By Frank Joyce
It’s one thing to theorize about new and better ways to organize work; but the idea of new work/new culture, as articulated by Frithjof Bergmann of the Center for New Work in Flint, Michigan, is to combine thinking and doing. Bergmann describes “new work” as “the transformation from industrial to community production.” The Brightmoor Makerspace watercycle project is a terrific example.
The youngsters at Detroit Community High have created a “makerspace,” where the idea of work is being redefined to address the immediate needs of communities. Their project is a model of many efforts to reimagine work that are taking place not only in Detroit but throughout the world. It reflects a critique of the J-O-B system of organizing work, which was examined at the New Work/New Culture conferences held in Detroit in 2011 and 2014. The J-O-B system organizes the work of the world in the following ways:
- It offers too much to some and little or none to others.
- It depends on production for the sake of production and consumption for the sake of consumption.
- It compels unequal relationships between employers and the employed.
- It is cruel to the unemployed.
- It pressures even its managers to be frightened, overworked, and exhausted.
- It drives the insatiable destruction of precious natural resources.
- It is hostile to the creation of community.
- It is inherently stressful to individuals, families and society.
- It deforms the entire process of education.
- It politically empowers some to the unnecessary disadvantage of others.
- It reproduces entrenched racial and global disparities.
- It promotes conflict rather than cooperation.
- It requires dishonesty and deceit at every turn, especially in the marketing of everything.
As currently structured, the global J-O-B system is not only failing, it is a menace to life on the planet. It is a system whose time has passed. The Brightmoor Makerspace watercycle project invites us to open our minds to more holistic definitions of work. We can find remedies for the grand issues of sustainability — access to clean water, viable transportation and alternative energy sources. In a community-based work environment, the people who become problem-solvers are people who know best what the real problems are. As such, they are in the best position to solve them. For more information: www.newworknewculture.org
Frank Joyce is a lifelong Detroit-based writer and activist. He is co-editor with Karen Aguilar-San Juan of ‘The People Make the Peace- Lessons From the Vietnam Antiwar Movement‘.