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Total Work Newsletter #23: I'm An Anticareerist And You Should Be One Too

June 30 · Issue #23 · View online
Total Work Newsletter: How Work Took Over the World
Total Work, a term coined by the philosopher Josef Pieper, is the process by which human beings are transformed into workers as work, like a total solar eclipse symbolized in the logo above, comes to obscure all other aspects of life. In these newsletters, I document, reflect upon, and seek to understand this world historical process, one that started at least as far back as 1800 and possibly as early as 1500.
Announcement #1: One reader suggested that I do a Q&A. I thought that was a great idea, so if you have any questions about total work and about how it applies to your life, please send those questions to me at My aim is to pick 10 of the questions to answer in the next issue (#24) of the newsletter. 
Announcement #2: My friend Peter Limberg thought I misrepresented Venkatesh Rao’s argument in last week’s issue (#22). In the spirit of justice, I include his reply. Peter writes,
This seems a bit uncharitable to Venkat [Venkatesh Rao] … You wrote, “What I actually deny is that it’s possible to find ultimate fulfillment through work.”
I don’t think he made that propositional claim anywhere. He simply said that to come alive through work, you need to find deeper motivation other than survival. He also softened his stance later on by saying: “Not all economic activities satisfy the necessary conditions to allow solving for aliveness.”
The point is well-taken and, as far as what VGR actually argued, I stand corrected. That said, part of the confusion was owing to my sloppy writing. What I should have said is that the common move I see is that (a) many people try to find fulfillment through work and (b) they go on to put all their eggs in one basket (from finding some fulfillment in work, however hard this may be, to seeking ultimate fulfillment in and through work). While it was clearly a mistake on my part to attribute that move to VGR, the move is, all the same, one that people often make and so is worth keeping an eye out for. To catch a glimpse of what may be truer of more cases of modern work (though we might want to be careful with selection bias), take a look at the Paul Millard tweet below.

The Drug You Really Need
As seen by Alexandra Taggart in The New Yorker
As seen by Alexandra Taggart in The New Yorker
All Work And No Play Makes Jack Worse Than A Dull Boy
#1: STRUCTURAL BADNESS | The Case Against Work | 5 min. | TPM | Opinion
#2: KNOCKING OFF | Why You Should Slack Off to Get Some Work Done | 3 min. | WIRED | Opinion HT Paul Millerd
#3: SUICIDE | Farmers in America Are Killing Themselves in Staggering Numbers | 3 min. | CBS | News
#4: MARATHON CAREERS | Stanford Psychologist Laura Carstensen Says Careers Should Be Mapped For Longer Lifespans | 3 min. | Quartz | Reporting
Slowly And Marginally And Then All At Once...
Paul Millerd
I have talked to at least one person in their 20s, 30s, 40s, 50s, and 60s in the last week who more or less says that work is destroying their lives. How does this happen? Slowly and marginally and then all at once. Hard to escape. #totalwork
I'm An Anticareerist And You Should Be One Too
Brief Preface
I’m interested in careers and careerism for the principal reason that it’s one expression of the spirit of total work, one way, that is, in which work becomes central to our lives and to our identities. So, I turn to that fiery piece now.
Anticareerism in a Strong Sense
I despise careers. Not this or that career but all careers. I mean I despise the concept of the career because I think it’s a bad - and destructive - idea. 
I’m an anticareerist. D. JoAnne Swanson is the founder of The Anticareerist, a website devoted to anticareerist ideas, and Kate McFarland is a proponent of an anticareerist lifestyle. McFarland defines an anticareerist as “someone who chooses to reject the pursuit of a career in his or her own life.” Which makes me an anticareerist in an even stronger, or objective, sense since I believe that putting any career front and center in one’s life, regardless of who one is or whichever career path one is on, is a bad and destructive idea.
My aim is to convince you of this.
[You can read the rest of the piece (about 1500 words) on Medium. It’s a fiery one that won’t disappoint.] 
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Comments, Suggestions, Articles on Total Work?
Feel free to send comments, suggestions, thoughts, and articles about total work to me at Andrew Taggart <>.
If You’d Like to Become a Patron…
Thank you to all my current patrons! If you feel called to support my philosophical life, you can do so here <>.
For Newcomers
Looking for some clarity about the nature and history of total work? Start by reading my brief overview of total work on my Patreon account <>, Next, take a look at the first issue of this newsletter <> Next, check out my Quartz at Work pieces (December 2017- present), which are available here <>. Lastly, visit my website, <>, which is devoted to investigating this topic and which is also still under construction.
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