Work After Coronavirus


Bob Black

Sep, 2020

The COVID- 19 crisis may be the first completely worldwide catastrophe in human history. The Black Plague (1348-1353), which originated in Asia, killed one-third to one-half of the population of Europe. The misnamed «Spanish Flu» (1918-1919) killed tens of millions of people in many parts of the world. But these plagues also spared many parts of the world, and sooner or later they went away (almost). [1][1] A man recently contracted the bubonic plague in South Lake Tahoe, California; a case is reported in California approximately every five years. See: Rettner, R. (2020). California reports first human plague case in 5 years. LiveScience.
A human recently contracted septicemic plague from a squirrel in Colorado; the human recovered. Whether the squirrel recovered is not reported. See: O’Neill, N. (2020). Colorado confirms first human case of bubonic plague since 2015. N.Y. Post.
This pandemic has already reached remote Amazonian tribes. It may never go away completely. [2][2] Zhang, S. (2020). The Coronavirus Is Never Going Away. The Atlantic. It is a «meta-crisis» which will have profound economic, social and political consequences. [3][3] Khanfar, W. (2020). COVID-19 as a Meta-Crisis and Our Post-Pandemic Order. Metapolis V1N1. The post-pandemic world will have to be very different. It is easy to see how it could be worse, if the new world is to be just a damaged, depleted, more regimented version of the old world. But could it be better?

The plague manifests itself immediately as a public health crisis, but it is more than that. [4][4] Sassen, S. (2020). Urban Capabilities: Those We Want in Our Cities and Those We Should Avoid. Metapolis V1N1. Close behind are the economic consequences, which are probably of more concern to the elite. The virus, by killing hundreds of thousands of people, and sickening tens of millions, has caused severe biological damage to the work force. Long-term physical and mental problems are increasingly identified in the survivors. Many workers have been furloughed or terminated as their workplaces shut down temporarily, or in many cases, permanently. Insofar as workers lose purchasing power, consumer demand declines, and even more marginal enterprises close down, further increasing unemployment. Many small businesses have closed permanently. Moreover, there are additional consequences, such as massive increases in government debt, even as public services are underfinanced precisely when greater demands are placed upon them.

Photo_ Tom Driggers_ CC BY 4.0

A brief problematization of «work»

All of this is very important. But my topic is work itself. It is an economic institution, but also more than an economic institution. I believe that work has to be understood not merely as a source of products and profits, but as an institution of social control. [5][5] Black, B. (1985). The Abolition of Work. In The Abolition of Work and Other Essays. Port Townsend, Washington: Loompanics Unlimited.; see Thompson, E.P. (1967). Time, Work-Discipline and Industrial Capitalism. Past & Present 38(1): 76-236.; Braverman, H. (1974). Labor and Monopoly Capitol: The Degradation of Work in the 20th Century. New York: Monthly Review Press.; Edwards, R. (1979). Contested Terrain: The Transformation of the Workplace in the Twentieth Century. New York: Basic Books. I am not the first critic of work as such. [6][6] See, e.g., Vernon, R. (Ed.). (1983). Why Work? Arguments for the Leisure Society. London: Freedom Press. Others range from Aristotle to Adam Smith, and increasing numbers of my contemporaries offer more or less radical critiques of work. [7][7] E.g., Mann, E. (1990). I Was Robot (Utopia Now Possible). Cushing: Little Free Press.; Bonanno, A. (2013). Let’s Destroy Work, Let’s Destroy the Economy (J. Weir, Trans.). Berkeley: Ardent Press.; Weeks, K. (2011). The Problem with Work. Durham: Duke University Press.; Gorz, A. (1999). Reclaiming Work: Beyond the Work-Based Society (C. Turner, Trans.). Cambridge: Polity Press.; Rifkin, J. (1995). The End of Work. New York: G.P. Putnam’s Sons.; Glitterbomb, L. (2020). Bullshit Jobs and the End of Work (As We Know It).; Brown, S. Does Work Really Work. In Kick it Over 35.; McCallum, J. (2020). Worked Over: How Round-the-Clock Work is Destroying the American Dream. New York: Basic Books. The most fundamental criticism is that the workplace is usually an authoritarian, and even a totalitarian, social formation. Most working adults spend the majority of their waking hours closely controlled – ordered around, kept under surveillance, humiliated – in ways that they would never tolerate anywhere else. They were trained to accept subjugation in school. Is this a status quo we want to return to, even if it were possible?

