Posted On 13 Sep 2009
What we do creates our selves.
Believe it or not, you are not a separate self. You are empty of any continuant substratum. Realizing this (as opposed to just thinking about it) is [spiritual] enlightenment, which is necessary for living well. These ideas are controversial. I argue for them elsewhere. Here, though, I’ll just assume them.
Notice how naturally we identify ourselves with our economic activity. We often think or say “I’m a physician” or “She’s a police officer” or “My brother is an accountant.” It’s at least a quick way of identifying ourselves. Actually, it’s a very important truth about our lives.
To have a job is to have someone else give you money in exchange for your time and effort, your laboring activity. Jobs, of course, can be classified in many ways: white collar or blue collar, well paid or poorly paid, creative or uncreative, and so on.
If you have a full-time job, what you do on the job constitutes the bulk of your economic activity. (You also participate in the economy by consuming as well as by providing.) You are participating in an economic system that distributes goods and services in exchange for money. Your job occupies a good deal of your time; much of your daily life consists in preparing for being at work at your job, working at your job, and recovering from working at your job. If, as is likely, the income from your job is important to you, your job is of ongoing concern to you. The results of it are a source of motivation.
The value you add to whatever products you produce or services you provide is not a separate, self-contained part of your life. The worth of what you think of yourself as being, doing, and having is not separate from the value of your economic activity.
Should you have a job? Ah, that’s an interesting question. Since, as I just argued, having a job may be of great value to you, if you lose a job, your attitude about yourself might decline. If losing your job was in any way a reflection on the quality of your economic activity, you might take it as a blow to your self-esteem. You might try to hide the loss of your job from others, and you might yearn to find a replacement quickly. There can be a lot of emotion involved with obtaining, having, or losing a job.
Like alcohol and some other drugs, emotions can narrow our focus and prevent us from thinking clearly. I propose to think clearly about having a job. In particular, I propose to review a popular critique of having a job (in terms of “exploitation” and in terms of “alienation”) and propose an alternative that might interest or even stimulate you.