Sunday, September 25, 2011

reImagining Work Conference

An All-Generation Conversation that reworks our imagination to find new ways of living, surviving and growing our souls expanding the definition of "work" helping us find what we need to move forward...

October 28-30, 2011


The old economy is failing. A new economy is sprouting like shoots after a forest fire. This transition to new ways of understanding and organizing work is as significant as the shift from hunting and gathering to agriculture 11,000 years ago and from agriculture to industry a few hundred years ago.

From Detroit, Michigan, where industrial jobs are gone forever, to points across the globe, there are exciting and moving stories of invention and reinvention.

In October 2011 in Detroit, a groundbreaking conference will gather thinkers and doers from the worlds of activism, community organizing, labor, crafts, media, entrepreneurship, the arts, academe, and ‘green’—in a 3-day collaborative discussion. You will come away inspired by people with whom you can collaborate in this profound economic and spiritual transformation.

REImagining Work
October 28-30, 2011
1400 Oakman Boulevard
Detroit, Michigan 48238

For more information and to register:
Also visit:

Diane Reeder

Monday, September 12, 2011

Beyond Daily Humilitations: The Struggle for Meaningful Work Amidst the Capitalist Crisis

“…work, is, by it’s very nature, about violence – to the spirit as well as to the body. It is about ulcers as well as accidents, about shouting matches as well as fistfights, about nervous breakdowns as well as kicking the dog around. It is, above all (or beneath all), about daily humiliations."
-Studs Terkel

Is it possible to find meaningful work, to make an honest living amidst the current capitalist crisis? Millions of recent college graduates are confronted with this dilemma, along with so many others who have been laid off from their jobs and those drowning in debt from health care bills, student loans and credit cards. As unemployment rates continue along a record-setting trajectory the cost of living shows no sign of declining. What does this mean for those of us looking for work or trying to create a better life?

So-called expert analysis and commentary on the dismal state of economic affairs has saturated corporate media as non/working people struggle to make sense of it all and to feed themselves and their families. But one does not need to hold a PhD in economics to be able to accurately comment on and analyze the world in which we have found ourselves. In fact, the collective experiences of people navigating the ruins of the twisted free market fantasy are more revealing and honest. These stories must be shared with each other in order to dig ourselves out of this mess and to work together in creating something better.

My own story is not unique, but I think it is worth telling. My recent experience in job-hunting and eventual employment, like those of millions of other unemployed or low-wage workers, must be looked at within the context of the crippling structures of capitalist society and its latest permutations. In sharing this I hope to make more sense of what has happened, both to me personally and in the world I have found myself.

to be continued...

-Matt Dineen 

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Less Work, More Living

Working fewer hours could save our economy, save our sanity, and help save our planet.

By Juliet Schor

Millions of Americans have lost control over the basic rhythm of their daily lives. They work too much, eat too quickly, socialize too little, drive and sit in traffic for too many hours, don’t get enough sleep, and feel harried too much of the time. It’s a way of life that undermines basic sources of wealth and well-being—such as strong family and community ties, a deep sense of meaning, and physical health.

Earn less, spend less, emit and degrade less. That's the formula. The more time a person has, the better his or her quality of life, and the easier it is to live sustainably.Imagining a world in which jobs take up much less of our time may seem utopian, especially now, when a scarcity mentality dominates the economic conversation. People who are employed often find it difficult to scale back their jobs. Costs of medical care, education, and child care are rising. It may be hard to find new sources of income when U.S. companies have been laying people off at a dizzying rate.

But fewer work hours for people with jobs is a key step toward solving the unemployment crisis—while giving Americans healthier lives. Fewer hours means more jobs are available to people who need them. Living on less pay usually means consuming less, making more of the things one needs at home, and living lighter, whether by design or by accident.

Today, driven both by necessity and the deliberate choice to live simply, more Americans are shifting toward fewer work hours. It’s a trend that, if done correctly, could get us out of our current economic crisis and away from unsustainable economic growth.
From the Fall 2011 issue of YES! Magazine. Read the rest of the article at

Juliet Schor is professor of sociology at Boston College and the author of the national bestseller The Overspent American.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Deprioritizing Work

"I'm glad I got to try out different worlds. I think it's good to do if you can, to find out what fits you. To challenge the way you grew up, no matter which way it was. And to challenge what is expected of you from your family, from patriarchy, from the capitalist, racist, individualist world. Part of becoming adult is taking on these challenges from a place of love rather than just reaction against.