In politics, work is the elephant in the room. Everyone knows that it is there, but everyone pretends that it is not there. How is the plague affecting work? In the first place, by eliminating some of it, either by automation, or because it is no longer profitable. Automation is profoundly ambiguous. As the Situationist Asger Jorn put it, automation, «contains two opposing perspectives: it deprives the individual of any possibility of adding anything personal to automated production, thus representing a fixation of progress, yet at the same time it saves human energies by massively liberating them from reproductive and uncreative activities.» [8][8] Jorn, A. (2006). The Situationists and Automation. Situationist International Anthology, ed. & Trans. Ken Knabb (rev. & expanded ed.; Berkeley, California: Bureau of Public Secrets, 2006), page 56. But the application of these «perspectives» to different kinds of work is very uneven.

Economists divide the economy, rather arbitrarily perhaps, into three sectors: primary (agriculture and extractive industry), secondary (manufacturing), and tertiary (the «service» sector, although this final sector is more of a heterogeneous, «everything else» category).

The primary sector is mainly agriculture. Farm workers have not received much attention during the pandemic. They never do. Everybody takes them for granted. They are the poorest and most powerless of all workers. I have found little research to date, but the virus has probably made their work more dangerous. [9][9] Ho, V. (2020). «Everyone Tested Positive»: Covid Devastates Agriculture Workers in the California Heartland. The Guardian It was always dangerous. Automated agriculture (agri-business) has been displacing family-owned farms and sharecroppers since World War II, at least in the United States. Countries dominated by large-scale, absentee-owned agriculture have more poverty and unemployment, and higher rates of violent crime. [10][10] Lyson, T.A., Torres, R. & Welch, R. (2001). Scale of Agricultural Production, Civic Engagement, and Community Welfare. Social Forces: 311-327.

In politics, work is the elephant in the room. Everyone knows that it is there, but everyone pretends that it is not there. How is the plague affecting work? In the first place, by eliminating some of it, either by automation, or because it is no longer profitable.

Farm work might be healthier and perhaps easier, if in the wake of land reform, factory farms and plantations were replaced by individual and family farms, and even voluntary collective farms. People who work for themselves have a greater interest in their own health and wellbeing than their bosses would have. They would also have a greater interest in labor-saving machinery (even if it was not cost-effective), and in methods of cultivation which made their work more creative and interesting.

Especially in the less developed countries, the degradation of agricultural work and the impoverishment of the working class has driven millions of country people into the cities. There, most continue to languish in poverty, and the COVID-19 pandemic has now made life even more dangerous. This migration must be slowed, and at least to some extent, reversed. And as Colin Ward notes, «One way of reducing the pressure on these exploding cities, would be to improve life in villages and small towns. But that would demand revolutionary changes in land tenure, and on starting small-scale labor-intensive industries, and in dramatically raising farm incomes.  Until that happens, people will always prefer to take a chance in the city rather than starve in the country.» [11][11] Ward, C. (1983). Notes on Anarchist Cities. Housing: An Anarchist Approach. London: Freedom Press, page 88. The latest estimate is that worldwide, 80-90% of farms are family-owned or smallholder-owned, yet 1% of farms operate 50% of the farmland. [12][12] Watts, J. (2020). 1% of Farms Operate 50% of the World’s Farmland. The Guardian.

