The Mythology of Work: How Capitalism Persists Despite Itself
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There was once a time when ‘work’ was inextricably linked to survival and self-preservation; where the farmer ploughed the land so their family could eat. But the sun has long since set on this idyllic tableau, and what was once an integral part of life has slowly morphed into a painful and meaningless ritual, colonising almost every part of our lives - endless and inescapable. In The Mythology of Work, Peter Fleming examines how neoliberal society uses the ritual of work (and the threat of its denial) to maintain the late capitalist class order. As our society is transformed into a factory that never sleeps, work becomes a universal reference point for everything else, devoid of any moral or political worth. Blending critical theory with recent accounts of job related suicides, office-induced paranoia, fear of relaxation, managerial sadism and cynical corporate social responsibility campaigns, Fleming paints a bleak picture of neoliberal capitalism in which the economic and emotional dysfunctions of a society of wage slaves greatly outweigh its professed benefits.
confinement that Foucault discussed in Discipline and Punish (1977). In his famous essay entitled ‘Postscript on the societies of control’ (1992), Deleuze argues that biopolitical regulation is special because of its virtual qualities. It entails an index that reverberates through all social relations. Power is no longer quantitative – starting in the factory and then ending, beginning again in the family and then ending, sequencing our corporeal time in discrete chunks – but is dangerously
examining the more self-destructive moments of escape that many choose under neoliberal conditions (Cederström and Fleming, 2012). Because the command to work has irrevocably infected individual life processes, it is not surprising that employees perceive the body as the true battlefield. In doing so, overworked subjects misrecognize the living organism as the source of their misery. A third and related form of resistance has been explored by Crary (2013) in his study 24/7: Late Capitalism and
and eventually positive coordinating conjunctions (‘but’ and ‘and’). The intended inoculative effects of such truth telling can be observed in the company’s latest business ethics campaign, which is simply titled ‘Harm Reduction’: ‘It’s simple – we want to reduce the public health impact of our products’. The narrative continues: We know tobacco products pose real and serious health risks and the only way to avoid these risks is to not use them. But many adults choose to smoke, so our top
to be open, the effect is to widen the distance between power and its dialectical ‘other’ (i.e. freedom) that we seek to render into a positive force. Societies of control engage in rituals of contrition in order to reinforce a permanent yet reiterative postponement of progressive political recompense, partially short-circuiting dialectical reason in the process. For example, a scandal concerning executive bonuses does little to rectify this patent affront to the ordinary working citizen who is
it into an instrument of exploitation? As the ‘immersion room’ example discussed earlier demonstrates, we can now see all sorts of attempts to make resistance speak in order to make it congruous with the ideology of work. Advertising in London currently seeks to cash in on underground chic and revolutionary cool – ‘Be your own revolution!’ cries one advert for new computer software. Right-wing management consultants tell their readers that much can be learnt from the creative upheaval of 1960s