I learned to cook because it felt better than working more hours a day in order to afford restaurants. I drank in alleys and rooftops because it was more fun than working more hours a day so I could afford bars. And when I deprioritized work, I prioritized other things - writing, healing, learning to look at my community and to try and understand what it needed and where I could be most effective."
-Cindy Crabb in Doris, #28

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Survival Postures: A Community Experiment in Learning How to Live

Survival Postures is the latest project from Cleveland-based organizer/visionary Kate Sopko. It is "about practicing a culture that can take care of itself, re-linking culture and survival deep within our own bodies." More info at:

This winter in Cleveland, Ohio, 17 people took part in a group experiment. Each chose a task essential to their survival or well-being that they didn't know how to do. Then, over the course of February, they learned how to do it. How to build a cook stove out of soup cans, how to process wool and weave with it, how to sew homemade menstrual pads... Their Survival Postures were exhibited at a community dinner held at SPACES Gallery on March 20.

This site documents their projects, and our larger experience of working together to re-learn a myriad of lost practical skills. We invite anyone who likes what you see here to consider doing a Survival Posture of your own, and to use this forum to share what you learn with others. Contact with your projects.


Survival Postures takes a cue from feminist performance artist Mierle Laderman Ukeles, who, since the late 1960's has used her art to make visible a hidden, stigmatized world of maintenance work that shores up our whole society. She once said that her work is a conscious attempt to re-link cultural practice with how we practice our own survival, saying that "Art begins at the same level as basic survival systems."

Lately in Cleveland, we've seen a huge growth in interest in re-localizing the work that provides for our community's basic needs (for example, there's been an exponential increase in urban farming). Many of us are volunteering to do the hands-on work of growing, processing and distributing food; salvaging and reusing building materials; remediating soil on polluted urban lots; and supporting local production of things like clothing, energy and shelter.

In doing so, it's become pretty clear that as an overall culture, we are very much in infancy when it comes to being actors in our own survival. Many basic skills are no longer in our vocabulary, and we rarely flex the muscles that make us producers (rather than consumers) of what we need. At this moment of cultural atrophy, re-learning practical skills will take practice, and in that practice, we will have to allow ourselves to be tentative, uncomfortable and inexperienced.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

The Service Industry: Turning workers into little entrepreneurs

Service workers who refuse to identify with their jobs often do so in the name of a "true calling" that they pursue outside of work hours with this same enterprising spirit. As art, adventure, and social life are all absorbed into the logic of productive investment, it becomes easy to look at your time at work as a capital outlay that enables you to pursue your dreams off the clock, like a new business owner paying rent on her storefront in hopes of future success. The flexible, temporary nature of service employment encourages this attitude; if additional free time is "more valuable" than extra wages, we have the freedom to work less, and if not, we can try to work more. In this way, the mentality of self-employment is extended to individuals who might otherwise contest employment itself...A worker's personal quirks and secrets, previously the only territory beyond the reach of the market, become commodities to be sold like any other. In this regard, the service industry represents a front in the total colonization of our social lives.
Exerpted from "The Service Industry," in Work: Capitalism. Economics. Resistance.

Saturday, April 09, 2011

The Embrace of 360 Degrees

by Matt Dineen

Life really does come full circle sometimes. I guess this is no surprise since our lives are not single linear journeys of constant progress. We are on a continuum that ebbs and flows and our personal histories often have the pesky tendency to repeat themselves. Our current selves are an amalgamation of all of our ups and downs, and the journey we’re on is a complex one.
On the cusp of 30, I feel like I’m 15 again. Half a lifetime ago I spent the summer washing dishes at Nonnie’s Country Kitchen in Orleans, MA—my first job. I was paid under the table, in cash, to scrape the remains of chocolate chip pancakes larger than my face, scrub lipstick stains off coffee mugs, and listen to the classic rock station that the sexist cook would sing along to all morning. It feels like yesterday.

Actually, it was yesterday.

I arrived at my new job to discover an envelope in the back room with my name scrawled in full-caps: MATT. It contained a (small) pile of 20 dollar bills for my previous week of labor. After counting the bills, I stuffed the envelope in my backpack, grabbed a glass of ice water, and squeezed into a fresh pair of bright-yellow dishwashing gloves. Something was different though.

Instead of elderly retirees filling Nonnie’s counter (and inhaling her second-hand Lucky Strike smoke), there were tables full of people gazing into laptop computers, sipping lattes and eating pasta salad. Instead of AC/DC and Van Halen on the transistor radio in the back, Modest Mouse and Arcade Fire were playing on an iPod through the surround-sound speakers of the cafĂ©. Everything has changed. But as I stood in front of the industrial sink scrubbing lipstick off a coffee mug it hit me that, actually, everything has stayed the same. In one week, I will be a 30 year old dishwasher with a college degree.