The secondary sector consists mainly of industry. It is shrinking in the countries where mechanized manufacturing was established first. However, factory work has been exported to underdeveloped countries where wages are lower, working hours are longer, conditions are more dangerous, and unionization is more difficult, if not illegal. So long as these conditions persist, employers will generally not invest heavily in further automation. Machines never get sick, and they never go on strike. The promise of automation is paradoxical. It reduces the amount of work, but it also reduces, and often largely eliminates, whatever personal and creative element remains in work. There is some evidence that automation does not even reduce the amount of work. [13][13] Black, B. (2015). Afterthoughts on the Abolition of Work. In Instead of Work. Berkeley, CA: 228-255. Its role in the world of work after coronavirus may continue to be, at best, ambiguous.  With electric power almost universally available, some automated cottage industry should be feasible. [14][14] Goodman, P. & Goodman, P. (1960). Communitas: Means of Livelihood and Ways of Life. New York: Vintage Books, page 156. That was already the opinion of the anarchist Peter Kropotkin, writing in the late 19th century. [15][15] Kropotkin, P. (1899). Fields, Factories, and Workshops. Boston: Houghton-Mifflin. There are several more recent reprints. Colin Ward produced a modern update: Ward, C. (1975). Fields, Factories and Workshops Tomorrow. New York: Harper & Row. As Paul Goodman aptly notes, «It is not hard to think up industrial arrangements that fire initiative, rather than dampen it.» [16][16] Goodman, P. (1964). Utopian Thinking. In Utopian Essays and Practical Proposals. New York: Vintage Books, page 10. As Herbert Read put it: «I have embraced industrialism, tried to give it its true aesthetic principles, all because I want to be through with it, want to get to the other side of it, into a world of electric power and mechanical plenty where man can once more return to the land. Not as a peasant but as a lord.» Read, H. Poetry and Anarchism. In Anarchy & Order: Essays in Politics. Boston, Massachusetts: Beacon Press, page 59.

The tertiary sector, the residuary category, has swollen to grotesque dimensions in developed countries. It is heterogeneous. It includes waitresses, garbage collectors, lawyers, janitors, sales clerks, managers, clergymen, soldiers, bank tellers, drug dealers, prostitutes, physicians, police, and elected officials. A large component includes office workers. I do not disparage white-collar workers. However, a majority of their work would be unnecessary in a better organized economy.

As I wrote 35 years ago, referring to American workers: «Forty percent of the workforce are white-collar workers, most of whom have some of the most tedious and idiotic jobs ever concocted. Entire industries, insurance and banking and real estate, for instance, consist of nothing but useless paper-shuffling.» [17][17] Black, B. (1985). The Abolition of Work. In The Abolition of Work, page 29; see also Graeber, D. (2004). Fragments of an Anarchist Anthropology. Chicago: Prickly Paradigm Press.; It is now over 50% in the United States (or it was before the pandemic). This percentage is now higher. Many jobs, especially in the tertiary sector, are what David Graeber calls «bullshit jobs»: «a bullshit job is a form of employment that is so completely pointless, unnecessary, or pernicious that even the employee cannot justify its existence.» [18][18] Graeber, D. (2018). Bullshit Jobs. New York: Simon & Schuster, page 3. How socially necessary is an executive assistant to an administrative vice president? And how satisfying is a job like that?

The pandemic’s revelations regarding work

Among professionals, physicians are already practicing some «telemedicine.» In-person consultation is not always necessary. Lawyers are virtually attending televised courtroom hearings. Clergymen are conducting church services online. Many banking transactions were already being conducted using «automatic teller machines.» These improvisations have their limits. Barbers, surgeons (originally the same profession), and others cannot avoid bodily contact with their customers and patients. Restaurants can to some extent convert to delivery. However, the experience of dining out, and the enjoyment of the café and the tavern, or spectator sports, may never be the same. As they were for the Greeks and Romans, occasional feasts with close friends and family may return as the space of communing. If something is lost, maybe something is also gained.

Indeed, humans are active by nature. We are not talking about idleness. We are talking about finding better things to do. In talking about work we are talking about a social institution.

