All Things Co-op: Work and Leisure

[S6 E02] New

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In this episode of All Things Co-op, Larry, Cinar, and Kevin dive into the issue of leisure as it relates to both our current capitalist system and a future cooperative society. What does leisure look like under capitalism and how does it function? What does it mean for our non-work lives and interests to be commodified? The ATC guys explore what leisure could look like in a more cooperative society.


Transcript has been edited for clarity

This is Richard Wolff. Welcome to All Things Co-op, a podcast by Democracy At Work.

KEVIN GUSTAFSON: Welcome to the Second Episode of season 6 of the “All Things Co-op Podcast.” I am your co-host Kevin Dustin and with me as always is Larry and Cinar. Larry and Chinar what’s up guys?

LARRY FENSTER: I’m Larr– I’m good.

CINAR AKCIN: Yo.

KEVIN GUSTAFSON: So this episode we came up: a kind of idea that was I think early on in the discussions, of thinking about “There is an alternative- the TINA principle- “and what it would look like; and what is wrong with it now and what would it look like in the future? And a thing we talked about earlier was leisure: The things that you do when you aren’t being paid or when you don’t have to. So leisure isn't necessarily working on some paperwork and leisure isn’t doing the laundry. It’s the stuff that you do in the few hours a day, nowadays, that you might be able to do it. Unless of course you were a Kardashian or some other- a Walton relative or something.

CINAR AKCIN: That’s the leisure class.

KEVIN DUSTIN: Oh yeah, they have all the fun. They do what we think is leisure, right? Like laying out on boats that are sailing in the mediterranean and not working. And not doing something that has some kind of end result. Just sipping drinks by the pool. That’s leisure. But is that something that you do? It’s something you certainly buy. You can buy your spa day or your Russian oligarch, or American oligarch yacht.

LARRY FENSTER: It’s an ideal too, when you talk about the leisure class. So I’m an economist, or was. So this guy Thorstein Veblen, ever heard of him?

CINAR AKCIN: Mm-mm.

Larry Fenster: Oh, he wrote you know, I’m gonna butcher it… but you know he wrote several books- but one of his most famous was… ‘The Leisure Class and Economy That Produced It’ or something like that.

CINAR AKCIN: Nice.

LARRY FENSTER: He saw there were– whoever owns the means of production, they were the leisure class. In a feudal society there was the aristocracy or gentry, the enemy gentry. Everybody else: they did everything for you. You had to maybe check out property and estate every once in a while but your life was pretty much leisure. And then under capitalism- he didn’t say this- he may have but I haven’t read the book frankly. I should! ‘Cause I read other stuff by him and he’s good.

CINAR AKCIN: So youre just making this all up, huh?

KEVIN GUSTAFSON: This is what he would say.

LARRY FENSTER: I’ve read some other things by him and he’s good. Definitely. But he talks about this idea of emulating consumption or leisure. Have you ever– you’ve been to Britain? Right, Cinar? London or something you know.

CINAR AKCIN: Well, I was born there. Yeah.

LARRY FENSTER: Ok! Well good. So they’re totally into their little gardening, right? I mean the middle class, lower class, working class. But all that in the suburbs in this country. We’re trying to emulate the aristocracy in our little ways. It’s like our own little piece of heaven. Move to the suburbs…

KEVIN GUSTAFSON: A property with a playground in a little backyard.

LARRY FENSTER: …and a little grass. Like ‘Brideshead Revisited.’ “You see those big lawns? Well we got little ones. You see those mansions? But we got our own little heaven in our own home.”

KEVIN GUSTAFSON: Your own piece of the pie, yeah.

LARRY FENSTER: And you got your BBQ. So we’re like, emulating the gentry, still. Even in capitalism. It's ideal to be the landed gentry. And it’s become maybe more possible in this mass consumption society, or has it?

CINAR AKCIN: Yeah. For us normal folks- leisure- What comes to your mind when we’re thinking about leisure in today's society? I mean, when it is experienced outside of work and what does it entail at the end of the day?

KEVIN GUSTAFSON: It occurs in very fragmented bits over long periods of time, until idealistically you get to a point in which you know you are freed of having to contribute labor and you can “retire.” And in “retirement” you should have access to enough resources to be able to do essentially whatever you want and so you can lay on the beach all day because you’ve contributed your labor. You've done your trick. In the meantime you get, you know, 16 days a year and you have to remember that many of those you're gonna have to take because your mother-in-law’s flying into town. Or other things like that. You're not gonna get 16 days in a row because god forbid you're away from work for 14 days or 16 days. Unless you're the executive who does nothing.

