What we forget when we demand jobs

When most people talk about jobs, what they are actually talking about is wealth. Much of the talk about the importance of jobs actually reinforces the value of corporate servitude. Not all jobs are corporate jobs, but you get my point.

The assumption is that jobs are the only way to sustain oneself and one’s family. And for the most part, given the present state of our economics, this is true. But it is also clear to see that equating jobs with wealth and sustenance is a limited way of seeing things.

Throughout history, people have made incomes in many ways. Owning a business is one such way. Living off the Earth by growing one’s own food is another. When we say there is massive unemployment, what we are essentially saying is that many people can no longer sustain themselves.

But we try to solve this problem not by saying that more people should have access to resources or the ability and freedom to make their own way as a creator. We do it by asking that we be given jobs – that we be allowed to work for those who already hold disproportionate amounts of power and resources.

The emphasis on jobs should perhaps be framed as an emphasis on everyone having enough. Already, the jobs narrative takes up more space in our popular discourse than social justice, legal reform, and power abuse by state actors. To keep it centerstage would mean making sure that we never get rid of more fundamental problems.

It will mean that we will not ask for ease of running a small business, we will never ask for land to cultivate, we will never ask for equal opportunities in the workforce. Instead, all our attention will be focused on asking for jobs, with no attention paid to the kind of work these jobs require from us, or even whether these jobs can pay enough to sustain ourselves and our families.

The thing we forget when we ask for jobs is that it’s a kind of trap. It involves keeping us thinking about sustenance in narrow terms so that we only demand promises that those in power are prepared to make.