June 23 @ 6:00 pm - 8:00 pm
Across the planet, the coronavirus pandemic has upended the logic of everyday life. In almost every corner of every nation, people’s normal routines have been profoundly altered, a cloud of worry and anxiety hovering over virtually all of humanity. This disruption of normality has been particularly stark in people’s working lives. In the U.S., tens of millions have been thrown out of work in the blink of an eye, as have hundreds of millions more around the globe. Many millions more are working remotely, from home, while others, deemed “essential workers”, continue to go to work, often under extraordinarily perilous conditions. The world we had known, the way of life we had assumed to be eternal, to be part of the natural order of things, as inevitable as the tides, has been revealed to be a transient human construction, easily, if clumsily, undone when those in power deem it necessary.
But what will a post-pandemic world look like? As the viral threat recedes, and as we all emerge from our semi-quarantined cocoons, will things return to the structures and assumptions of pre-pandemic life? Or will life on the other side of COVID-19 be fundamentally different? This is The Question hanging in the air as countries and states and regions begin the process of reopening.
In her classic book, The Shock Doctrine, Naomi Klein explores the ways in which ruling elites invariably use disasters – natural or man-made – as contexts for remaking the social order to their own advantage, seizing on and putting into practice “ideas that had been lying around” but considered too toxic to implement in “normal”, pre-disaster times. We can expect no less of them in the months ahead. Yet there are also rumblings pulling in other directions. Even among timid centrists, there is talk, growing louder every day, of the need for some significant structural changes in a “progressive” direction – in our health care system, in how workers are treated, changes meant to address (or at least appear to address) the stark inequalities of wealth and income and the seemingly unstoppable march toward ecological and climate catastrophe that are hallmarks of the pre-pandemic world. Most of these proposed changes, while often sensible, helpful and just, are not intended as challenges to the underlying structures of the existing social order. Yet the historical moment is practically begging those of us on the left who believe in the need for fundamental, systemic change, to put forward more radical, paradigm shifting ideas that point toward profoundly different ways of organizing social life.
“Reimagining Work in a Post-Pandemic World” will be a two-session set of collaborative conversations meant as a preliminary exploration of how to envision a radically different understanding of the nature of work and its place in our everyday lives. We’ll combine some reflections on our own working lives, some readings exploring the nature of work in non-conventional ways, and lots of discussion about how to articulate and begin to implement a radical shift in the meaning and structure of work on an individual and societal level. We’ll discuss the implications and viability of some currently percolating, potentially paradigm-shifting projects and proposals such as a guaranteed Universal Basic Income, Worker Cooperatives, and the emergence of networks of locally based Mutual Aid projects that have blossomed during the corona shutdown. Readings for these sessions will mostly be short, including some poetry and excerpts from David Graeber’s provocative book, Bullshit Jobs. Participants’ suggestions for additional readings and discussion topics are welcome. The hope is that this two-session set of (virtually presented) conversations will be a starting point for more extensive future explorations of work in the post-pandemic world, connected, as much as possible, to existing and emerging, community and workplace-based undertakings.
Paul Wasserman is a (mostly) retired adult education teacher and program director. His lifetime of political activism has included: rank and file labor organizing (Taxi Rank & File Coalition); Central America solidarity work; food justice advocacy and project development; immigrant support; mutual aid and solidarity/cooperative economy support. His approach to teaching, political activism and program administration has been shaped by his commitment to building and nurturing democratic, collaborative communities. He currently serves as co-president of his local community garden.
The listed price is a suggested donation. No one excluded for inability to pay.
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