CINAR AKCIN: Keep in mind actually, by law you're not entitled to vacation in this country, I think.

KEVIN GUSTAFSON: No.

CINAR AKCIN: You know? I mean most people don't even have that. You'd be lucky to have 16 days.

KEVIN GUSTAFSON: Right? Paid time off is…

LARRY FENSTER: You're not entitled to retirement really. I mean, you have to have worked enough to contribute to Social Security to get money when you retire.

KEVIN GUSTAFSON: Mm.

LARRY FENSTER: I mean, you might qualify and you have to pay for medicare. If you're poor you might get medicaid for pretty much free, but that didn't happen until the New Deal and later.

KEVIN GUSTAFSON: Yeah.

LARRY FENSTER: Before that you were on your own. You're shit outta luck. Before the labor movement and the left demanded that kind of thing; 8 hour day and social benefits, public welfare–

CINAR AKCIN: And the weekends.

LARRY FENSTER: And then weekends! Absolutely.

KEVIN GUSTAFSON: Yes.

LARRY FENSTER: Yeah you could have to work 7 hours every day. 10 a day. 12 hours a day. Whatever, you know. No overtime pay, nothing. But, there was no guaranteed anything until people kind of rose up and said ‘ This sucks.’ But now it's become a kind of trade off in the capitalist’s thinking or most people's thinking. “Ok yeah, Ok, I’ll work. I’ll put up with whatever difficulty… Maybe I’ll be lucky and it won't be so bad. But yeah it's going to be hard; I have to do it for 30 years or more. And if I'm lucky and I save some money– with the help of these social benefits that are eroding as we speak-- I’ll be able to retire; live on my savings, live on some benefits. And then I'll live that life of not having to work and if I'm lucky I'll even be able to afford some things to do.”

KEVIN GUSTAFSON: I remember Pam from ‘The Office,’ she took her vacation in the third week of January. She’s like “I always use my vacation up as late as I possibly can, and this year I got to the third week in January. Just an example. There's those people who just realized no value in what they're doing and can't wait to take that vacation as early as possible and then like the rest of the year be damned. I mean, I think this is tied up to me with this whole process of commodification, right? This principle that everything in our society becomes something you have to buy or that you can sell. And so selling the experience, buying like a packaged trip to go whale watching and all these different things. Somebody’s got this whole vacation plan for you; these complete packages and stuff like that. You know, there is this ideal that leisure is something that you would do because you like it and it’s what takes up your time. But then we have this other idea of leisure like, ya know, going on vacation-

LARRY FENSTER: Mm-hm.

KEVIN GUSTAFSON: And is leisure just the activity that you just do like when you're in your woodshop making some table or something? Or is it when you get to go to Disneyland, you know?

LARRY FENSTER: Yeah…

KEVIN GUSTAFSON: And have everything for free… And so either way you got to buy your tools, you might have a subscription to “Woodworking Magazine” and all of these different ways that you have to purchase entry into this activity that you're not necessarily getting paid for, but that you definitely pay for.

LARRY FENSTER: Yeah.

KEVIN GUSTAFSON: And so everything is this commodity; the experience itself to go on a hike or do something could, you know-- might just be a guided hike, that only costs 20 bucks. It’s like, “Ah, everything is mediated by this mechanism and it seems to make it a little bit cheaper right?’ You're almost not doing anything for its own sake.

LARRY FENSTER: Right. No real self-expression or compliment really.

CINAR AKCIN: Right. And also, it’s a little bit of the commodification, right, the process? But also a little bit of escapism too, I think. It's the same thing. How do you buy that new reality? How do you buy that experience to escape that 8 hours you’ve been working all day long? And I don't think it has to be in a vacation; we think about leisure as vacation, but the time you have to yourself after an 8 hour day, after you've done all your things to reproduce your life- after all the work you do at home with your family and everything- there is that degree of escapism: to forget the work day if you're lucky enough to have that. Because if you’re not working, you have no right to leisure.

LARRY FENSTER: Absolutely. It reminds me of something a friend told me that his work was just draining him so much. He was a rabid jazz fan. I mean he had every era of jazz; he knew all the players; he was into it. And I saw him 10 years after he started really working hard and I said, “Hey Jeff, what kind of music are you listening to?” He said “Nothing but music now’ man.” I cant handle jazz anymore. It makes my brain– I have to think! So hey, I found a quote but it's a paraphrase from Marx. I thought this might be fun. And it’s from ‘Capital, Volume 1.’

