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#3 Emancipation of-from Labor

Artem Magun /// Eight Things You Should Really Know About Labour

1. Labour is, first of all, the free creativity of people working together. Second, labour is the human being’s communication with a resistant thing or with a foreign, external human will. Third of all, labour is a means of delaying the satisfaction of human desire in favour of executing an entire series of technical and ritual operations. Fourth, labour is the illusion or hallucination of having absolute power over a thing, of being able to bring it to life, of being able to make it human.

1. Labour is, first of all, the free creativity of people working together. Second, labour is the human being’s communication with a resistant thing or with a foreign, external human will. Third of all, labour is a means of delaying the satisfaction of human desire in favour of executing an entire series of technical and ritual operations. Fourth, labour is the illusion or hallucination of having absolute power over a thing, of being able to bring it to life, of being able to make it human.

2. So actually, there’s freedom and non-freedom in labour. In addition to the work that you do to feed yourself, the work to which you are accustomed, the work for which you have a system of technical rules, you are also faced with work that is apparently unnecessary, which you only do because you have spare time. Something happens, even if we simply freeze – many games include coming to a full stop, cops and robbers, for an instance. When we work because there is little else to do, it will seem to us that we are playing, but later, they will tell us that our game was useful, which is how play becomes duty. However, without free, jubilant work, necessary work would never be able to exist.

3. At the same time, work invariably includes the operation of stopping in the moment of tiredness. In this sense, a strike takes place on an hourly basis in every workplace, when the master shakes himself, as if to shrug off the magical trouble of labour lost, lighting up a smoke and biting into his sandwich. So the sandwich (the hero of our performance) actually symbolizes the strike. The strike is a concealed, free component of the slave labour that appears to be so necessary. It’s something you just have to free up.

4. Slavery is a necessary condition for labour. You are either called to work, or, in working, you think up some commanding instance (God, the Law, a Work Ethic), to rouse you from your unpleasant, patient job. One way or the other, someone will make you work, enslaving the freedom of labour.

5. Labour is a political problem. The force that makes us work is always political, no matter what its form, be it interior or exterior. The specific sphere of political work is ideology, exploiting the boss himself, or, to be accurate, the illusion of being the master over the objects that is intrinsic to the worker. But although he may seem to be a master, the ideologue actually becomes a slave to a symbolic machine, a circulatory system of ideas and words. The journalist, the PR-specialist, or the ideologue tirelessly produces these ideas, ideas that need to be accessible to everyone, and in doing so, he loses the ability to see any sense or meaning at all, becoming a thing with an interchangeable inscription, morphing into a simple sandwich.

6. Labour is as dangerous as sex. Beginning to work for himself and becoming a slave, the human being takes a risk, becoming vulnerable. At this point, it is especially comfortable to work for yet another master. In Lars von Trier’s “Dogville”, a young girl selflessly offers up her help to her small town neighbours, but gradually fails to notice that she is becoming a slave. People get used to her free gift so quickly, that they understand it as her duty. In the end, they put her on a chain like a dog. Isn’t this how we, in our daily lives, relate to things that have become products, to people who have become “partners”, to our own bodies?

7. In the 16th century, the Italian thinker Galileo Galilei turned the Western world upside down by discovering his law of inertia. It became clear that movement and transformation were not free acts of God or man, but normal, material states of inertia. Since then, people have come to see labour as a duty that fulfils nature’s demand. Capitalism shocks and turns the world upside down at least once an hour. But – watch out! – if motion and work are omnipresent, the only free, genuinely difficult act will be the unexpected interruption, the break . By negating negation, you move motion off onto a new vector, changing change itself. This pause does not return us to some imaginary state of peace; instead, it collects motion to a point of inner energy, unifying people that were once separated by dull and destructive labour to a community, drawing together thing and bodies, alienated into machines and goods in a world of material communication

8. The full-fledged abolition of labour is impossible, because it is idleness that is the basis for work. The full appropriation of work would imply a new, total form of slavery. But the worker should realize that work and the rhythm of idleness and striking are weapons, opposed against the labour of sacrifice and mourning.

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