Laziness as a Form of Resistance

woman sunrise

The productivist ideology lies at the core of the profit-making pyramid of capitalism. It perpetuates a relentless cycle characterized by busy schedules, workplace tension, an imbalance in work-life equilibrium, and a pervasive sense of alienation. These challenges afflict individuals across various professions, all of whom contribute their labour for wages in exchange for the creation of value (the core of profit for capitalists). However, rather than fostering prosperity for all, the productivist ideology serves to enrich capitalism while perpetuating poverty among the masses.

Capitalism as a system thrives on the perpetual cycle of production and reproduction, sustained by the necessities and desires of everyday life within the framework of capitalist structures. Regardless of the stage of development, these structures persist in our society, ensnaring individuals in a web of risks, insecurities, low wages, and exploitation. The pillars of the free market economic project, intertwined with the meritocratic political spectrum, further exacerbate these inequalities. They uphold a system where profit accumulation and individual success are prioritized over the well-being of the collective. Thus, the productivist ideology not only sustains the capitalist machinery but also perpetuates a cycle of inequality and hardship for the masses.

The May Day promise of an equitable capital-labour accord, advocating for eight hours of work, eight hours of leisure, and eight hours of rest, has withered away in the face of evolving forms of capitalism, especially with the advent of the digital revolution. The traditional collective wage bargaining, once championed by trade union movements, is losing its efficacy as platform economies emerge within the capitalist framework. These platforms further segment the workforce based on various criteria such as skill levels, education, and geographic location, creating hierarchies of labour that exacerbate existing inequalities.

In the contemporary landscape, work under capitalism serves not only as a means of survival but also as the root cause of myriad social, economic, cultural, and political woes. It perpetuates and amplifies various forms of inequality and exploitative relationships, casting a shadow over the promise of prosperity for all. The seemingly innate drive for work, often fuelled by the commitment and morality of the working class, paradoxically reinforces its own subjugation to capital. This passion for work, while admirable in its dedication, unwittingly perpetuates the bondage to capital in the daily lives of working people, entrenching them deeper within the system.

The technological and digital revolution was anticipated to liberate working people, affording them more leisure time to pursue socially meaningful activities by enhancing productivity. However, this vision has been overshadowed by the reality of technology infiltrating even the most private spaces of people’s lives. In today’s job landscape, workers in sectors such as information technology find themselves toiling long hours, often without job security or autonomy over their labour. The rise of technology-led work has blurred the boundaries between professional and personal life, with tasks encroaching into people’s bedrooms and bathrooms. This intrusion disrupts the traditional notion of work-life balance, leaving workers feeling tethered to their jobs around the clock.

Moreover, the principles of bureaucratic Taylorism, emphasizing efficiency and standardization, have become even more deeply entrenched in contemporary workplaces. This trend serves to intensify the exploitation of workers by imposing greater pressure to accelerate the pace of work, often at the expense of their well-being.

Compounding these challenges is the diminishing influence of trade union movements, which historically served as a bulwark against worker exploitation. In the current landscape, workers find themselves more vulnerable than ever, lacking the collective bargaining power that characterized the industrial era. This vulnerability exposes them to exploitation and precarious working conditions, highlighting the urgent need for renewed efforts to protect workers’ rights in the digital age.

The capitalist work regime ensnares workers within its productivist culture, wherein true emancipation for workers lies in liberation from work itself. There is little merit in fervently dedicating oneself to work and employers when the fruits of labour produced by the working classes are siphoned off by a privileged few bourgeois. Engaging with capitalism as a system of social, political, cultural, and economic organization only serves to perpetuate the organized plunder sanctioned by authority.

Consider the implications if working people were to collectively cease their labour and defy the productivist ideology of capitalism. What would be the future of capitalist work if workers exclusively pursued socially meaningful endeavours aligned with genuine needs and desires? And what might become of the working population if they were to embrace laziness as a political choice? While imagining a world devoid of work in the midst of the technological revolution may seem utopian, it raises profound questions about the nature of labour and its role in society. Could “No to work,” disengagement, and non-cooperation be the only viable responses to these fundamental inquiries?

In contemplating these notions, it becomes evident that the current structure of capitalism perpetuates a cycle of exploitation and alienation for the working class. Embracing alternatives that prioritize human well-being over relentless productivity may hold the key to unlocking a future where individuals are liberated from the shackles of labour and empowered to pursue lives socially rich in meaning and fulfilment.

In a society steeped in the decadence of capitalism, laziness takes on a new significance—it becomes a virtue. Choosing to disengage from the relentless pursuit of profit within the confines of the capitalist market is not merely an act of idleness but a potent form of political, social, and cultural resistance against an increasingly antisocial culture that commodifies human labour. In the face of a system devoid of humanity, where individuals are reduced to mere cogs in the machinery of production, the concept of “working for wages” loses its appeal. Capitalism, with its relentless pursuit of profit at the expense of human dignity, offers no semblance of compassion or empathy. In such a system, the only respite from suffering comes with death, highlighting the inherent exploitation embedded within its framework of price and value.

Let us envision a society where the essence of life transcends the constraints of monetized time, where individuals are liberated to explore the richness of existence beyond the dictates of the market. By embracing laziness as a means of tapping into inherent happiness and unleashing the creative potential inherent within every human being that paves the way for social progress, cooperation, solidarity, peace, and prosperity. In this vision, the celebration of living labour extends beyond the confines of economic productivity, fostering a culture of genuine fulfilment and collective well-being. Let us dare to be lazy in the pursuit of a world where the true essence of humanity flourishes, unencumbered by the chains of capitalist exploitation.

Let’s create a society where living labour can celebrate life beyond the capitalist framework of monetisation time, people, place, and environment. Let laziness be a form of resistance to capitalism. Let’s be lazy to explore inherent happiness within every human being and their creativity abilities for social progress, cooperation, solidarity, peace, and prosperity.

Bhabani Shankar Nayak, London Metropolitan University, UK

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