KEVIN GUSTAFSON: Nice.

LARRY FENSTER: Chapter 15… but I did kind of paraphrase it a little bit so… it says “Private property has made us so stupid, that an object is only ours when we own it. Thus all the physical and intellectual senses have been replaced by the need to buy or own things.”

CINAR AKCIN: Yeah…

LARRY FENSTER: So yeah. That’s that skilling thing: you’re too stupid, you’re too tired, you’re too poor to buy the means of leisure. The drumsticks you need to play the drums, or the strings to string your guitar, or even taking lessons, or the time to sit with a master- even like a neighborhood good guitarists- to learn what to do; you don't have the time, you don't have the money, you don't have the energy. And so one way or another, leisure has, I agree completely, gotten commodified. In some ways it’s cheaper; it’s less time you can consume a concert on Netflix and you got to pay 20 bucks a month.

CINAR AKCIN: Well, wait for the metaverse, right? We're all gonna just be attending concerts by ourselves together.

FL!: Yeah, I mean you think about how much work might go into getting some friends together, coming up with a little repertoire, getting a few people together to listen to you and figure out the songs and your harmonies and what not- or whatever the heck; I’m just going with these musical things because I happen to have played a little bit of guitar once, but it could be anything. Those take more time, but they're also more expressive; Less commodified. But you still have to afford the means of leisure. I like that phrase.

CINAR AKCIN: I think what you're touching upon is a little bit of this deskilling. I mean, normally you would be able to get together to play music, but now you would just basically go on Spotify, right? And you want to download all the different kinds of songs and that's fine at the end of the day. You're not actually going through that creative process. You're not creating anything at the end of the day; you're just consuming and escaping. A lot of people are resisting that. I think a lot of people, despite work, are able to go and create things and engage in hobbies where they produce something. They’re not consuming; just that. But for the majority, I think that’s the case. And I know the program is about cooperatives, but I think during your work day you really dont have much of a say around the work that you're doing. Or a lot of people don't. I don't think you really have that muscle to be able to continue that into exploring different things that are outside of work where you could be creating or initiating new things and new ideas. Just producing something rather than consuming. That has a little bit of an influence on people as well.

KEVIN GUSTAFSON: It drives me crazy… it boggles my mind to think about the idea of the commonality back in the day, of the 16 hour day. And then like the 12 hours day. And now, even down to the 8 hour day, right? The idea that you would spend that much time working when there's only 24 hours in the day, right? You literally work just all day then you go home and go to sleep and you wake up and you work. Like, that’s the craziest thing.

CINAR AKCIN: That’s ‘The Jungle.’ That's just like Upton Sinclair's ‘Jungle.’

KEVIN GUSTAFSON: And then you get even to the 8 hour -these sort of 40 hour week- and it's really, in many ways, not even the amount of time. Because you could spend 16 hours a day on a project that you really cared about, that you were committed to, that you could freely…

LARRY FENSTER: You can’t sleep, Kevin?

KEVIN GUSTAFSON: I mean, you could! It wouldn't be a good idea right but you could do that, but it would not feel compelled. Right now, it's a lot of ‘have tos.’ “I go to work and I ‘have to’ do this; I ‘have to’ do that.” Who decided that I had to do it? Was it really me? Maybe for a very small echelon of people, they have that kind of influence, but for the giant rest of us: we get orders from on high and we execute those orders and then if we don't execute then and be even more aggressive about what else I could do for the same amount of money, I’m seen as a potentially less valuable employee.

LARRY FENSTER: Yeah.

CINAR AKCIN: Yeah.

KEVIN GUSTAFSON: And so even with the supposed 8 hours…

LF: (INAUDIBLE) ability to consume leisure.

KEVIN GUSTAFSON: I think we all are experiencing this consumption by other things. I think the addition of social media as this kind of other activity you can do because you could scroll. You can go to Instagram or Twitter and just watch the world go by and see the news and see stuff.

It's usually ten hours between– especially because most people are actually working 9 hours because you get to work at 8 you get off at 5. Or you get to work at 8, you get up at 6 because you have an hour lunch; that lunch period isn't included into your 8 hour day. And then ,people gotta go there and now everyobodys like “You gotta come back to the office, so like, come in.” These are all things you have to do and once you get to the end of the day, when you have an hour between 9 and 10. I saw a post on the internet that was like “I get up at 6; I gotta be to work by 8. I got two kids; I gotta get them all ready. I go to work; a growing job. I get back at 5:45/6 o'clock; we make dinner. We do the whole bedtime routine; by the time the kids are in bed, it's 9:30 at night.” And you gotta be up at 6! It’s like “Where am I supposed to have time for leisure?!”