But the pandemic has taught us that much work can be done from home. In the United States, because of the COVID-19 crisis, 42% of workers now work from home. [19][19] Wong, M. (2020). Stanford Research Provides a Snapshot of a New Working-from-Home Economy. Stanford News. Why was this work not conducted from home before? Commuting is social waste. Unlike work, it produces no value. Unlike play, it is no fun. It wastes time, effort and wealth. And now the densely populated offices and factories are even more unsafe than they were before. Obviously, work was centralized in workplaces in order to subject the workers to surveillance and discipline. Even if public health is the only consideration, it is better to abolish as much work as possible, and to disperse as much work as possible. However, as I will suggest, there are other considerations, like freedom.

I will be suspected of working up to a utopian proposal. I am not ashamed to say so.
Ideas are called «utopian» when they seem to be useful but they propose a different style, a different procedure, a different kind of motivation from the way people at present do business. Such ideas may make obvious common sense and may, technically, be very easy to effectuate; all the more will they be called «impractical» and «an imposition on people by experts and intellectuals,» with a vehemence which indicates a powerful psychological resistance. [20][20] Goodman, P. (1964). Utopian Thinking. In Utopian Essays and Practical Proposals. New York: Vintage Books, page 5.

Friedrich Engels wrote a Marxist essay, «Socialism: Utopian and Scientific.» [21][21] Engels, F. (1968). Utopian and Scientific. in K. Marx & F. Engels, Selected Works in One Volume. Moscow: Progress Publishers. His argument – although he did not provide any argument – was that all versions of socialism before Marx were utopian, because they were not Marxist. But Marxism itself has always been criticized as utopian. [22][22] E.g., Heller, M. & Nekrich, A.M. (1986). Utopia in Power: The History of the Soviet Union from 1917 to the Present. New York: Summit Books. The fact of the matter is: «Stalinists and their ilk did not kill because they dreamed great dreams – actually, Stalinists were famous for being rather short on imagination – but because they mistook their dreams for scientific certainties.» [23][23] Graeber, D. (2004). Fragments of an Anthropologist Anthropology. Chicago: Prickly Paradigm Press, pages 10-11.

The urban space in light of the pandemic and «work»

It has been well known for centuries (Boccaccio, The Decameron; Defoe, Journal of the Plague Year; Camus, The Plague) that plagues are most dangerous where people are crowded together, as in cities, for example. As a result, I would argue for a more dispersed population.  Many of the early socialists, such as Charles Fourier, Karl Marx, and Peter Kropotkin, advocated the abolition of the distinction between town and country. [24][24] Marx, K. & F. Engels (1968). Manifesto of the Communist Party. In K. Marx & F. Engels, Selected Works in One Volume. Moscow: Progress Publishers. They were not, as far as I know, thinking specifically about plagues, but they were calling for a generally freer, better, less hectic, more healthy way of life. [25][25] In 1884, Errico Malatesta and other anarchists went to Naples to treat victims of a cholera epidemic. They attributed the outbreak to poverty — for which the cure was, they said, social revolution. See: The Anarchists versus the Plague: The Cholera Epidemic of 1884. Crimethinc. In the United States, the rate of coronavirus infection correlates with poverty. Nazaryan, A. (2020). Odds of Coronavirus Infection Greatly Increase with Poverty. Yahoo News. I agree with them, and in turn disagree with Laura Basu, who contends that the city is always «the space of freedom.» [26][26] Basu, L. (2020). The Post-Modern City Beyond State and Market: A Thought-Experiment. Metapolis V1N1. That idea is disproven by the entire history of cities for over 5,000 years. [27][27] E.g., Sjoberg, G. (1960). The Pre-Industrial City: Past and Present. Illinois: The Free Press.; Strauss, G. (1966). Nuremberg in the 16th Century. New York: John Wiley & Sons. In ancient Sumer, where cities and civilization originated, «elites came to view and use fully encumbered laborers in the same exploitative way as human societies, over the immediately preceding millennia, had viewed and used the labor of domesticated animals. This represents a new paradigm of social relations in human societies.» Algaze, G. (2008). Ancient Mesopotamia and the Dawn of Civilization: The Evolution of an Urban Landscape. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, page 128. When was Baghdad or Beijing a space of freedom?  There have been magnificent cultural achievements in Baghdad and Beijing, as there have been in many cities. But that is not the same as them being spaces of freedom.