How has my life reverted to this, 15 years later?

It would be pretty easy to wake up on the morning of my 30th birthday in despair that my life is not going anywhere; paralyzed by an internalized classism, making me feel like an utter failure of a human being. Luckily, I have dedicated a lot of my time since school to analyzing, rejecting, and documenting alternatives to the dominant culture that defines people by what they do for money, first and foremost. I have spent more than half of a decade now interviewing activists and artists about the dilemma of following their passions, doing what they truly love, while surviving in a cutthroat capitalist society. So I have thought about this stuff a lot.

Over the years, when people I meet ask me, “What do you do?” the answer is always complicated. “Well,” I’ll reply. “It depends what you mean.” We are all so much more than our wage jobs. We are complex, multidimensional creatures. And this should be celebrated.

As I approach 30, I think back to that requisite thought exercise throughout many of our childhoods: “What do you want to be when you grow up?”

Is this it? Am I grown up now? At one point, I wanted to be a professional baseball player. Apparently I told my mother (who was 29 when she had me) that I would become rich as a Major League star and buy her a house. She lovingly reminds me of this broken promise every now and then. Sorry mom!

It has been essential for me to talk to people who have spent their lives redefining what success means—prioritizing happiness and community over the accumulation of wealth and power. This is also true of the aging process.

In my mid- to late-20’s it was really inspiring to talk to people in their 30’s who were truly embracing getting older. Actually, I have found that if you ask people who have passed the 30 year milestone, almost across the board they will talk about how much better life is than in their 20’s. So why is it then that many twenty-somethings in our society are so scared of this moment?

I wear a pin on my jacket that reads: “Growing up is awesome!” The person that created (and gave me) this pin explained that it was in response to the popular subcultural slogan: “Growing up is giving up.”

In a culture that fetishizes youth and perpetuates “glory days” mythology, that teaches us to fear and misunderstand the natural cycles of life, embracing one’s 30’s is a radical act.

The vision I have for my 30’s is to actualize all of the things that I talked about doing in my 20’s. I want to take inspiration from, and further cultivate, the best aspects of my youthful past. Simultaneously, I want to learn from the mistakes I’ve made, the low points of my personal continuum. This is not to say that it will be easy or that history won’t continue to occasionally repeat itself. My life will inevitably come full circle once again, but I am hopefully for what the next 360 degrees holds for me. Turning 30 is awesome. I am not giving up.

Matt Dineen lives in Philadelphia, where he turned 30 on April 7, 2011. This essay is part of his 360 Months project, which features 30 essays by 30 different people about turning 30. Contact him at: passionsandsurvival(at)gmail(dot)com

Sunday, March 27, 2011

The Return of Honest Living

A couple years ago now, I shared a similar project to this called Honest Living by Isabell Moore. The mission was to explore various strategies and issues for activists around "striving towards an 'honest' living in a 'dishonest' world." After a break to focus on teaching, Honest Living has returned!

Check out the new post on academia and public workers. I look forward to reading more from this important project.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Collective Impact

Growing up next door to each other and being just one month apart, I have known Tyler Gumpright my entire life. Recently he began participating in a project with some buddies from college called Collective Impact. The first post explains:

I'm launching a hub that will allow us to motivate, encourage, and advise one another. It will be a forum for shared experience, thought, and innovation. As much as we are willing to contribute them, our collective energies can make a significant impact not only in each other's lives, but throughout society.

I recognize tremendous untapped potential in every one of us. Inevitably, it is sometimes wasted. It is lost to distractions; television, Angry Birds, facebook, football/hockey season, etc. We have all spent several hours in the past week on these. Distraction, procrastination, and laziness sap so much unproductive time. I know that every one of us still has lofty hopes for ourselves.

Sadly, those hopes often just remain hopes, never coming to fruition, never even recorded. As we settle into adulthood, we are in danger of comfortable complacency. We have not become the heroes we hoped to become when we were young. Life is alright, though, and we make enough to pay all the bills (usually) and splurge on fun once in a while. We become homeowners. Family men. Account holders. Office Zombies. These are not all bad things, but they sap so much of our attention that little is left for our dreams.

What was the last truly remarkable project that you pursued wholeheartedly? Can you easily think of three things you did in the past year that you are most proud of? Aren't you capable of so much more?

Here's to actualizing our biggest dreams despite the challenges of the current society. Check it out yourself at: