For Work / Against Work
Debates on the centrality of work

"The Mental Labor Problem"

by Ross, Andrew (2000)


Historically, noncommercial mental workers have found it too challenging, and professionally limiting, to see themselves as workers. Academics have often viewed their daily teaching and service obligations as a menial chore or necessary evil that allows them to pursue the life of the mind in their research—their “real” work—on sabbatical or in summer breaks. Artists contracted by federal or local government programs such as the Comprehensive Employment and Training Act (CETA) (in the 1970s, the biggest public commitment to job subsidies since the WPA) routinely have made a distinction between what they do for a living in the realm of public and community arts, and their own after-hours work as expressive individuals.32 Even in the WPA years, many artists who qualified for poor relief refused federal assistance through the artists programs because they were averse to being classed as laborers (while others saw the program as a conspiracy to shut them up by offering full-time work). Writers of all stripes continue to regard part-time commercial work as a vile meal ticket that expedites their true calling


Mental Labor, Artist, Creativity, Musicians


Employment, Capitalism, Automation

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