The abolition of the distinction between town and country is not the abolition of the town by the country. It is not the vision of a pastoral Arcadia. It is the interpenetration of town and country. It implies lower population densities everywhere, but not the same density everywhere.  It implies that some production activities now confined to the country, such as cultivation, could also be conducted in the city. This was often the case in pre-industrial cities. And that some production activities now confined to the cities, such as manufacturing, could also be conducted in the country. This was the situation in pre-industrial cities and countryside. This is not a new idea. It was not even a new idea when Robert Owen (1771-1858) wrote, in 1820, that small communities of 1,800 – 2,000 «in the neighborhood of others of similar description, at due distances, will be found capable of combining within themselves all the advantages that city and country residences now afford, without any of the numerous inconveniences and evils which necessarily attach to both those modes of society.» [28][28] Owen, R. (1991). Report to the County of Lanark. In A New View of Society and Other Writings. G. Class, Ed. London: Penguin Books, page 272. He also asserted «Under a well-devised arrangement for the working classes, they will all procure for themselves the necessaries and comforts of life in so short a time, and so easily and pleasantly, that the occupation will be experienced to be little more than a recreation, sufficient to keep them in the best health and spirits for rational enjoyment of life.» Ibid., page 273. Note the reference to health.

There is reason to believe that this is still feasible. [29][29] Kropotkin, P. (1899). Fields, Factories, and Workshops. Boston: Houghton-Mifflin, pages 155-174. The know-how to recreate the technology of the late 19th and early 20th Century, which was not oil-based, is still available. [30][30] Saxon, K. (1989). Investment in Survival. in Rants and Incendiary Tracts. B. Black & A. Parfrey, Eds. New York: Amok Press, page 189. Life was good for many people. The many reformers and revolutionaries of that time were right about this: life could have been much better at that time, for most people at the then existing level of technology. Life could still be even better than that now. It is true that our population is too high, that the environment has been degraded, and that natural resources have been squandered. On the other hand, what we have learned in science, including agronomy and medicine, will not be lost, and much of it will still have practical applications. Vaccination was invented in the 18th Century.

Going forward: post-crisis reconfigurations of work

Now about that utopian solution… it consists of the abolition of work. Critics of work have largely not addressed public health directly. This was something of an oversight on our part. [31][31] See DeLeon, S. (1996). For Democracy Where We Work: A Rationale for Social Self-Management. In Reinventing Anarchy, Again. H. Ehrlich, Ed. Edinburgh, Scotland & San Francisco, California: AK Press, page 193. I have always contended, although not emphasized, that work, and especially (but not only) industrial work, is hazardous to your health. [32][32] Black, B. (1985). The Abolition of Work. In The Abolition of Work, pages 26-27; Black, B. (2015). Instead of Work. Berkeley, CA, 18-20.; Black, «Afterthoughts on the Abolition of Work,» 255-260. But might it be worth the risk? What is it that we call «work»? We do not demand the abolition of breathing, as one wit pretended. [33][33] Black, B. (1992). Smokestack Lightning. In Friendly Fire. Brooklyn: Autonomedia, pages 43-62.; Instead of Work, 55-76.; See my reply to David Ramsey-Steele: (1989). The Abolition of Breathing. Liberty. We do not demand the abolition of work as the physicists define work — as effort, as the expenditure of energy. [34][34] Black, B. (1992). No Future for the Workplace. In Friendly Fire. Brooklyn: Autonomedia, page 16.; Instead of Work, page 80. There will always be some of that, and it is not intrinsically undesirable. Indeed, humans are active by nature. We are not talking about idleness. We are talking about finding better things to do. In talking about work we are talking about a social institution.

