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RE-imagining Work: Another Production is Possible

By Richard Feldman, Boggs Center

In 1963, in his first book, “The American Revolution Pages from a Negro worker’s Notebook” Chrysler worker Jimmy Boggs challenged labor and rights activists to recognize that the elimination of jobs by HiTech was not only creating a permanent underclass in our cities but requiring workers to redefine them/ourselves as citizens, making a life and not just a living.

In 1970 , after graduating from the University of Michigan, I started working at the Ford Truck plant. Year after year I experienced the replacement of thousands of workers by robots and technology described by Jimmy. So In 1988, I co-edited an oral history book entitled, End of the Line: Auto Workers and the American Dream which essentially concluded with the recognition that the 20th Century American Dream was over and it was time to create a new dream for our country.

In 2012 the whole world needs this new dream. From Greece to Italy, from Detroit, Michigan, to Bessemer, Alabama, more than 1 billion people are unemployed, So everyone, everywhere, needs to know whether another kind of production , which provides Work for everyone, is possible

Fortunately. Frithjof Bergmann, who had been my philosophy professor at the University of Michigan, has been grappling with this question, and has discovered that HiTech is not only the problem; it is the solution. It is both negative and positive. It eliminates Jobs; but it also enables local communiities to produce for their own needs instead of purchasing these in the market .

With new advances in technology , we can manufacture anything and everything we need in community workshops with the same ease with which community gardeners now produce their own food, writers publish their own books, and filmmakers produce their own films.

In small places, small rooms, on every block, we can produce clothes, shoes, musical instruments, electricity, even refrigerators, microwave ovens, computers, motor cycles, or bikes. This means that community people can decide our particular needs and then do the Work to meet these needs in the quantities needed .

In the process we will be producing not only products but new, vibrant self-reiiant local cultures.

We will no longer need large capital investment to create value adding manufacturing processes in Detroit or any city.

In Detroit, with more than 1600 Community Gardens that bring the country back into the city, we can now produce enough food to feed people across our city and region.. In the next decade, using advanced technology in community workshops, we can produce most of the things that our communities, our city or our region need!

A new mode of local, workshop production is emerging in our city and our world, which is as profound and far-reaching as the transition from hunting and gathering to agriculture 11,000 years ago and from agriculture to industry a few hundred years ago. It is not only the urban gardening movement; there is an aquaponics movement and an urban fish farming movement. And, just as growing our own food is giving birth to local manufacturing of agricultural tools and machinery, new forms of food distribution, new restaurants, and training young people in the culinary arts, this new workshop production will grow new crafts, skills and trades in our communities instead of profits for multinational corporations.

New technology producing for local needs can help us move toward beloved and diverse communities where our commitments are to each other and not to the $$$$ bill or to some job that is rapidly being eliminated. The market economy will be replaced by this emerging community economy. Technology can help us produce for our security and well-being rather than for the faceless markets of big box stores.

During Detroit Summer 2012 Frithjof Bergmann will share his experiences initiating New Work and New Culture in Asian, African, Detroit communities.

JOIN US FOR A MIND-BLOWING RE-IMAGINING WORK, CREATING NEW COMMUNITIES DISCUSSION THURSDAY JULY 5 at the Cass Corridor Commons (Unitarian Church, Forest and Cass) 3 p.m.

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