Back in 1930, John Maynard Keynes, the father of modern economics, predicted that by early 21st century, with productivity continuing to rise in the manner that it in fact has, we’d all be working at most 15 hours per week.
The fact that this has not happened is not due to a failure of economics, but a failure of culture: we now live in an age of abundance, but cultural inertia insists that jobs continue to be the center of our lives. The vast majority of us need to work (even if no jobs are available), and we need to work full time, because that’s the only way to make enough money to live in comfort.
But imagine what could happen if the 9 to 5 (or 6 or 7) grind were reduced by half or more. Imagine how much art, how much service to the community, how much inventiveness could emerge when human energy is untethered.
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: