Tomorrow, the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions will announce a new “contract” with the poor. Those receiving the miniscule and dwindling stipend that the government grants anyone without means to support themselves in these straitened times may be required to toil for the state, for free, or face being shoved off benefits.
You spotted the twisted bit, right? That would be the bit where the author talks about receiving cash benefits in return for work as being working for free.
You would normally think this would be enough crazy talk for one column, but there’s more!
We keep being told that relentless work is good for us. The expectation that all people “of working age” should spend 45 hours a week performing pointless tasks in small cubicles for someone else’s profit while cramming unpaid housework and childcare into the remaining time is only a very recent function of late capitalism, but conservative myopia would have us believe that this cruel and unusual process is somehow normal.
Actually, I’d say that the expectation is for people to take care of themselves; it’s up to them to fit themselves for something they find tolerable or maybe even – gasp! – enjoyable. I think that concept of caring for yourself and your family has been around for “quite some time.” And if people aren’t equipped for jobs that they find at least somewhat meaningful, they should be able to find some small satisfaction in not needing a handout from the government. And, you know, having to work for free in exchange for money.