People without work and in receipt of benefits are viewed as a drain on the state and in need of assistance or direct coercion to get them into work.
There is the belief that work is the best form of welfare and that those who are able to work ought to work. This particular focus on work has come at the expense of another, far more radical policy goal, that of creating “less work”. Yet, as I will argue below, the pursuit of less work could provide a route to a better standard of life, including a better quality of work life.
The idea that society might work less in order to enjoy life more goes against standard thinking that celebrates the virtue and discipline of hard work. Dedication to work, so the argument goes, is the best route to prosperity. There is also the idea that work offers the opportunity for self-realisation, adding to the material benefits from work. “Do what you love” in work, we are told, and success will follow.
But ideologies such as the above are based on a myth that work can always set us free and provide us with the basis for a good life. As I have written elsewhere, this mythologising about work fails to confront – indeed it actively conceals – the acute hardships of much work performed in modern society. For many, work is about doing what you hate.