With the present essay we are ending the series on Work which nlrinaugurated nearly four years ago. Since then we have published some 50 personal work accounts—half in the Review and the remainder in Work (Pelican Original, January 1968) and its successor Work Volume 2 which has just appeared from the same publishers.
The widespread interest in this series points to the lack of occasion under monopoly capitalism for serious individual expression of the meaning and purpose of work. This lack, which we have tried in part to make good, is hardly fortuitous; the extent of bourgeois hegemony is manifested in the individual’s interiorizations of its daily routines, in acquiescence to its fundamental assumptions. The capitalist work rationale is central to this. To talk about work other than instrumentally is, however fragmentarily, to question its hasic capitalist nature rather than solely its inequitable economic returns.
A large number of these essays were deliberately solicited from and written by non-socialists. What can be learnt from them? That work for many remains a constrained, forced activity, a time of dissatisfaction, of wasted opportunities, of unfulfilled potential? This hardly needs stressing. More to the point is the expression—sometimes explicit, more often implicit—of the need felt for control, control not only of the work process but of the purpose of work. In the individual’s demands, often seen in terms of status, money and self-respect, the social nature of work is clearly posed. The basic capitalist contradiction between work that is inherently social and that yet remains controlled for private and sectional ends is, in these essays, a lived experience for many.
The concluding essay is an eloquent reminder of the many accounts of this theme. As the bourgeois vision of work remains an integral part of its hegemony, so the hopes and partial demands expressed in essays like these must be integrated in the vision of a socialist hegemony—a hegemony which, in destroying capitalist rationality, creates a society which will shape the necessity of work in accord with human needs.