End of growth – work without end?

What does a typical day in 2040 look like??

Will we freely divide our time, what are the needs of ourselves and other people in our community? How about you and me, maybe this week we’re working twenty times instead of thirty in our collective so we can finally fix this wheelchair ramp to the kids shop?

Or is our time schedule dependent on other things? Maybe you’re a nurse, you work in a hospital – in a private, public health care became almost irrelevant ten years ago – and you’re told you’ll need to take half an extra ward this week. You quickly send a cancellation to the volunteer clinic, because you suspect that you can not help out today – there you sometimes work voluntarily to support people who can not afford health treatments …

How self-determined our work is depends on the conditions in which we work, how different forms of work are recognized, and also on what motives we work. The book “End of growth – work without end” deals not only critically with future scenarios for a world of work without economic growth, it dares also to basic questions (what is work?), Makes concrete proposals, such as the concepts of electoral working time and the Commoning , and considers issues such as care work , gender equality, working time (reduction), fair wage culture, basic income, productivity and environmental impact, role of welfare state and alternative modes of production.

The book was edited by Hans Diefenbacher, Benjamin Held and Dorothee Rodenhäuser and was created from the conference of the same name in 2015. It contains contributions from various disciplines, especially economics and sociology. The contributions are diverse – most likely to be summarized as answers to the question: What can work in a world without economic growth look like and what challenges can be expected?

The basic knowledge, which is highlighted in the introduction to the book by Volker Teicher and Hans Diefenbacher, hovers over these questions: they analyze scenarios that focus on changing the world of work through Industry 4.0 and immigration – and conclude that the socio-ecological Aspects do not receive enough attention. Could these changes be used as a chance to design changes in the world of work? Such changes could include anchoring more recognition for care work in the state, as Mascha Madörin points out in her contribution to “Reflections on the Future of Care Work,” or, as proposed by Christine Ax, work based on the concept of “working” to shape craftsmanship – for example, when energy production is decentralized again taken by citizens themselves in the hand. Jürgen Rinderspacher acknowledges with the simplistic conclusion that reductions in working hours are automatically associated with relief for the environment – on the one hand they do not necessarily lead to lower productivity in the industry, because new jobs could easily be created, and on the side of the employees is unclear whether the newly gained time would not be used for polluting activities.

A concrete tool is the electoral working time proposed by Andreas Hoff, with which one could flexibly vary the working time within a certain hourly margin. A vision is also described by Brigitte Kratzwald: She sees in Commoning a mode of production based on need satisfaction and community. Michael Opielka asks how a welfare state without economic growth can organize and finance areas such as culture, health and education and proposes a “transversal” social policy. The term goes back to Nira Yural-Davis and is described by Opielka in a succinct sketch as a policy that takes human rights as a point of reference and promotes personal rather than material growth. It concludes with examples of current post-growth projects, whose employees were interviewed by the AG Postwachstumsgesellschaft (teaching research project at the Goethe University Frankfurt) around Birgit Blättel-Mink, Alexandra Rau and Sarah Schmitz on their experiences. The participating projects did not necessarily define themselves as a post-growth project: they surveyed a coffee collective, physicians who provide voluntary uninsured migrants, a solidary clinic and an ethical bank. It was about how the actors of these projects organize and perform their work – eg. For example, the question of how care work is integrated or how work is designed to promote health. The answers are as varied as the projects studied; The conclusion emphasizes, among other things, the tension between critique of capitalism and the simultaneous necessity to grow as a project in order to be able to survive (and, if necessary, to be able to pay fair wages).

The arguments are conclusive and understandable, even for readers who have no sociological or economic background. When reading, one would occasionally wish that the authors directly respond to problems formulated elsewhere in the book – as a compilation of such diverse contributions to the conference, as a reader one tends to be more inclined to produce references himself. While there are felt to be as many suggestions for this change as challenges and points of discussion are raised, the contributions are upbeat and hope that the work of the future will be oriented toward needs, community and self-determination.


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