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The concept of New Work describes the new way of working of today's society in the global and digital age. The term was coined by the Austro-American social philosopher Frithjof Bergmann and is based on his research on the notion of freedom and the assumption that the previous work system was outdated.
Bergmann's concept starts with a critical assessment of the American understanding of liberty. He does not consider liberty the option to choose between two or more, more or less better or worse options (liberty to choose); his understanding of liberty is the option to do something that is really, really important (decide what you want to do because you believe in it).
The core values of the concept of New Work are autonomy, freedom and participation in the community. New Work should offer new ways of creativity and personal development, thus contributing something really important to the job market. In this way, real "freedom of action" is possible. The main idea of New Work is to create space for creativity and self-fulfillment (or: The Pursuit of Happiness). Since he considers the job system to be obsolete, mankind has the option to get rid of wage labor.
The early capitalistic system of wage labour should slowly be transformed into New Work. This New Work should consist of three parts:
- A third gainful employment
- A third High-Tech-Self-Providing ('self-sufficiency') and smart consumption
- A third of work that you really, really want.
Since the quantity of available gainful labor (traditional work to be done) - in the context of the industrial society - will become less due to automation in all economic domains, advocates of New Work suggest reduced gainful employment for everyone. The time released by this reduction of gainful employment should in return create the financial basis to create things that can neither be produced through do-it-yourself work (active work?) nor by neighbour-based networks.
High Tech Self Providing and Smart Consumption
Satisfying the needs of mankind will be supported by high tech self-providing using the newest technology. In the near future, so-called Fabbers - automated all-in-one devices - could produce goods autonomously.
Bergmann considers 'Smart Consumption' that people should contemplate and decide what they really need. According to Bergmann, many products and things are irrelevant, since they consume more time when using them than they save. One example could be the garlic press where most of the time the time cleaning the device consumes more time than the 'time saved' by using the press compared to manual pressing/cutting.
By self-supply and smart consumption, people can maintain a good standard of living even though only one-third of the entire capacity is used for wage labor.
Work that you really, really want
This is the most important component of New Work. The idea is: work as such is endless and it is a lot more than what is and can be provided by the wage labor system. According to Bergmann, every human being can find work that is aligned with the own values, desires, dreams, hope, and skills.
Since Bergmann denies a revolutionary process to overcome the wage labor system, change can only happen slowly and this change can only be achieved through people that closely analyze their real, real desires and pursue those desires. By doing so, they become more and more independent from the wage labor system.
In so-called 'centers for new work' the idea is that people collaborate and with the support of mentors, they try to identify what kind of work they really, really want to do. This process is of course complex, demanding and time-consuming. Bergmann uses the term 'Selbstunkenntnis'. By the process of trying to identify what a person really, really wants to do, a general movement could begin that changes one's life so that people feel 'more alive'.
Pushing the concept further
The psychologist Markus Väth developed Bergmann's theory further: based on Bergmann's paper 'New Work, New Culture', Väth illustrates four pillars on which a successful implementation of New Work could be based on:
- a conscious way of life ("Life Blending") in combination with a re-evaluation of the importance of work for one's life
- a systematic model of competencies that are relevant to work in a highly complex, dynamic world
- a change model for organizations that enable a paradigm shift in culture and organizations
- an intensive debate about the role of work in society and a corresponding mandate from the political world ("New Work Deal")
- Frithjof Bergmann: Neue Arbeit, Neue Kultur. Arbor Verlag, Freiamt, Mai 2004, ISBN 3-924195-96-X
- Frithjof Bergmann: On Being Free - University of Notre Dame, November 1977; ISBN 0-268-01492-2
- Frithjof Bergmann: Die Freiheit leben. - Arbor Verlag, Freiamt, 2005; ISBN 3-936855-03-X
- Frithjof Bergmann/Stella Friedmann: Neue Arbeit kompakt: Vision einer selbstbestimmten Gesellschaft. Arbor Verlag, Freiamt 2007; ISBN 3924195951
- Markus Väth: Arbeit - die schönste Nebensache der Welt. Wie New Work unsere Arbeitswelt revolutioniert. GABAL, Offenbach, 2016; ISBN 978-3-86936-720-0.
- A 2020 that we could attain (Article from Frithjof Bergmann; PDF; 188 kB)
- NANK | Neue Arbeit - Neue Kultur. Offizielle Webseite im deutschen Sprachraum
- NANK | Neue Arbeit - Neue Kultur. Interaktive Videodatenbank von Frithjof Bergmann
- Podcasts mit Bergmann auf der Website des Kepler Salon