LARRY FENSTER: Wheel of fortune man. Wheel of fortune; it's like your brain is like mush right now.

KEVIN GUSTAFSON: Start a Go Fund Me.

CINAR AKCIN: You know, it's really interesting because I think part of this discussion is about: what would this leisure look like in a cooperative economy? And the thing you brought up there Kevin, actually rings– for example, in a cooperative economy where democratically, companies are owned. At the end of the day, the profit motive is not the only consideration. There is a consideration of the profit but there’s other things, right? So democratically people are deciding to give- maybe workers- decide that they need a little bit more time or they want to get invested and do something within their community. In that sense I feel like leisure takes on a different meaning at the end of the day. If that commodity consideration isn't there, or in a cooperative society if profit maximization is not the main goal, I think leisure just takes on a different meaning. It's more of a process in which people maybe can engage a little bit more rather than consume, let’s say. The exact opposite of what we have right now. And they can explore their creative impulses a little bit more because you're not being inundated with all these choices at the end of the day, right; to purchase this or purchase that? Because that might not be the endgame of a cooperative society. But people will be more engaged in kinds of self reflection: figuring out different interests they might have and might be engaged in creating different things of their own interest. So, I'd like to hear your opinions on that. What does leisure in that kind of society look like compared to here?

KEVIN DUSTIN: The thing for me is that I'm not sure. Maybe this is a little bit of the capitalist realist deep down inside of me or something; there is no alternative in some ways. The notion that you could decommodify things– I think we're so used to this commodity mode that it seems like you get called like a hippy when it’s like “Man, just find a trail and go on a hike.” Because that's about as close as you get to whether you usually have to pay for it then you're paying for it indirectly; in taxes and stuff usually. The question I had as you were talking is: Even if you had a bunch of co-ops that own the travel agencies, would they not continue to sell you experiences? Right? Because you're just getting money from the co-op. I want to think that this change in the means of production ownership and control would have that effect sort of de facto, but I'm wondering why it would. Is there something about workers getting together that would ultimately choose that they're not gonna sell the experience anymore? I don't know. Like, are these experiences more readily accessible, thereby not making it leisure in the way that we see like, “That's only accessible to rich people, right?” Like being on a yacht. Maybe when you don't have privately owned yachts and that every yacht is cooperative that people who want to spend time on yachts can enjoy. Then a yacht that can hold 50 people, can just do cruises of people who are interested in wanting to do that. And so there's like a super idealistic part of me that thinks “Oh yeah, you’ll just eventually get rid of money and then the co-ops will just sort of transfer ownership or transfer enough work and there'll be enough cooperation among the cooperatives to be able to recognize what needs to be done to continue to foster innovation and make sure that it's accessible and stuff. But you know, that's the second order level to just saying “Let's make all the businesses co ops.” They've got to be co-ops on Rochdale Principles or like some other set of principles, rather than just merely workers owning the means of production.

CINAR AKCIN: Mh-hm.

LARRY FENSTER: Yeah.

KEVIN GUSTAFSON: Because it doesn’t seem like a silver bullet enough.

LARRY FENSTER: No.

CINAR AKCIN: No.

LARRY FENSTER: I had a couple thoughts and one is in response to what you saying, Kevin. And this is-- OK… so, I’m going to just give it a shot: I think there’ll be– I hope there will be more activities that neighborhoods that are combination workers, co-ops– a bunch of co-ops that amalgamate in a neighborhood– along with consumer co-ops or consumer councils that decide “What do we want to do as a community for education, for leisure” and ‘“What are some of our big priorities.” And “How much of that can we produce?” And “What do we need to do to be able to do that ourselves or do we want to?” Maybe we start a co-op that is really great at providing cruises, then that becomes democratically owned and whatever net profits come back to either that community or somehow society as a whole, does not preclude having cruises or educational lectures– but cruises or visits, you know just vacations– they would be free because it would be determined by society or by your locality and you might have a co-op or two– or three or four-- that are providing different aspects of that leisure. And they're doing it; their skill. And then they would be more equal. There might not be any particular profit that any one member that called–

Let's just say they’re the musicians for the elevator music or in a hotel. That's what they do. They do a lot of that. They get good at it. And maybe they'll never get as good as using the highest technology that a capitalist society has to mass produce muzak for elevators, but it will be democratic and it will be free and they'll work for their co-workers and they'll develop skills and relationships and they'll interact with the people that are consuming it and they'll be more fulfilled. And there’s maybe some that are more traditional, direct experience kind of leisure where it's just your community doing a dance every May, you know or whatever holiday there is. All the kids get together and they sing a bunch of songs and there's a bunch of parades and a bunch of hot dogs or whatever.

