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What Karl Marx would have thought about the four-day week

The new proletariat are those who still have to work on Fridays.

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What Karl Marx would have thought about the four-day week

The new proletariat are those who still have to work on Fridays. At least in Berlin, the cycle paths, subways and the Springer canteen are significantly emptier on the last day of the traditional working week. The four-day week is now not only common in typical millennial jobs, in which productivity can only be measured to a limited extent, but also in traditional trades that are desperately looking for young applicants. A large-scale test of the four-day week in British factories produced good results. Overall, the social trend has long been to question the traditional model of five working days of around eight hours each.

A good reason to remember what work actually is. “Work”, like “language”, is one of those terms that everyone can imagine, but whose definition has been worked on by high-ranking minds with very different results. The only thing that is certain is that the debate about the four-day week is not about gardening and working out, but about wage labor.

To this day, their definition, either affirmatively or critically, is still based on Karl Marx. What is done in a four or five day week is “alienated work” in the Marxian sense. For Marx, alienation is by no means a quasi-psychological category, as it is often understood today. In his main economic work "Das Kapital" from 1867 he writes about the worker: "Because before he enters the process his own labor is alienated from himself, appropriated to the capitalist and incorporated into capital, it is constantly objectified during the process in someone else's product . Since the production process is at the same time the process of consuming labor power by the capitalist, the product of the worker is constantly transformed not only into commodities but also into capital, value that sucks the value-creating force, subsistence that people buy, means of production that the producer uses. So the worker not only allows himself to be exploited, but also produces the means that exploit him.

Marxists have been arguing about the concept of alienation since 1932, when Marx’s early work, the “Economic-Philosophical Manuscripts” was published. The question at stake is whether the definition of “alienation” there underlies the “Capital” written two decades later (in which he cares little about clarifying the terms “alienation” and “work”), or whether he overcame it because in his youth he still thought too much in the categories of Hegel and Feuerbach. Thinking about it breaks every four-day week. Because the more pressing problem in the world of work seems to be the dissolution of boundaries rather than alienation. A new cartoon in The New Yorker shows a man at a computer remarking, "A four-day workweek is a three-day-to-get-things-weekend."

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