The Green concept of work

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The persistence of a growth-based economy has led to a crisis in the industrial societies based on the production of material richness and paid forms of work. Today’s developed societies have managed to reduce their dependence on human labour time and strength more than ever: computers, networks, automatic processes and devices are now essential parts of productive structures. Therefore, elements that cannot be mechanised or programmed, such as knowledge, creativity and imagination, now play a main role in value creation.

As a consequence, the traditional so-called ‘productive work’ is subject to a process of devaluation, which leads to more and more precarious, unstable and badly paid jobs. At the same time, not having a salary and no job today almost automatically means being socially excluded. Protection mechanisms as well as current social circumstances lead to, sooner or later, sending the individuals back to the labour market, forcing them to work no matter what the social and ecological conditions are, in a vicious circle dominated by the idea of ‘full employment’.

However, the construction of a true ecological welfare society requires acknowledging that wealth is not only based on money exchanges, material richness and its traditional ‘productive work’. Cultural, political, family, artistic, associative and voluntary activities are sources of wealth and forms of valuable work as well. Therefore, it is ‘full activity’ that should replace ‘full employment’ as the horizon of the cognitive Green societies.

In relation to this, it is a priority to re-orientate and reduce production, promoting new forms of social relationships and trade based on solidarity and cooperation. Local trade systems and Green cooperatives are some examples of a social and ecological economy and a Green transformation of society. The concept of wealth and richness must be redefined in order to include the social and ecological values: the reform of indicators such as the GDP, and the creation of a universal, unconditional basic income are necessary steps in this direction.

Note: on the redefinition of the concept of work, we recommend the reading of Hannah Arendt, André Gorz or Dominique Méda

by Florent Marcellesi and Hector Sanjuan

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