In the early stages of an economic recession, there are often public demonstrations by the unemployed workers carrying banners with the slogans such as “WE WANT WORK”, or even demanding “THE RIGHT TO WORK”, (whatever that may mean). They do not mean it, even though they may think they do at the time.
What they do mean is something more like, “We want the regular wages that come from being employed. We want the social acceptance that comes from having a job.” Even, “We want the comradeship and sense of purpose that work provides.” When they actually had jobs, none of them went to work on a Monday morning with an unmitigated feeling of joy.
In modern industrial nations, most people spend the best part of their waking lives at work. And it is through working, or making ourselves available for work, that we receive the monetary permission to feed, clothe and house ourselves and any dependents we may have, up to a certain limited standard.
Once we have sold our brain-or muscle-power for the week or the month, and with zero-hours maybe just a few days, we have yielded up control of our lives. Yet we must do this in order to earn the livelihood that enables us to go on working for the next week, the next month.
It is in work, therefore, that we experience most directly our lack of freedom. The result that work itself has acquired these strong connotations of discomfort, weariness, frustration and boredom that are the natural human reactions to unremitting compulsion.