The idea that Everyone Should Have a Job is so Common we Forget to Question it

My latest piece for Quartz at Work begins this way:

Martin Luther King Jr. once said that “We must create full employment or we must create [basic, guaranteed] incomes.” More than 40 years later, we talk a lot about the last half of that statement: Technology entrepreneurs like Y Combinator’s Sam Altman and Facebook co-founder Chris Hughes have campaigned for universal basic income (UBI)—the idea that everyone should receive a regular, unconditional, government-issued stipend that would be sufficient to cover one’s material needs—to the point at which it’s become a trendy topic.

There is much less talk about the philosophical underpinnings of King’s other idea—“full employment.”

This view that every able-bodied and able-minded adult should have—and, what’s more, should want to have—a job has become so widespread that it is almost invisible. In our work-obsessed society, most people would say that of course everyone should have a job….

But the claim, I believe, warrants just as much debate as UBI.

After we decouple the claim that “having a job” is an unalloyed good from the desires to survive, to leave some traces on the world, and to make a reasonable contribution to the lives of others, we might see that having a job is at least a sacrifice, if not a Faustian bargain.

You can read the piece in its entirety here.

‘I work therefore I am: why businesses are hiring philosophers’ Guardian Piece

I’m interviewed in this Guardian piece on philosophy and business. An excerpt:

A philosopher can nudge and question, take leaders on uncomfortable journeys, even be a disruptive force – and they should, suggests US-based Andrew Taggart, who consults for organisations in Silicon Valley on how to use philosophy in a practical context.

“Doing philosophy as a way of life is inherently challenging and can, at times, be deeply puzzling,” he says. “I see it as my responsibility to push you to think harder and much more clearly about yourself and the world.”

In the midst of business pressures, are you someone who will pursue the truth, even if it means discovering painful things about yourself? A tough question, especially when shareholders and HMRC are banging on the door for your quarterly accounts.

The 70-hour and Four-day Work Weeks are Both Rooted in Christian Philosophy

My latest Quartz at Work piece begins:

The trend toward intense 70-hour work weeks is well-documented. Yet even as it has become standard in some industries to work until midnight on most weekdays, there’s also a trend in the opposite direction.

German union IG Metall recently negotiated an agreement allowing workers to work 28 hours (with adjusted pay) instead of the full 35 hours, for instance, and a startup based in Portland experimented with tacking back to 32 hours in 2015 (it reverted to a 5 day 40 hour workweek a year later). Four-day weeks are a regular topic of discussion.

When I look closely at the opposing discussions—one that involves working as much as possible, the other for fewer hours than has for a century been considered standard—I see not only a conversation about hours but one about two conflicting philosophies of work: the Protestant view of labor and the Catholic view of labor.

You can read the piece in its entirety here.

‘Life hacks are part of a 200-year-old movement to destroy your humanity’ My Work At Quartz Piece

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My latest Work At Quartz piece begins:

The quest for achieving peak productivity is now akin to a religion, one consisting of high priests (time management gurus, life hack specialists, productivity coaches, headlining management professionals), various teachings (apps, tools, approaches, methods, reminders, workstation re-designs, forms of discipline), and millions of willing aspirants (early adopters, workshop participants, testifiers, devotees). A search for “how to be more productive” yields, at present count, 40,900,000 results.

What remains deeply puzzling about the obsession with personal productivity is that it is a rather uninteresting goal. Isn’t peak productivity an oddly deflating cultural ideal, especially when put in comparison with Achilles’ heroic feats, Solon’s excellence in statecraft, St. Thomas Aquinas’s holiness, Beethoven’s beautiful symphonies, and G.I. Gurdjieff’s spiritual search? How did it become such an ideal for us to aspire to?

You can read the rest of it here.