We Shall Overcome? The Work Ethic Revisited

Research output: Non-textual formBlog Post


How will society frame its relations to work beyond production? In recent debates on the potential for a post-work society, work ethic has become the point of departure for a critical political theory of and against work. Political interventions seek to redefine work ethic in a counter-hegemonic project to overcome ‘existing ideas about the necessity and desirability of work, and the imposition of suffering as a basis for remuneration’, as Srnicek and Williams put it. The latter contention completely abandons any work ethic and underlying socially constructed norms focussing on individual effort. Among post-work advocates the society of the future is one without a work ethic. According to this account, with automation on the horizon, work is no longer necessary for many tasks. With the increase in free human labour, the present work ethic would lose its basis. The suggestion seems to be that we focus on post-work politics, and not on post-work ethics. This might in part explain why political demands like the Universal Basic Income, discussed elsewhere in this issue by Anton Jager and Daniel Zamora, have occupied public debate for decades, whilst some of the core assumptions of work ethic, as it relates to what Max Weber called the ‘spirit of capitalism’, have been utterly broken down.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 16 Oct 2018


  • work ethics
  • future of work
  • social justice


Dive into the research topics of 'We Shall Overcome? The Work Ethic Revisited'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this