Do you want to present the role of work in an anarchist utopia, acting as it's ambassador? Or do you want to present scholarly work on this issue? A panel at the Anarchist Studies Network Conference "Making Connections" at Loughborough University, UK, 3-5 September 2012 needs you!
Do we really want fields, factories, and workshops? Maybe we cannot do without them, so we at least need to distribute necessary work justly and organize it humanly, as Kropotkin suggests. But maybe we can do without them and should abolish work altogether. Anarchism is concerned with everyday politics, of which the necessity to sell one’s labour just to survive is a central aspect. For Bakunin, manual labour is a source of morality and should be customarily enforced on those ‘social thieves’ who are lazy. On the other hand, Bookchin hoped for a ‘liberatory technology’ to free the humans from toil. Aside from that, Black advises to transform work into play so it is fun to do; and CrimethInc. prefers to just drop out and walk away from the workplaces. To get fresh insights into the issue of work that divides so many anarchists, I suggest we look at the role of work in anarchist utopias.
The workshop will be divided into two quite dissimilar sessions to accommodate the different needs of scholars and activists. Although talk about history, theory, and utopia will prevail over action, I hope the workshop will have practical significance in helping to question and refine our political goals.
The first is a conventional three-lecture session with scientists sharing their enlightened view on reasons and strategies against work, on the history of idle ideas and militant laziness, and/or the interconnectedness of resistance against work and other struggles. ‘Scientist’ means you have gained some scholarly understanding of the aspect of zero-work you are talking about by studying the relevant literature and theories; a formal degree is not required. A lecture should be 20 minutes long, followed by 10 minutes Q&A. This first session serves two purposes: For the audience, it is an easy-to-consume presentation of findings, facts, connections, and overviews (hopefully without too much technical jargon). For the lecturers, it is an opportunity to devote themselves to refusal of work while claiming to further their academic careers.
The second session is an interuniversal diplomatic summit where the ambassadors of several anarchist societies and planets meet to exchange their experiences with the abolition of work—if work is really abolished. The ambassador of Anarres (where everything is organized in syndicates and strong social pressure enforces a strict work ethic) will have significantly different views than the emissary of Na Valley (where people are so lazy that they eat without knife and fork to reduce washing-up). Not only Le Guin’s The Dispossessed and Always Coming Home contain utopian worlds that might delegate diplomats to our workshop; maybe your home country is described in Starhawk’s The Fifth Sacred Thing, in Piercy’s He, She, and It, in Carlsson’s After the Deluge, in Morris’s News from Nowhere, in P.M.’s bolo’bolo, in Russell’s The Great Explosion, in one of Robinson’s science fiction novels or elsewhere. Maybe you have to extrapolate the few comments these authors made about work in their imagined societies. It is even possible that an ambassador of a strange society that has abolished work but is not anarchistic (e.g. the Venus Project) will show up.
If you have expertise to give a scholarly lecture, or if you want to act as an ambassador, please contact Peter Seyferth (firstname.lastname@example.org) by March 31st 2012, indicating the role you want to play, your name (the real one and, if applicable, a fictive one), and any institutional affiliations you may want to see mentioned in the conference programme. For the first session, please attach an abstract (300 words max) and the title for your proposed lecture. For the second session, please mention the country/planet you want to represent and the utopian text where it can be found; also please include a description of the working conditions in your fictive society.
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