Birmingham Salon

Work, anti-work, post work


Work, anti-work, post work

Saturday 9th March, 1.00 pm - 3.00 pm

Map Room, Cherry Reds, 88-92 John Bright Street, B1 1BN

Tickets £3.50 (plus EventBrite fee)

Please book via EventBrite

Beveridge’s 1942 report cited ‘Idleness 'as one of the five great ‘wants‘ and Freud said that love and work are the cornerstone of our humanness, driven by the same life-force.   From the establishment of bourgeois society, the society of those who work, work has been dogged by its shadows, unemployment and bankruptcy. Unemployment is still a dismal prospect for most people and even proponents of a post-work future still envisage us filling our leisure time with constructive activity underpinned by a universal basic income.  The advent of AI suggests increasing numbers of higher status jobs, such as GP, are threatened with the prospect of unemployment.

However, it appears in the 21st century we have fallen out with the idea of work in a very fundamental way. There are 2.8 million adults designated as suffering from long-term illness and the labour force inactivity rate has increased by 1.4% since the pandemic, now standing at 21.4% and one of the highest since records began in 1993. The NHS has an enormous backlog of people waiting for operations, but is some of this illness a manifestation of anxiety and neurosis: sanctioned shirking? Even so, what would we do if this were to stop? There are currently around 900,000 vacancies, a significant number, but not enough should most of those people become well enough to work.

The pandemic measures saw many workplaces close or limit access, and some companies have never reopened their offices or have drastically cut their use of office space and promoted hybrid working. Arguably, one compensation of even the most tedious and menial of jobs was to be found in the companionship of colleagues. Close technological monitoring at work attempts to produce productivity increases, whilst HR promotes policies that focus on people as members of separate identity groups. Perhaps people are too isolated, self-censoring, and closely scrutinised to find work anything other than dehumanising, and unable to develop friendships at work which might help make it more rewarding. But if that’s the case, why encourage work and home to blur and readily give up opportunities for face to face contact, as many have done, rather than fight for management to back off and for a space wholly dedicated to work? 

There is also a generation gap, with 18-24 year olds the least likely to want to work from home. But in this age group, too, there is also a tendency against showing open ambition and making your work a focus of your life. 

Is this all okay? Does it mean society is reacting against an empty idea of having it all which has meant unsustainable sacrifices in other areas of life? Or are we giving up on opportunities, via our work, to show ourselves at our best?


Three of our Salon regulars, Rosie, Rebecca, and Derrick will discuss their thoughts on this topic.

Rosie Pocklington works in the 3rd sector advising on health and finance. Rosie will focus on work ethic.

Rebecca Rosewarne spent 30 years in Russell Group universities as administrator, student and supervisor. She has 3 Masters Degrees and had 2 attempts at PhD. She will focus on labour force inactivity.

Derrick Scott is a retired computer systems manager. He will focus on the impact of e.g. robotics, AI and other developments on work from shop-floor to C-suite.

Chair: Rosie Cuckston


Which is worse, work or no work? Peter Franklin, UnHerd, February 2020

'There's nothing sexier than a 9 to 5 job': how a generation fell out of love with work, The Telegraph, August 2023 

Post work: the radical idea of a world without jobs, The Guardian, January 2018