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About media framing • (written by Brian Dean)

Antiwork – a modest proposal

antiwork-logo-halftoneOct 15, 2014Antiwork is a new project I’m working on. The aim is to radically reframe “work” and “leisure” – to provide a moral alternative to the obsession with toil.

Currently, the rightwing message-machine is winning the battle on work. We’re all supposed to work harder, longer, further into old age, for smaller reward – and be grateful. Some of us are even supposed to work without any pay (workfare), because it’s supposedly good for our “character” and “helps” us to “integrate”. And, of course, we’re to feel deeply ashamed if we’re not working.

The parts of the political left that don’t simply echo this conservative line (Labour Party leaders seem to be the worst offenders) counter with facts and figures. For example, the fact that most people living in poverty already have jobs. And although revealing the facts is necessary, it’s not sufficient. That’s the lesson we learn from framing: frames generally trump facts, especially when they’re deeply entrenched after decades of repetition.


To gauge wider interest in a project like Antiwork, I’ve set out a proposal on Contributoria. The idea is that people back ideas they like with blocks of points (which you get a load of, free, when you join – or at least I did; I think the idea is to eventually make it partly, and optionally, paid-subscription based. The backed ideas get modesty paid).

So, please have a look at my Antiwork proposal, and if you like it, please back it. If there’s enough interest, I’ll not only write the proposed Contributoria article, I’ll also start “work” on the antiwork.org website I’ve created. – Many thanks. [Update – it’s now been backed, and will apear in the December 2014 issue of Contibutoria].

Written by NewsFrames

October 15, 2014 at 8:32 am

Posted in Antiwork, Jobs, welfare

10 Responses

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  1. How many politicians repeat the mantra that “We’re here for the decent working people of this country”? Meanwhile Channel 4 gets away with programs like “Benefits Street”.

    John Dakin

    October 15, 2014 at 9:37 am

    • Exactly. “FOR HARDWORKING PEOPLE” was a Conservative party conference slogan. You can’t get away from these messages, they’re everywhere in our society, exerting a constant pressure. And then comes the shaming of those who don’t step in line. It’s going to take a lot to change it, but it’s heartening that increasing numbers of people resist it.


      October 15, 2014 at 10:08 am

  2. Good ideas Brian! Looking forward to reading more. I’m very interested in what perspectives, on work, that are most relevant from a progressive point of view.

    Rikard Linde

    October 15, 2014 at 11:46 am

  3. It’s something I’ve put off for a while, so it’s heartening to see the target reached for backers in less than a day. I pondered a long time over the title, “Antiwork”, as it can have negative connotations, and, as a general rule of thumb, labelling something in terms of a negation isn’t a good idea (see, for example, my criticism of the “degrowth” label wrt to Green economics).

    But the enthusiastic & positive comments I’ve had seem to indicate that people do “get” it. “Work” covers such a huge part of our conceptual makeup – there’s no getting away from it. The only feasible response for me is direct, provocative, and not aiming for respectability. “Antiwork” seems perfect in some ways, and it’s how many people used to refer to the stuff I wrote in the 1990s and 2000s for The Idler, etc.

    News Frames (@NewsFrames)

    October 15, 2014 at 1:39 pm

    • Great idea, disastrous title. Go with your gut and don’t negate things, you know about the effect of framing better than your commentators! Instead of being anti-this and anti-that, be pro!

      Pro work that is safe and healthy,
      Pro work that promotes self-development,
      Pro work that promotes family and community life,
      Pro work that protects and enhances the environment,
      Pro work that is enjoyable and rewarding,
      Pro work that promotes contact with others,
      Pro work that pays fairly.

      Call it SatisfyingWork, DignifiedWork or even ProWork, anything but Antiwork!


      October 17, 2014 at 12:39 pm

      • Ah, well, ‘Antiwork’ was my “gut” preference, in fact – right from the beginning. My only reservation was that some people wouldn’t “get” it. But then those people probably wouldn’t get it regardless of what I called it. And the purpose isn’t to reach a mass audience or convert people to a cause. The responses I’ve had indicate that people do understand the provocative reframing. Negation isn’t always to be avoided – it depends on the case. ‘Antifragile’ is a good example of a successful attempt to shift thinking (although it’s very different from the work example).


        October 17, 2014 at 2:20 pm

      • I disagree, Martin. I don’t think the “Pro work” titles you suggest capture the idea at all. Surely this is obvious? They sound more like the name of software for increasing efficiency! And things like “SatisfyingWork” just sound like the kind of mush that people already hear in company pep talks.


        October 17, 2014 at 5:20 pm

      • Hey Kathy, I think capturing the idea like you said is exactly what’s needed. For example ‘strong wages makes a strong society’ captures an idea whereas ‘antiwork’ and admitily the less zingy names that I suggested don’t do the job. Ultimately framing is all about ideas, and getting the ideas out is the most important thing. I fully support and encourage the project and don’t want it to be destroyed by negativity, by having nothing positive to say – that’s all.


        October 17, 2014 at 7:48 pm

      • It will be very positive – probably the most positive thing I’ve done. But obviously we want to get far away from the phony positive “work” frames of politicians and bureaucrats. Note the halo over the “A” in “Anti”.

        News Frames (@NewsFrames)

        October 18, 2014 at 11:55 am

  4. I’d tweet this but my overbearing editor follows me…


    October 15, 2014 at 2:09 pm

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