The world needs a new work culture, not just jobs
Austrian-born FRITHJOF BERGMANN, a professor of philosophy at the University of Michigan, USA, founded the Center for New Work in 1984 to help workers deal with the "dysfunctional job system". His philosophy later came to be called the 6 months-6 months p
What is the inspiration behind your foundation? Today, the whole world is worried about increasing dependence on machines and shrinking jobs. But this could also be an opportunity to get away from work that can only fetch us money and do things that we actually care for.
The idea of New Work New Culture (also called New Work) was born when I travelled to East European countries like Ukraine and Hungary in the 1970s and 1980s. I saw people in these communist countries devastated after industrialisation had taken over. It was then that I decided to invent a culture that would neither be communist nor capitalist.Later,I formulated the ‘6 months-6 months’proposal.According to this, for six months people could engage in their regular jobs and earn money and in the remaining six months of the year,they could volunteer for community jobs like teaching or farming. Although this sounded a bit unrealistic, I was surprised to know that people actually wanted to be involved in such kind of jobs. This discovery, nearly 30 years ago, was central to the idea of New Work New Culture.
But the situation in modern times is different and the ‘6 months-6 months’ culture may not be so relevant now.Today, technology and community efforts should not only be used to speed up work and build more machines but also lead to innovations where machines do the boring,repetitive work and humans do all creative work so that maximum people can be employed. New Work New Culture, therefore, is an attempt to allow people, for at least some time, to do something they passionately want to do. What did the idea of 6 months6 months mean and has it been practically applicable? In the early 1980s, General Motors (GM) announced that it would automate in an extraordinarily thorough fashion its plant in Flint,a city in the US’state of Michigan.This meant that nearly half of the people from the city,employed with GM,would be laid off in the process. This is when we opened the Center for New Work there in 1984, and proposed that instead of splitting Flint—half of it becoming unemployed and the other half working overtime—why not let all the employees work in the factory for six months each. And during the other six months,make it possible for them to do what they passionately wanted to do. Later, we spoke to thousands of people in the US on the ‘new work’ philosophy—some started small businesses; some went back to school,while some decided to spend more time with their children.
The idea was that if people can be encouraged,empowered and trained in skills to do things they wish to, they would leave a