Work, wrote Adam Smith (who is more respectable than I am) «corrupts even the activity of [the worker’s] body, and renders him incapable of exerting his strength with vigour and perseverance, in any other employment than that to which he is bred.» [35][35] Smith, A. (1902). An Enquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations. London: George Routledge & Sons, page 613. Its effect on the worker’s mind is even worse. Paul Lafargue, Karl Marx’s son in law, wrote (in 1880): «In capitalist societies, work is the cause of all intellectual degeneracy and all organic deformities.» [36][36] Lafargue, P. (1999). The Right to Be Lazy (L. Bracken, Trans.). Pennsylvania: Fifth Season Press, page 3. He adds: «Instead of acting against this mental aberration, priests, economists and moralists have turned work into a sacred cow.» With modern work it is not only the manual labor, which Smith and Lafargue mainly addressed, that is stultifying. Office work is also mostly boring and uncreative. As I have noted, «Work standardizes people as it does products, but since people by nature strive to produce themselves, work wastes effort lost to conflict and stress.» [37][37] Black, B. (1990). No Future for the Workplace. In Friendly Fire. Brooklyn: Autonomedia, 16-17; Instead of Work, page 82.

Short definitions of work might include «forced labor» and «compulsory production,» which are correct as far as they go. But a fuller definition of work is brought out by contrasting it with play. They are both purposive, goal-oriented activity. But the purpose of work is not working, whereas play is its own purpose, as I have explained: «Work, unlike play, is done not for the intrinsic satisfaction of the activity but for something separate which results from it [usually a paycheck]. The anticipated goal of play is the pleasure of the action.» [38][38] Black, B. (1990). Smokestack Lightning. In Friendly Fire. Brooklyn: Autonomedia, page 46; Instead of Work, page 60.

To combine the best part (in fact, the only good part) of work –the production of use-values– with the best of play, which I take to be every aspect of play, its freedom and it fun, shorn of the Calvinist connotations of frivolity and self-indulgence… If productive play is possible, so too is the abolition of work.

The utopian proposal is to transform work into a new type of free activity, [39][39] Strasbourg Student Union. (2006). On the Poverty of Student Life. Situationist International Anthology (K. Knabb, Trans.) productive play, of which I describe: «to combine the best part (in fact, the only good part) of work – the production of use-values – with the best of play, which I take to be every aspect of play, its freedom and it fun, shorn of the Calvinist connotations of frivolity and self-indulgence… If productive play is possible, so too is the abolition of work[40][40] Black, B. (1990). No Future for the Workplace. In Friendly Fire. Brooklyn: Autonomedia, 48; Instead of Work, pages 60-61. I claim no originality for this idea.  It is implicit in the wonderful utopian schemes of Charles Fourier. [41][41] E.g., Beecher, J. & Bienvenu, R. (Eds.). (1971). The Utopian Vision of Charles Fourier. Boston: Beacon Press.; Poster, M. (Ed.). (1971). Harmonian Man: Selected Writings of Charles Fourier (S. Hanson, Trans.). New York: Doubleday & Company. It is explicit in William Morris. He wrote (in 1884) that under socialism, «not only would every one work with the certain hope of gaining a due share of wealth by his work, but also he could not miss his due share of rest.»

But though the compulsion of man’s tyranny is thus abolished, I yet demand compensation for the compulsion of Nature’s necessity. As long as the work is repulsive it will still be a burden which must be taken up daily, and even so would mar our life, even though the hours of labour are short. What we want to do is to add to our wealth without diminishing our pleasure. Nature will not be finally conquered till our work becomes a part of the pleasure of our lives. [42][42] Morton, A. (Ed.). (1973). Useful Work versus Useless Toil. In Political Writings of William Morris. New York: International Publishers, page 95.

