What's the Incentive to Work in an Anarchist Society?


One of the most common arguments against the establishment of Anarchist Socialism is that there would be no incentive to work in a new, future society - leading to widespread apathy and laziness among the general population, with a few carrying the burden of the overwhelming majority at best and at worst nothing will be done at all. The aim of this piece is to highlight that the opposite is instead true - that in a socialist society there will even more of an incentive to work productively (in the capitalist sense) and to contribute to the communal pot which we can all then draw from.

Firstly we should reject the capitalist ethos of what is productive labour. To summarise under capitalism productive labour is valued by how much profit can be made in a transaction of goods, services or ficticous capital - not by how valuable it is on a human level. Take for instance stock brokers who get enormous pay checks for betting on and moving currency or goods around the world, while mothers and the care givers of children get next to nothing, becoming slaves to charity, the state or their partners (possible all of these) to support them in the rearing and socialisation of children, so arguably one of the most important jobs in society gets no remuneration.

We can assume from the given examples above that the way labour is valued under Capitalism is completely ridiculous and without a logical or moral basis - therefore we must find a new way of finding value in labour. The easiest, most effective, efficient way of doing this is to recognise what is reality - that is all work is interconnected, part of an unbroken chain stretching back millennial to the everyday workings of the world around us. All work is interdependent on each cog in the supply and production chain. This means from the guardians who rear children, those who give emotional and intellectual guidance to children, teaching them how to work and societal vales, to the teacher at school who instructs them in languages, maths etc. to the colleges that educate individuals in technical knowledge, all work is dependent and reliant on each other part to create the sum of all parts, the multi-faceted individual - simple put there is no way to break down the value of individual parts of 'work' to find who creates what or who should get paid the most.

We should all share in the fullest riches of societal labour by having free access to plentiful goods and services and after that for these goods to be portioned out by need.

This leads onto the Socialist incentive to work. When all work is valued there are therefore no unproductive people in the world. Everyone has a social function and worth in a society that is not profit orientated and based on class domination.

In a Socialist society the would be free healthcare, housing, education, clothing , food and any other necessity that was deemed needed for the fullest development of the human being. What more of an incentive does one need? In comparison in Capitalist Ireland today roughly 20% of the populace earn the minimum wage or just above it - this is no incentive to work. This is effectively forced labour and destitution.

In a Socialist society people who have the healthiest food, the best of medical services and all the necessary amenities they needed. Why today do people slog away for at least 40 hours a week to just survive when they could work for 10 or 15 hours a week, with flexible working hours, clean and easy work and strong caring friendships and relationships to focus their energies on.

This is a utopia you say, completely impossible! how could society be organised in this fashion?

No. It is not impossible-far from it. It should be remembered that over 100 years ago the aim of major industrial unions in the USA was not the 8 hour day but the 4 hour day - a 20 hour week. They knew a short working week was possible then if we reorganised the way work is done, and it is even more easier to imagine today.

Firstly 'bullshit' jobs could be done away through mechanised automation or become the voluntary duty of community members, then much of the 'work' in capitalist society will simple not exist. Robots can be easily designed, built and maintained to take over the transport industry, the food catering industry, the high street, the cleaning industry, farming and many more jobs which would not be necessary after and complete reorganisation of society and investment into new robotic systems.

The total percentage of all the industries mentioned above comes to nearly 50% of the workforce today. All of this could be done away with simple because some of these jobs would be unnecessary in a socialist economy or through robotics.

This would free human beings up to concentrate on building peaceful communities, to build strong relationships with friends and neighbours or to endeavour in scientific, artistic or cultural initiatives that would again improve the lot of the community and society at large.

Even from a capitalist logic the idea that there would be no incentive to work in a socialist, anarchist society is nonsensical. Incentives would be the free, second-to-none healthcare, education, housing, green technology, food and much more. Well-being and prosperity for all is achievable if we create it together.