Transcribed from the 27 June 2015 episode of This is Hell! Radio and printed with permission. Edited for space and readability. Listen to the full interview:
“Cooperatives are not just about doing good or creating change through our work externally, but also about bringing democracy and equality into the economy.”
Chuck Mertz: Imagine a world where you actually find your work to be something more than a job. Imagine, if you will, a world where a life’s work is actually fulfilling and expresses who and what you really are and believe, where the pursuit of happiness is actually happening every day. I know what you’re thinking. It’s hard to imagine. After all, this is hell.
But it’s actually happening, at least in some parts of our world. Here to tell us what steps we could take toward a happier place here on Earth: Rhiannon Colvin, who wrote the article Re-imagining the Future of Work, which is an extract from Resist: Against a Precarious Future, the third book in the Radical Futures series.
Thanks for being on This is Hell!, Rhiannon.
Rhiannon Colvin: Hello!
CM: Great to have you on the show. Rhiannon graduated two years ago, and after competing in the brutal graduate job market and researching solutions to youth unemployment in Portugal and Spain, she founded a group called AltGen, which supports 18- to 29-year-olds to set up cooperative businesses as an empowering and collaborative solution to youth unemployment.
You write, “Imagine that it’s 2025 and the world of work has changed. Today we do labor out of passion, not obligation. Nobody has a low-paid job or has to balance multiple jobs just to make rent. Work gives us meaning and direction, but it does not define who we are. The three-day working week means we have time to spend with friends and family, to contribute to our communities, and have a say in how society is run.”
That sounds fantastic. But are those things even the goal of today’s economy? And how much do you think we’ve forgotten that a functioning economy should give everyone a better quality of life?
RC: I don’t think that those are the goals of today’s economy, but they are the goals of many young people and progressive movements today. And it sounds like an unrealistic dream, but it’s something that really is possible through a number of different strategies I outline. In the UK, when people in government—or trade unions, even—talk about solutions to youth unemployment, they keep within the narrative of more and more jobs…in the same kinds of companies, in the same kind of way.
They don’t actually have any vision for what kind of future we want.