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The Rise of Antiwork Movement – and whether there’s really a world without jobs?

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Who or what is the “Reddit Anti-Work Movement?” What are its core tenets, and how could it affect your life? This article will answer those questions.

What is anti-work?

Anti-work is a political ideology that dreams of abolishing compulsory labor. 

It would consist of a world where we all are our own bosses, where we don’t have to work for money, but make money work for us.

In this way, it’s similar to the basic income movement: both are proposing a future where most people simply don’t need traditional jobs. They differ in their prescriptions for how to get there—but more on that later.

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On Reddit and 4chan, the anti-work movement gained traction.

The anti-work movement began on 4chan and Reddit.

In the early 2010s, people started to discuss anti-work in a few corners of the internet: most notably on Reddit and 4chan’s /r/anti-work subreddit

These sites were perfect places for these conversations because they already had a reputation for being populated by young people who didn’t buy into society’s norms. 

In general, they have a more libertarian perspective than other forums—they’re less interested in social issues like sexism and racism than they are in individual freedoms that give them more control over their lives, no matter how small those freedoms might be (like being able to play video games all day). 

The anti-work movement was born here because it appealed to this mindset; the idea that we should stop working so much resonated with those who wanted more freedom over their lives, but didn’t want others telling them how best to spend it.

In this world, you could theoretically do whatever you want at any given moment—you could write poetry while listening to jazz music and playing with your kids in the park, or go on hikes with your friends every weekend. 

It would be an ideal place where time seems infinite and freedom limitless. The idea is that we would all make enough money from our investments so that it wouldn’t matter if we worked or not—the concept of working just for a paycheck would be long since gone by then.

“Imagine a world where you have all the free time you need to do whatever you want. No more nine-to-five jobs or alarm clocks interrupting your sleep. No more long commutes and unpleasant workplace politics (or even just plain old office politics). In this world, the only things that matter are what you want and how you want to spend your days—and everyone else is doing the same thing!”

This is the dream of anti-work advocates, whose goal is to reduce or eliminate paid labor and replace it with voluntary work that’s equally as fulfilling but doesn’t take away from family life and other personal interests. 

The movement gained traction in the late 2000s when some tech workers decided they’d rather spend their days blogging than working at Facebook; today there are meetups in cities across America where people can discuss anti-work issues over coffee and cake. 

The movement has its critics who say it’s unrealistic; however, if we consider what would happen if everyone worked less or not at all, we see that this could be our future—and an even better one at that!

Early beginnings (2013–2020)

The Anti-Work Movement is a loosely defined group of individuals who have come together to resist and actively undermine the concept of “work.” 

As a movement, it has its roots in the early 2010s when people began questioning the definition and purpose of work, with many starting to believe that work does not provide any benefit or meaning to one’s life. 

The movement gained momentum during this time period as more and more people began questioning why we spend so much of our lives working without accomplishing anything in return.

As a result, there are now several types of activities commonly associated with the anti-work movement:

  • The development of alternative lifestyles such as digital nomadism;
  • The creation of alternative social structures like cooperatives;
  • Popularizing ideas like universal basic income (UBI) which would make it possible for everyone to live without having to do any form of traditional employment at all

The Anti-Work Movement, Explained

It’s important to understand that the anti-work movement is not a new phenomenon. Its origins go back centuries, as far back as the abolition of unfree labor in Europe and America. But its most recent resurgence can be traced to the Great Resignation of 2022, which saw American workers quitting their jobs in droves amid an internal controversy over whether or not it was ethical for them not to work.

Refusal of work

Some of the most radical elements of this anti-work movement are its proponents’ refusal to work. Refusal of work means that you have the right to decide whether or not you want to be employed and how you want that employment to take place.

You should be able to choose whether or not you want a full-time job, what kind of work environment is best for your needs, and how much time off is needed for family or other obligations. You should also have control over when these commitments are made: no employer should be able to force an employee into a 9-to-5 schedule without their consent (or forgo pay).

Concerns over wage slavery

Wage slavery is a term used by some socialists and social movements to refer to a situation where a person’s livelihood depends on wages, especially when the dependence is complete and the relationship is not necessarily voluntary.

The term wage slavery has been used to criticize employers for paying workers wages they believe are too low. It can also be used as an analogy that compares modern working conditions with historical chattel slavery, particularly in reference to controversial employee practices such as workplace surveillance, employee monitoring of email, Internet use, phone calls and other activities outside of work hours that were found in cases like People v. Quackenbush (1892) and In Re Jacobs (1929).

Stigmatization of people who don’t work

All across the internet, the anti-work movement is getting some pushback. The general sentiment is that people who don’t work are loafing on their butts, living off the state, and not contributing to society in any meaningful way. The implication here is that it’s irresponsible to not work—and even more so if you’re a freeloader with your health insurance covered by Medicaid or Medicare.

