekends.
Second, here’s how we can actually begin to move from our presently apocalyptic state-of-the-world, toward implementing GDD: All the people
(i) who are currently participating in The Great Resignation and/or the antiwork movement, or
(ii) who are seriously considering participating in the near future, or
(iii) who are simply self-consciously and painfully aware that their job is not satisfying their true human needs,
should immediately and spontaneously begin to practice peaceful green four day weekends and to engage in lifework and lifesleep during those four days and also (in the absence of a real-world social system of truly generous universal basic income and universal basic eco-jobs) to engage in impure paleo-capitalism for the other three days per week, for their own sake, for the sake of their families, and for the sake of the rest of humankind, and thereby become the vanguard of GDD.
Great Resigners, antiworkers, lifeworkers, lifesleepers, impure paleo-capitalists, and ecological activists of the world, unite!, for you have nothing to lose and the world to gain.[ii]
[i] For the purposes of my argument, I’m using “at home” in the broad sense that means “wherever someone is permanently or temporarily living.” In that sense, even an otherwise homeless person, or a refugee, can be “at home” just by living somewhere. In any case, if all three parts of GDD were actually implemented, then no one would ever have to be homeless in any sense.
[ii] I’m grateful to Scott Heftler, Michelle Maiese, Otto Paans, and Mark Pittenger for thought-provoking conversations and correspondence on or around the topics of this essay, which extends and more concretely applies some ideas developed in (Hanna, 2021a, 2022a), (Hanna and Paans, 2020, 2021, 2022), and in The Shape of Lives To Come project (Maiese et al., 2022).
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