overwork undermines love and is collapsing our soceity

hypothesis: working too much actually undermines our society’s capacity to be loving. this makes our individual problems at odds with our collective problems and make the whole system unsolvable.

how to test that? unclear. but here’s the thinking that lead me here:

industrial capitalism with its hourly wages connects livelihood to amount of work done. in theory, the more hours you work, the more money you’ll make and the better you’ll be able to economically support yourself and/or your family. so, this means that the path to a better life is seen as working more and also getting a higher wage.

the trouble with over-prioritizing money is, well, money isn’t actual wealth. this quote from alan w. watts explains this really well. 

“What we have forgotten is that thoughts and words are conventions, and that it is fatal to take conventions too seriously. A convention is a social convenience, as, for example, money. Money gets rid of the inconveniences of barter. But it is absurd to take money too seriously, to confuse it with real wealth, because it will do you no good to eat it or wear it for clothing. Money is more or less static, for gold, silver, strong paper, or a bank balance can “stay put” for a long time. But real wealth, such as food, is perishable. Thus a community may posses all the gold in the world, but if it does not farm its drops it will starve.”
— alan w. watts, the wisdom of insecurity

loving takes real time and energy. and the more people work, the less time they have to love.

“The practice of love takes time. Without a doubt, the way we work in this society leaves individuals with little time when they are not physically and emotionally tired to work on the art of loving.”
— bell hooks, all about love, chapter title: mutuality: the heart of love

without time to learn how to love and be loving (to yourself and to others), individuals fail to develop their capacity to love. without this capacity, self-love, familial love, community love, and societal love are all out of reach.

and since loving means taking actions that encourage the growth and well-being of others, this lacking capacity means we will never make good collective decsions about our soceity (healthcare, policing, financial policy, etc.).

there’s more to this, but the more i think about this, the more i believe that overwork undermines a functional world.

if i’m honest, this is part of why i’m so excited about ross’s #5to9 concept. it’s not a new idea (juliet schor has written several books on why working less is better for societies, most especially the overworked american), but it’s a necessary one. supporting/encouraging people to work differently (less) and do other things with their time may actually encourage repair in our societies. if people have more time to learn how to love and then act on it, maybe we will be more compassionate to ourselves, our families, our communities, our nation, our society, our fellow humans, our world.


relevant recent articles from colleagues