KEVIN GUSTAFSON: It's like a county fair, those kinds of activities.

LARRY FENSTER: Yeah, those kinds of things are public, you get together everybody says “Hi, how you doing.” More social.

KEVIN GUSTAFSON: We used to go to the coliseum, you know.

LARRY FENSTER: All being more social, more creative. Gonna be a need for more training for people to do those things. That’s one thing that–

So, I’m gonna stop ‘cause I know I'm taking up too much time here. But I think people are afraid too of the responsibility. I'm afraid. I used to kind of play; I can’t do it anymore so well. But you know everybody– you look on TV “Oh, Bruce Springsteen, or whoever the latest rock star or musician or whatever it is; they're great! But it's highly produced; the practice and product process. And how am I ever gonna get that good? Or how are the three people I'm hanging out with ever gonna get good enough to be entertaining? And we have to overcome that somehow and it's going to take time and education, practice and we have to have enough support socially at all levels.

CINAR AKCIN: I think what resonated with what you’re saying, I think, is the sense of community comes out a little bit more; much more under a kind of cooperative society.

LARRY FENSTER: Mm-hm.

CINAR AKCIN: Whereas you know, we’re all right now might be alienated consumers; alienated from one another. In a cooperative society at least you have that opportunity to work within your community- your colleagues- to go ahead and explore whatever creative impulses you guys might have collectively.

KEVIN GUSTAFSON: Especially when you think about the idea of the cooperative that you were talking about, Larry. We have this real world example of the worker owned cooperatives and the real world example of consumer cooperatives. And there's a little bit of difference and stuff but they both exist; they thrive and the more participation they have, the lower the barrier of entry they have to be a part of it; the better run it happens to be. But so there's no reason to think that you couldn't have the same thing if you expanded political and economic democracy, to be able to, as Larry was even saying, you contribute to all these different data points and to participate at your hyper-local neighborhood level and just kind of stepping up so you can coordinate along broad period, geographic areas, so that exactly like Larry was saying, you get like these little areas that can do different things. That's already kind of developed, but it's having to have been mediated through this giant wealth generation upwards. If you could just kind of tip that over instead of trickle down– just like flow down– you'd likely have a lot more people caring about what was going on because you could see the effects in the community, there would be kind of a investitures in the community such that they would want to participate in how that's distributed. And the greater amount of participation, the more deliberation that can happen. And you'd like to think– this may be the idealistic part of me– but that in the course of deep and respectful but rigorous debate and discussion, that the right answer would come out; and if you can let the people who care most about doing that do that, you're gonna get the best decisions. And so applying that: it also means that if you have a strong enough community, your period of exodus, like a sabbatical or something, that long period of time in which you can explore something else and do something else, is kind of like allowed and isn't a faux pa.

LARRY FENSTER: Yeah. It might have to be decided by either your community–

CINAR AKCIN: Right.

LARRY FENSTER: –or right in combination with your workplace. Like, “Ok, you've worked here 10 years, and we could use somebody that has these skills because we want to move in this area, so we want you to get more educated.” Or, “You've worked here 10 years, you've contributed a lot and there's some educational– or what we would call leisure– kind of rewards that we want you to have because you're doing a lot for us and we know that you need a break.” That kind of thing, there’s a couple ways. But this could be a decision-making process and we hope it's democratic.

KEVIN GUSTAFSON: It's not as a condition of your employment. “You get 16 days of vacation a year. Don't you dare take it all at the same time!”

LARRY FENSTER: Yeah, I think it's scary cause… work… people– it's gonna take training to get…

CINAR AKCIN: --used to it.

LARRY FENSTER: …Piece by piece. It’s gonna take a while to get people’s attitude to change; to give people confidence. I got another quote for you. This time it's from Juliet Shor who is a sociologist who teaches at Boston University and studied with I think Rick a little bit.

KEVIN GUSTAFSON: Okay.

LARRY FENSTER: And she wrote a book called “Born to Buy.”

