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How to Kill the Job Culture Before It Kills You, by Claire Wolfe

In our modern society, it's generally accepted that a job is a necessary evil. How else could a person support herself, especially if she enjoys the tech toys that have seemingly become necessities? For those who take the time to gain some perspective, however, a bit of thought should lead to the realization that jobs are a modern contrivance that humans managed to survive without for millennia. Can we survive -- even thrive -- without a job today? In How to Kill the Job Culture Before It Kills You, Claire Wolfe addresses those questions, and much more.

Beginning with a brief, critical examination of the Industrial Revolution, Wolfe documents the creation of the job culture and the concomitant shifts in supporting oneself. She's at her best in this first part of the tri-section book, addressing the problems a job culture creates and chiding many free-market advocates for being too uncritical of business and today's markets (that are anything but free) in general. In doing so, Wolfe draws a distinction that's crucially important, but easily overlooked: it's not having a job that's necessarily harmful, it's the increasing institutionalization of work that stifles individuality and freedom.

In the second section, "Freeing Ourselves", Wolfe offers her typically straightforward thoughts and suggestions on how to transition from wage slave to autonomous individual. In dispensing her advice, she leaves a lot of room for variability, which is wise: not everyone wants to -- or can, from a practical standpoint -- become fully self-employed. That open-endedness might be a positive or negative for a reader. Another potential negative is a dearth of details; one might feel upon finishing How to Kill the Job Culture Before It Kills You that Wolfe leaves readers hanging on a precipice that she's encouraged them to jump from. For me, the absence of self-employment possibility lists or numerous navel-gazing tasks was a pure positive: no one else can chart another's course. Once one's eyes are open, possibilities can be discovered all around, but each individual has to evaluate them, and his or her own needs and preferences, for goodness of fit.

The concluding section, "The Rest of the World", is largely Wolfe's speculations on the "jobless future" and how to accomplish it. As such, it's the lightest section, content-wise; I found it rather shallow, but that could be due to my having experience in self-employment options and trying to anticipate future directions, rather than a lack on her part. For those just becoming aware of the limitations of the job culture, it will probably address many questions and spur even more thinking.

The only other substantial quibble I have with How to Kill the Job Culture Before It Kills You is a subtle thing that many readers probably won't notice; in describing shifts in work environments and relationships Wolfe often asserts that individuals were forced to do certain things, or to give up others. I wonder how many of them, unarmed with the hindsight we have, would view their choices in that way. While it's true that they may not have fully understood what they were giving up in taking the jobs they did, outside of true slave labor individuals did have the choice of trying to secure employment in a factory, or to stay with a specific job under changing conditions. To characterize voluntary choices as forced adopts a victim mentality that is probably inaccurate, somewhat hyperbolic, and undermines the shift to greater self-reliance that Wolfe is advocating.

How To Kill the Job Culture Before It Kills You isn't a step-by-step manual to greater economic freedom -- no book can be that to a large number of diverse individuals. It is a thoughtful and thought-provoking examination of an aspect of modern Western life that far too many assume is a given, and offers ideas to help any individual who wants to loosen -- or entirely break -- the chains of the job culture from around his life. Perhaps best of all, while it's consistently pro-freedom, it's also highly suitable for nonlibertarian audiences. If you have family members, friends, or colleagues who hate their jobs, giving them a copy of How to Kill the Job Culture Before It Kills You could break them out of a nasty rut and start them on a discovery of the freedom philosophy. That's quite a powerful punch for one slim book!

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