Before coming across The Abolition of Work, and other essays I’d never even heard of Bob Black, but by the time I’d finished (in fact by the time I was even half way through my first reading of the title essay), I could definitely count myself a fan.
The Abolition of Work started life as a speech, and even though it was changed and expanded before appearing in print, it still has s strongly oratorical feel about it. That means it’s designed first and foremost to impress and convince the first-time listener or reader, sometimes sacrificing points of detail, scientific evidence and background information to “the majestic breadth and sweep of [the] argument”. This can give the impression that Black perhaps isn’t aware of, or isn’t interested in, the obvious objections to his ideas, and that he’s just sketching a vague and superficial picture of some sort of utopia without bothering too much about whether his ideas could ever be put into practice. It’s obvious from the start that Black is an intelligent guy and a good writer (or speaker), with a good sense of humour – even if he’s slightly too addicted to word-plays and to phrases such as ” If you’re not revolting against work, you’re working against revolt” and “In place of ‘majority rule’ we see an increasingly unruly majority”! It’s also clear that what he writes can be interesting, entertaining and even inspiring, but is there more to him than that? In other words, does he really know what he’s talking about? And does he deserve to be taken seriously ? Reading more of his essays, many of them more or less directly related to his ideas on work, was enough to convince me that he’s done his homework: he’s read widely, studied deeply and thought long and hard about everything he writes in this essay, and yes, he definitely does deserve to be taken seriously! (more…)