KEVIN GUSTAFSON: ‘Born to Buy;’ nice.

LARRY FENSTER: Yep. It says: schools, private life and ads have created a society that “places a lower priority on teaching children how to thrive socially, intellectually and spiritually than it does on training them to consume.”

KEVIN GUSTAFSON: Oh yeah.

LARRY FENSTER: She goes into all the ways education reinforces the skills you need to be a good consumer.

KEVIN GUSTAFSON: Yeah, I saw a post of somebody who said something like “What was the childhood music or childhood content that I thought was the worst.” And I guess there was one show– it's like a YouTube show, I genuinely don't remember the name of it– but apparently it's the worst and really it's just this toy review website. You know, it just like feeds kids “Look at this new toys it's only 20 bucks, woah!” And there so many parents like, “Yeah we had to ban it off of our YouTube because the kids are zoned out watching all these new toys and want the thing about the thing…” When I was a kid, people could name Ronald McDonald before they could name George Washinton– you know, all these statistics of the decline of the civic nature of the American Electorate. And that’s like 1992. So, you know….

LARRY FENSTER: Absolutely.

KEVIN GUSTAFSON: Those people are well into voting age and they're driving trucks in DC and stuff like that. But yeah, if you could participate more– at minimum you can say “Alright, I realize why we're all doing this,” instead of thinking like “Oh my god, I don’t have any control. Please let me just go to the bahamas.” Because you're saying it's an escape now and I think what it would be in a really cooperative society is a chance to take a break, to recalibrate and to be able to contribute in a different way. Imagine how useful you'd be in the older– the twilight years of your life when you’ve had in some ways the kind of varied experiences that some people are having now by necessity; having to switch over to do something because that's the only place they can find a job. Whereas instead you were able to pursue the kind of diverse interests you could follow and you could become mini-renaissance people who have all these different skills and capacities because they were able to have the space to contribute to those over large periods of time that have gaps between them in which you were able to come back and adjust. I think that that's a life that at the end of it, you're happy to have lived.

LARRY FENSTER: Right.

KEVIN GUSTAFSON: Whereas now there's all those stories of people going on like their first vacation after they retire and die of a stroke. It's like “Ah…” Terrible!

CINAR AKCIN: Imagine the loss of all that creativity, it's tremendous on a societal level. All that creativity is lost because everybody has potential for that. Everybody wants to engage. Everybody wants to produce, right? That's your natural instinct. That's what you want to do. And if that is synonymous with leisure– I think that’s what we’re saying; we’re trying to explore your creative impulses– imagine the loss. The tremendous loss at a societal level that we have right now. And this point you’re talking about– waiting your whole life to have that when you're retired, come on. I mean, come on! Yes, there's tremendously dynamic people at every age, but I mean, you spend all that time where you could have been creative and now you have this special block of time; you don't even have that muscle, you don't even know how to exercise it! Youre like “What the fuck am I going to do now?”

KEVIN GUSTAFSON: You become content to sit on the couch and watch Jeopardy. “I know the answer!”

LARRY FENSTER: I just had another idea. And jump in, I’m just, you know…. But, I think there is going to be some pushback about this idea here that “Well yeah, everybody is going to be a musician and everybody is going to be a carpenter and we're all going to learn all these skills.” But think about the music industry; what goes into being a famous rock star or a musician right now. There’s the musicians of course, but they need their roadies, they need their production managers, they need the tape, they need the recording–

KEVIN GUSTAFSON: The whole thing.

LARRY FENSTER: It's a whole industry, really. It’s all packed into one performance but behind it– I guess in dollar terms– millions and millions of dollars in terms of training a diverse series of occupations and multiple different types of audiences and venues. I dont think it's out of the question that you could have a whole bunch of co-ops that just do music. Now, they're all not going to be, you know– maybe some rotation about who’s the star; not always the same person the star, you know the lead-off person. But the whole thing could be a lot more democratic than it is now. Even if there were a star… So rather than say “Ok Larry, you’re just so utopian about this. You think everythings going to be democratic, everything's gonna be equal and equally skilled. They're all going to be great musicians and philosophers and painters or whatever.” But it could be a lot more practical, democratic and equal, even if there were lots of differences in job function, within a leisure providing industry. So, I’m trying to cover myself here a little bit. I really don't know what’s going to happen, but I think we're trying to lay out some principles. What are the principles that it would be formed on?

