On Thursday I came to the following conclusion: workfare is the state’s equivalent of the private sector’s tendency to force people to work for nothing. My reasoning? As follows:
Maybe workfare is just the state’s equivalent – its construct if you like – of what private sector and self-employed individuals desperately spend most of their time struggling with: unpaid overtime in the hope of distant promotion; wining and dining in the hope of distant contracts. And the reason we have workfare, even where it may be illegal, is because – in a reasonably illegal (or at least immoral) way too – the private sector has, over time, had to become accustomed to playing the same unremunerated games.
After all, the state and the private sector are often mirrors of each other: closer in what and how they do the stuff they do than detractors of either would care to admit.
Think about it. Tomorrow is “Work Your Proper Hours Day”. Isn’t this pretty similar to what workfare asks us to do?
Work Your Proper Hours Day (24 Feb 2012) is the day when the average person who does unpaid overtime finishes the unpaid days they do every year, and starts earning for themselves. We think that’s a day worth celebrating.
Over five million people at work in the UK regularly do unpaid overtime, giving their employers £29.2 billion of free work last year alone. [...]
Meanwhile, back in 2010 I reported on Mr Duncan Smith’s penchant for blaming the unemployed for the state in which they found themselves, as I wondered if we were stumbling into “Alice in Wonderland” or Kafka. In the event, and from today’s perspective, it would seem it was a case of the first written by the second. The piece I wrote does, in fact, make for painful rereading – especially in the light of what’s been happening of late.
Prescient, even. Sadly enough.
And I am reminded of when I worked in a large corporation where it was suggested that volunteering activities should form a part of the bonus-attached compulsory annual objectives – that is to say, and I swear this really happened, an HR department of an 80,000-worker company was capable of coming up with the wizard wheeze of making volunteering compulsory.
Things like this do of course give volunteering a bad name. For it’s a small step from not wanting to volunteer any more to refusing to work in good faith under any circumstances. And we certainly don’t want that to happen.
So in a society where capitalism is no longer a force for freedom – and it would appear every capitalist of a successful bent has the perfect right and permission to maximise their personal wealth at the expense of everyone else – what place does the good faith that is this desire to work without being paid actually have?
That is to say, what is the place of volunteering in a society of the selfish?
Does it have any place in a society where everyone who is in charge is only out to maximise their outcomes?