This attitude is prevalent among those who believe they have it made: they have jobs they enjoy (or at least tolerate), they pay their bills on time and live comfortably in modest homes with two-car garages and enough space for pets underfoot. They have healthcare plans through their employers; they have retirement plans through their employers; they have credit cards with favorable terms; they have pensions waiting for them when they retire at 55 years old (if not sooner).

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Abolition of unfree labor

One of the most radical positions in the anti-work movement is its opposition to wage labor. This idea has a long history, going all the way back to Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels’ 1848 Communist Manifesto:

In place of the old bourgeois society, with its classes and class antagonisms, we shall have an association in which the free development of each is the condition for the free development of all.

“U.S. workers are quitting in droves amid the ‘Great Resignation’ – and a growing movement is anti-work altogether”

You may be wondering, “Why are people quitting their jobs in droves?” and “What does this have to do with my anti-work lifestyle?” The answer is simple: more than one-third of U.S. workers want to quit their jobs, but they can’t afford to leave without another job lined up. 

This isn’t just a problem for the unemployed—it’s an opportunity for those who already have a job.

The growth of the anti-work movement has been fueled by new technology and social media platforms that allow people to share ideas and interact across borders more easily than ever before; however, it has also been spurred by economic factors like automation (which will soon replace many human jobs), outsourcing (which means fewer available opportunities within your own country), gentrification (which drives up rent prices), stagnant wages (which make it harder to get ahead financially), high student debt loads on recent graduates who aren’t earning enough money yet, uncertainty about whether or not you’ll be able to keep your job after graduating college because many businesses are downsizing rather than hiring new employees these days–the list goes on!

Rapid growth (2020–2021)

By 2020, the anti-work movement had grown to the point where it became impossible for anyone who wasn’t a member of this group to avoid it.

In the US, which was still then home to most of the world’s population and therefore still a major player on the international stage, things were especially bad. 

What began as small groups of people protesting in front of their local Walmart grew into massive protests involving thousands upon thousands of people across dozens of cities nationwide. 

By 2021, these protests had become so common that they were covered by all major news outlets on an almost daily basis; one could hardly turn on CNN without being inundated with stories about how many people were out there that day demanding more rights for those who were unemployed or under-employed (the term “unemployable” having been coined at this point). 

Things got so heated that some stores actually stopped paying their staff entirely during lunch breaks because they weren’t able to get any work done while everyone was off protesting outside!

How do we make work more rewarding?

Making work more rewarding is a tricky thing. There’s no one-size-fits-all solution, but there are some things we can do to make our jobs more fulfilling.

The first step is recognizing that rewards are not just about money. 

Rewards are defined as “something given in return for one’s efforts” (Merriam-Webster). 

So when we talk about rewards, we’re talking about the things that come after your efforts—and they don’t have to be monetary. 

Rewards can be anything that makes you feel good and valued, like praise from your boss or recognition from your peers.

But if you want to get ahead, you need to ask for what you want!  Make sure that when things go well at work, you show your appreciation by thanking people who helped you out or even just saying “thank you” to your coworkers when they do something nice for you.

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How can we build a workplace that people love?

It’s not enough to say that you love your employees, and it’s not enough to have a great culture. 

If you want people to be their best selves, you need a workplace where they can learn and grow. 

You need a workplace where they are valued, respected, able to be creative and work on fun projects.

Is it possible to have a world without work or have jobs become so great that they no longer feel like work?

The idea of a world without work is a big one, but it’s also not a new one. 

The French philosopher and satirist Voltaire wrote about the idea in his 1756 novel Candide. 

In the story, Candide encounters an idyllic land with no laws or quarrels—but where people spend their days happily eating fruit and playing instruments.

However, it seems unlikely that such an ideal world could ever exist: even if we do create jobs that don’t feel like work, there will still have to be someone doing those jobs (even if these are machines). 

What’s more, we already have many “jobs” in society which don’t pay—such as volunteering at your local sports club or charity shop—and most of us wouldn’t want these to become paid careers!

It seems more likely that our current workplaces will continue evolving into something more like what we see today: somewhere between utopia and dystopia—with some people enjoying their work so much they never want to leave it; others staying at home because they can’t find anything else better out there.

In Closing

The antiwork saga is obviously not a good way to get out of your cubicle. 

It has, however, shown that many of us are unhappy with our working lives and are looking for ways to change that. 

It’s important to remember that this doesn’t have anything to do with laziness – it’s about personal growth, self-actualization and having fun while you work. 

The next time someone tells you they hate their job because they don’t feel fulfilled or they want more time with their family after seeing how much we spend at work (and away from family) on average per year, just smile and nod politely — but don’t go too far down the rabbit hole by suggesting solutions like quitting your day job or starting an Etsy store filled with handmade items sold by ‘Satisfied Customers’!

 

 Vartika Kashyap
Vartika Kashyap

Vartika Kashyap is the Chief Marketing Officer at ProofHub and has been one of the LinkedIn Top Voices in 2018. Her articles are inspired by office situations and work-related events. She likes to write about productivity, team building, work culture, leadership, entrepreneurship among others and contributing to a better workplace is what makes her click.


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