CINAR AKCIN: I do have a question about that. Within worker co-ops, being a worker-owner at the end of the day— the concept of leisure, I don't know how that plays in… If you are at a place where you are completely engaged in your job and you have a say over what's happening and you're constantly stimulated– and let’s just say; you know not all of them are going to be that way– that concept of leisure might change, right? And we all know people who love their jobs or we have examples of them. I actually have a number of friends who are pretty well established musicians that just love– I mean that’s their job at the end of the day.

LARRY FENSTER: Sure.

CINAR AKCIN: We call it “playing music” but that's how they make their living and they love it at the end of the day. If they're away from it for like 3 days on a beach, they go crazy. They're like “This is nothing compared to me kind of, you know–

KEVIN GUSTAFSON: “...doing the thing I love to do.”

CINAR AKCIN: –exploring my creative impulses and enjoying myself.” So the idea of leisure, how does that change in a cooperative economy?

KEVIN GUSTAFSON: As long as you are to freely associate your labor into different co-ops, I think what would have otherwise been filled up now with your escapist activity, would likely be taken up by what you want to do. And then when you had an opportunity to do what was otherwise a highly structured break in your job– and be able to ensure that you were going to continue to make money, but that you were have again enough interaction with the people that you're doing things with that like– you leaving to go on an experience does not create a whole bunch of extra work for you the way it does right now because they're trying to zap every ounce of value from what you're doing. Having an experience would not be something that you'd have to actually worry about. And that would be something that would be much more available to you. And so, there also wouldn't be this kind of leisure class that you're compared to, like the person who just does it all the time. Because if youre talking about people who are able to engage in what they are good at or would be interested in and having an education system that allows people to understand that and kind offer a path in which they can pursue in that regard– rather than continuing to make people smart enough to do things but not smart enough to rebel against it and to be able to make them smart enough to run it themselves– I just think that some people would really like to take people on the hike that they’re really good at and if they didn't have to do it for money, they would take that hike everyday anyway. And why not create something that isn't some thousands of dollars experience. Or just make it the thing for itself.

LARRY FENSTER: I hear something from what Cinar is saying, that leisure– I think mentioned earlier that Veblen had this idea that “leisure is really for those who don't own the means of production. They don't have to work.” So there's an extreme dichotomy between leisure and work. But I think there is a good chance that in a democratically owned cooperative society, that there would be less of a distinction between work and leisure.

CINAR AKCIN: Mh-hm.

LARRY FENSTER: But to do your work right, you gotta spend more time communicating with people in meetings and learn: “Well, what's the environmentally most sustainable way to produce whatever it is we want to produce?” You’re producing it but you have a meeting where you once in a while say “Let's get educated where technology has changed– that we could be more sustainable.” And “OK, let's look into that. So that takes time. That would be not work time exactly. But it would be kind of for work. Education and you'd have to make priorities so that would be kind of political. And so politics and leisure and work are going to get mushed together more, I think.

KEVIN GUSTAFSON: There's gonna be like the thing you do, like it's just what you do. Like “It's alright, you go to all the stuff you care about and because you care about it…”

LARRY FENSTER: And I mean that you can’t do some mosh pit stuff or totally blow your brains out somewhere, but I think that the dichotomy that need– like, right now you work so hard, you feel like “Ok, I really deserve to completely get wasted or get completely, you know, taken care of.” Your need for that is going to go down. On the one hand, it's going to give you more energy to be productive and social and democratic while you're working too. At least that’s what I hope happens.

KEVIN GUSTAFSON: Yeah, you’d think it’d be rolled into what you were doing. Instead of allowed vacation, it’s mandatory vacation; every six weeks you have to take a break. You have to go away and have an experience and have a cathartic experience so that you come back and you're not like a zombie. And like you care about if but you can get zombified about something you really care about, you know. And so you gotta be careful against that.

CINAR AKCIN: Yeah.

KEVIN GUSTAFSON: Alright, last word on…

LARRY FENSTER: Okay, I think we covered our speculations.

KEVIN GUSTAFSON: Yeah. I mean, either it would be better or it would not exist at all or it would be hard to know when leisure begins and where work begins. You know, my dad always make a joke “If you liked to do it, they wouldn’t call it work.

CINAR AKCIN: Right.

