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  • Writer's picturegabriellehalpern

Radio RCJ: The work value

Updated: Jan 31, 2023

This column is presented by Gabrielle Halpern every Tuesday in the 12 o'clock news on Radio RCJ and offers a philosophical look at current events.

May Day, which celebrates labour, is an opportunity to ask ourselves about its profound transformations. We are increasingly hearing that the younger generations have a completely different relationship with work, that they are lazy and that the work ethic no longer has any meaning for them... True or false?

First of all, it should be observed that this type of statement is systematically made by older generations...! This negative view of youth is nothing new, since Socrates already said that "our young people love luxury, have bad manners, don't care about authority and have no respect for age. In our day and age, children are tyrants". In 720 B.C. Hesiod wrote: "I have no hope for the future of our country if the youth of today takes command tomorrow, because this youth is unbearable, unrestrained, simply terrible.

That said, it would seem that, far from being lazy, the new generations may well be much more demanding in their relationship with work. What previous generations accepted from the companies or administrations in which they worked is effectively being challenged by our youth. In reality, several dogmas of work are being questioned. The first is the sacred trio of "an education corresponds to a diploma, which translates into a job that I will do for the rest of my life" - this trio is over, young people want to live a thousand professional lives in one! The second is the division of labour. Adam Smith promised us that this would increase productivity - incidentally, he didn't invent anything, because Plato, centuries before him, said that "a thing is best done when each person does only one thing". That's all very well except that the younger generations understand that what we gain in productivity, we lose in meaning and time - with tremendous difficulty in coordinating and sharing information. The younger generations will invent the hybridisation of work[1]. They have no problem being what I call 'centaurs'[2], i.e. having one foot in several worlds.

What if we stopped looking at our youth with desperate eyes? What if we finally trusted them a little?

[1] Gabrielle Halpern, "La Fable du centaure", Humensciences, 2022 (Comic book illustrated by Didier Petetin).

[2] Gabrielle Halpern, "Tous centaures! Eloge de l'hybridation", Le Pommier, 2020.


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