For Work / Against Work
Debates on the centrality of work

Roads to Freedom

by Russell, Bertrand (1918)

Key Passage

But, it will be said, the sort of work that a man would voluntarily choose must always be exceptional; the great bulk of necessary work can never be anything but painful. Who would choose, if an easy life were otherwise open to him, to be a coal-miner, or a stoker on an Atlantic liner? I think it must be conceded that much necessary work must always remain disagreeable or at least painfully monotonous, and that special privileges will have to be accorded to those who undertake it, if the Anarchist system is ever to be made workable. It is true that the introduction of such special privileges would somewhat mar the rounded logic of anarchism, but it need not, I think, make any really vital breach in its system. Much of the work that needs doing could be rendered agreeable, if thought and care were given to this object. Even now it is often only long hours that make work irksome. If the normal hours of work were reduced to say, four, as they could be by better organisation and more scientific methods, a very great deal of work which is now felt as a burden would quite cease to be so. If, as Kropotkin suggests, agricultural work instead of being the lifelong drudgery of an ignorant labourer living very near the verge of abject poverty, were the occasional occupational of men and women normally employed in industry or brain-work; if, instead of being conducted by ancient traditional methods, without any possibility of intelligent participation by the wage-earner, it were alive with the search for new methods and new inventions, filled with the spirit of freedom, and inviting the mental as well as the physical cooperation of those who do the work, it might become a joy instead of a weariness, and a source of health and life to those engaged in it. (p.89) (p.89)


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