KEVIN GUSTAFSON: Like “Yeah sure, I guess.” You'd just call it what you do. And it still goes back to that– I think it's German ideology– Marx– where he says that you could fish in the morning, do something else in the afternoon and criticize at night without having to be a fisherman, or to be these actual jobs– that these things would be available to you now. Obviously in the one day it's a little ridiculous, but the idea of “Maybe in a lifetime were you can fish without necessarily being tied to being a fisherman” and as you grow older you have this ability to to it, and so– that’s what I mean when I think of cooperative society opening up that ability; because you have a little bit more free access to labor because if you contribute value that its mutually beneficial for the co-op and for you, right? You're tied to being able to see that the enterprise succeeds either in some kind of crude economic manner just in a more highly advanced sort of social manner. Like are we accomplishing the goal that we set out to do and that goal is not to sell as many commodities as possible, but is to accomplish some other kind of goal hat we would think is an actual social good, rather than making, you know a bunch of kids toys that you have some Youtbe channel that just peddles to you so that you can zombify kids and make them more susceptible to being able to be controlled ultimately at the workplace. There's no need for that kind of crap. And so it goes well beyond our leisurely lives and what we can do in our leisure, but our child raising, our education, our cooperative sports enterprises, all these things that are the things we're gonna talk about this season of the ‘All Things Co-Op Podcast.’

LARRY FENSTER: So, I’m going to make a pitch for our viewers to say “That was totally bonkers. Please answer this question, that question; please elaborate; where’s it happening?” (INAUDIBLE) that are on our mind and we're going to be looking at these things not just for leisure, but for a variety of things they're looking at .There’s a ton of ways to go at it and any suggestions people have, were hoping to listen to it and deal and trying to research it and talk about it.

KEVIN GUSTAFSON: The comments are being read. The emails are being read. Like, the stuff being read. So yeah. It’s awesome to hear from people who listen to the show and want to ask us something, take us to task and make it better you know ultimately we want to make what we're talking about useful and interesting and something you wanna listen to.

LARRY FENSTER: And move the co-op movement along. And now the final pitch Kevin?

KEVIN GUSTAFSON: Hm? Oh, well make sure–

LARRY FENSTER: You’re good at that. Your best!

KEVIN GUSTAFSON: Gonna ask you now to pass around the dish at the meeting so that you can contribute to making sure the publication still comes out and the paper still comes out that tells you about all the worker strikes going on! No. You can support the show; patreon.com/allthingscoop. It's a good way to help it out. It's going to– the great people at Democracy At Work to make sure that we can still do this, they can still do what they're doing– all the great content coming out of Democracy At Work. We're part of it. I'm proud to be part of it. And check that out. Help us support it and it's like 5 bucks. So, I’m commodifying ‘All Things Co-op.’ We're now a commodity, bought and sold. No. It’s a donation, you know, so… but it might be a nice donation. Slightly better than putting your money in the Salvation Army once a year.

CINAR AKCIN: Right.

KEVIN GUSTAFSON: 5 bucks… 5 bucks. Alright with that, there we go; first episode of this season: “Leisure in a Cooperative Society” and more where that came from.

CINAR AKCIN: And no I’m gonna go escape.

KEVIN GUSTAFSON: I’m gonna zombify myself with some “Real Housewives of… something or other.”

LARRY FENSTER: (INAUDIBLE) talkabout how that all worked out. How was that experience like?

KEVIN GUSTAFSON: Alright you guys, stay safe. Stay warm. And we'll talk to you later.

LARRY FENSTER: Signing off.

Thanks for listening to this episode of All Things Co-op.To learn more about All Things Co-op, check out our web page at Democracy At Work ,dot info, slash ATC. And if you enjoy this podcast and want to help support it, please go to Patreon.com All Things Co-op, to contribute any amount that works for you.

 

Transcript by Ryan T.
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Showing 5 comments

  • Evangeline Moen
    commented 2022-03-30 15:02:53 -0400
    I’ve consumed my “leisure” to listen. Leaving early.
  • Evangeline Moen
    commented 2022-03-30 15:02:53 -0400
    I’ve consumed my “leisure” to listen. Leaving early.
  • Evangeline Moen
    commented 2022-03-30 15:01:20 -0400
    WHITENESS: When “Having” Immolates The Existential Natural Essence of Self-organizing Systems
  • Evangeline Moen
    commented 2022-03-30 14:58:13 -0400
    So the co-operative model is subsumed in the capitalist model of consumerism. Maybe there are other models…ex: Wm Hoff wellbeing model.
  • Evangeline Moen
    commented 2022-03-30 14:56:20 -0400
    ME leiser < OFr leisir, substantive use of inf., to be permitted < L licere < IE base *leik-, to offer for sale, bargain
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