Useful unemployment

Unemployment means sad idleness, rather than the freedom to do things that are useful for oneself or for one’s neighbour. (Illich) Work is not only called work if there is a wage for it. There is much work to be done and many idle hands willing to do it.

So much useful work is done by the unemployed, and it is the kind of work that enriches our society rather than the Gross National Product. This work sometimes fails to register as value, because it does not merit financial value. Most of the autonomous work we do is undervalued in a system that only registers the mono value of money.

“An active woman who runs a house and brings up children and takes in those of others is distinguished from a woman who ‘works’, no matter how useless or damaging the product of this work might be.” [Illich] Jobs that destroy resources, create useless or fanciful products, demand high energy costs and offer no enjoyment or creativity are valued in the mono culture of money; higher than “useful” unemployment, no matter how much joy it brings, of what educational value it engenders, nor its non-invasive nature.

The neoliberal system can not function without unemployment, it is what makes it work. Useful unemployment de-stigmatises unemployment, creates values that challenge the mono culture of money and encourages us to think and look for alternatives outside of that restrictive culture.

Even unwaged, when the work is useful can be empowering and rewarding in other ways. But it needs to be useful work (Not the idea of a government initiative that’s purpose is to change the figures on an unemployment spread sheet.) The sooner we start to train ourselves the better and hopefully this would have a knock on effect in the very educational institutions that feeds the ideology that, profit and growth, are the only things worthy of our sweat.