I have just been reviewing John Hughes’ The End of Work which I like very much. He argues that Marx used a sleight of hand in introducing the concept of unalienated labour, seeing behind this prestige the hand of God. His arguments are essentially etymological. The first word he examines is criticism.

He notes that the concept of criticism assumes an ideal against which a thing might be criticised, and he uses this argument to track back through Marx to a simulacrum of the divine work of creation as the ideal for unalienated labour. The second word he examines is utility. He concludes that without that to which it refers it is an essentially meaningless word: something has to be useful for something else. He then reinvigorates Beauty as the natural opponent of utility and its ideal end. I like Hughes because his arguments give me two things. One, I can now appeal to the historical as well as the theological ideal to argue that good work is best understood as that which contributes to the maintenance of Planet Earth. Two, I can now ask the question: how can you make the work that you do more beautiful?

Leave a Reply