Culture Magazine

Whatever Happened to Work? [hard-core No More]

By Bbenzon @bbenzon

While Musk in exhorting the remaining employees at Twitter to work "hard core," many Americans are rethinking the idea of work: Jessica Bennett, " The Worst Midnight Email Fro the Boss, Ever," NYTimes, Nov. 23, 2022. From the article:

Even before the pandemic, many white-collar Americans were starting to rethink their relationships to work. Persistent income inequality, enduring racial and gender discrimination, disillusionment with the capitalist promise - "hustle culture" was a catchy slogan, but was any of this really worth it?

These days, the rise-and-grind mentality of just a couple of years ago has been replaced by sleeping in. (Rest is resistance - haven't you heard?) There are regular headlines about our collective revolt against the cult of ambition, and "quiet quitting," the catchy phrase to describe doing the bare minimum at work (or, you know, just treating it like a job), apparently describes half of the U.S. work force, according to a recent Gallup poll. Young people have meme-ified their own antiwork sentiments, proclaiming that they don't dream of labor to catchy TikTok tunes or on Reddit, with the motto "Unemployment for all, not just the rich."

And why wouldn't they? Workplace burnout is a national crisis. According to a recent poll by the research firm Gartner, almost two-thirds of employees said the pandemic had made them question the role work should play in their lives, and the Society for Human Resource Management reports that more than half of American managers leave work feeling exhausted at the end of the day. It's perhaps no surprise, then, that unionization efforts are underway across the country, aiming not only for higher wages but also for better working conditions overall. [...]

As one TikTok user said, in a quote I've been laughing about since reading it in an article in Vox last spring: "I don't want to be a girlboss. I don't want to hustle. I simply want to live my life slowly and lay down in a bed of moss with my lover and enjoy the rest of my existence reading books, creating art and loving myself and the people in my life."

Honestly, yes. "Hard core" is a bygone era of management, not to mention a bygone way of living. As it happens, we've now got plenty of other, soft-core interests to replace it. [...]

Maybe what we are witnessing with Twitter's mass exodus - and the general antiwork sentiment in general - is a labor revolt "in real time," as one Twitter user put it. None of us want a job in which we are overworked or undervalued, responding to fear or ultimatums, but for many people, that's what work still is.

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