Undoubtedly, making the world better means socialist revolution, and the construction of socialist society, but I’m not sure where I’d fit into that. What would be my job in a socialist society. For some, their work life might not change very much, aside from becoming more democratic in its management. For many others, they would be liberated from rather unpleasant jobs as a collective approach to deciding what needs to be done, how to do it, and how to allocate resources to make sure it gets done shift away from profit maximization to generalized human flourishing. In my case, I just don’t know.
I don’t really have a career. I have a job that became a career, in large part due to capitalism. Once I got a job that offered regular full-time hours, salary, and benefits, I worked hard to make sure I wouldn’t lose them. I’ve gotten consistent raises, a few promotions along the way, my own office…but I’m doing anything I love, or even care about. Nevertheless, I’ve developed a particular knowledge-base, and I’m too close to retirement now to even consider switching tracks. Not to mention how much I loathe the thought of having to endure the application & interview process over again to find a new position.
Of course, some of that dread is also based on capitalism. I certainly don’t want to have to pretend during interviews that I’m not a communist, that I don’t believe that management should be collective and democratic, that I will keep my head down and take orders like a good little wage slave. But if we were suddenly thrust into a socialist scenario, maybe that dread would disappear.
I’m still not sure the knowledge and skills I’ve developed over the last two-and-a-half decades would open any interesting doors for me, and I’m also not sure we’d want to continue practices in my field in the way they have been done under capitalism, or that my field would even continue to be relevant.
Sure, there would necessarily be a transitional period, and nothing would flip from the purely capitalist model to a purely socialist model overnight, and even more realistically, we are still a long way from socialism, because we are a long way from the class consciousness needed to even begin to really build the movement necessary to challenge the capitalist system. So there’s really not much for me to be concerned about, in that sense.
But as I’m driving to my job I don’t enjoy, especially on Mondays, I can’t help but think about how much I wish I wasn’t doing that, which often leads to me think, “what would I realistically be doing instead, in a better world?” Of course, I would still need to work. Socialism is not the elimination of work (despite some anarchist perspectives that seem to think it is). Work will still be entirely necessary. It will just be managed differently, and toward different ends.
I’d love to be part of the party, thinking through the reconstruction of political processes and systems that will enable us to build a healthier society, and yet, a key aspect of my political philosophy is that nobody should be able to make politics a career. Moreover, though I’ve been trying to disseminate the ideas that I believe are crucial interventions into communist theory for the potential long-term success of socialist construction, I haven’t really gotten much engagement from others, or inspired anyone else to take up a similar mantle. So, even if we imagined a role for political theorists/philosophers, why should a socialist society give me a job theorizing and writing ideas that do not seem valuable? Or maybe the deficit in not in the ideas, but rather in my presentation of them? However, if so, again, why should I be professionally employed by a socialist society to write things in a way that won’t engage others?
Maybe, since I’m near retirement anyway, and since a socialist society would undoubtedly grant a more stable economic future for retired people than capitalism does, I could spend more time and energy on political writing as a retiree, and find a way to constructively contribute to the broader discourse on the socialist project.
Alas, again, socialism is in some indefinite future, and I may never see it. Instead, I will have to continue to plug away at my capitalist job, and try to contribute what I can in my off time to building a movement to overthrow capitalism – for my kids, and my grandkids, and the generations I may never meet.