Friedrich Schiller wrote: «The animal works when deprivation is the mainstream of its activity, and it plays when the fullness of its strength is the mainstream, when superabundant energy is its own stimulus to activity.» [43][43] Schiller, F. (1954). On the Aesthetic Education of Man, in a Series of Letters (R. Snell, Trans.). London: Routledge, page 133. Schiller’s distinction corresponds to psychologist Abraham Maslow’s distinction between deficiency motivation and growth motivation; see Maslow, A. (1968). Toward a Psychology of Being. New York: D. Van Norstrand Co. Schiller thought that man had a twofold nature: «pure intellect» (reason) in the mind, and an «empirical intellect» (nature) in the world of sense experience. [44][44] Schiller, F. (1954). On the Aesthetic Education of Man, pages 43-45, & 70 n. 1. They are reconciled, and man becomes all that he can be, in play: «So, the play impulse, in which both combine to function, will compel the mind at once morally and physically; it will therefore, since it annuls all chance, annuls all compulsion too, and sets man free both physically and morally.» [45][45] Ibid., page 74. If that is rather obscure, Schiller makes clear the concept of, «replacing work with pleasure, exertion with relaxation, activity with passivity.» [46][46] Schiller, F. (2016). Letters to Prince Frederick Christian von Hardenberg. In On the Education of Man (K. Tribe, Trans.). Penguin Classics, page 152.

This immodest proposal raises many questions, some of which I have tried to address in my writings on work. Someone always asks: «Who will do the dirty work?» There are answers to that question. [47][47] Gibson, T. (1952). Who Will Do the Dirty Work? London: Pamphlets BC Quail/GIB. And why do we think some work is dirty? I don’t have all the answers. I do not even have all the questions. The experts on work are the people who offer this. They will have ideas about what to do with the work they do, if it is worth doing at all. Very likely there will be many questions, with multiple answers. Some kinds of work are, for some people, satisfying if only done from time to time, or if done for not too long. [48][48] Black, B. (1986). The Abolition of Work. In The Abolition of Work and Other Essays. Port Townsend, Washington: Loompanics Unlimited. Some work (to some degree, most work), which is oppressive because of how work is now organized, could lose at least some of its oppressive character if unnecessary authority or supervision were removed, and it was carried out in safe, pleasant conditions among friends. [49][49] Ibid. And variety in work is very important, as I explain, «To compel a man to do day after day the same task, without any hope of escape or change, means nothing short of turning his life into a prison-torment.» [50][50] Morton, A. (Ed.). (1973). Useful Work versus Useless Toil. In Political Writings of William Morris. New York: International Publishers, page 101.

The general tendency will be toward local autonomy amidst regional diversity. Local neighborhoods and settlements will not be fortified, gated communities with delusions of sovereignty. Regions, cultural regions, will often focus on bioregions, with permeable boundaries. [51][51] Cafard, M. (2003). The Surre(gion)alist Manifesto. In The Surre(gion)alist Manifesto and Other Writings. Baton Rouge, Louisiana: Exquisite Corpse. Diversity will flourish locally, regionally, and internationally. We will be better off by exploring the possibilities of what is closer. Big cities have brought us together physically, but separated us socially. Big workplaces have done the same thing. Mass society has given rise to «the lonely crowd»: [52][52] Riesman, D., Glazer, N. and Denney, R. (1950). The Lonely Crowd: A Study of the Changing American Character New Haven, Connecticut: Yale University Press. This sociology book surprisingly became a best-seller. people being alone together. Paradoxically, social distancing might complement bringing people together emotionally, in a shared way of life that is more sociable than mass society.

Is it contrived for me to promote this agenda as a response to the COVID-19 crisis? Of course, I do not think so. The virus is a challenge to other ideologies too, and maybe to all ideologies. Health issues, especially public health issues, are often not just health issues.  Contagious disease is clearly not just a private concern for individuals and their physicians. It is a social issue. Even the physicians know that. And they know that diet, rest, safety, anxiety, insecurity, and even sociability strongly influence physical and mental health. How we live has a lot to do with how long we live, and with how well we live. Fatigue, stress, boredom, and even a touch of fear, which are often inflicted by work – they really are hazardous to your health! They adversely affect the immune system. And they just do not feel good. Maybe happiness is healthy.  And maybe freedom is healthy.