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"...public opinion deserves to be respected as well as despised" G.W.F. Hegel, 'Philosophy of Right'

the politics of wellbeing « Previous | |Next »
May 6, 2007

If material wealth is not the same as well-being, then a cultural shift around working time - a normalisation of shorter hours is necessary so that both men and women can work, care and live flourishing lives. If that is what a politics of wellbeing is about, then happiness requires good health, nourishing relationships, meaningful activities and autonomy.

Will either political party move to reshape the working time required to ease the oppressive strain of an outdated work culture (built on the assumption of a stay-at-home wife) on today's typical two-earner family. The longer the hours a man works, the more he leaves his partner to pick up the domestic responsibilities, thus crippling her capacity to work.

It is hard to tell what is happening policy wise behind the carefully managed media images and reflections as to how they think whether, and how, governments should act explicitly to enhance well-being in a neo-liberal world:

Davidson.jpg
Matt Davidson

However, it does not appear as if the wellbeing debate is central. The politicians are tacitly saying that working 60 hours a week is vital for business competitiveness and individual choice".

Yet the use of "individual choice" stands opposed to Labor's history, which it has always been understood that employment conditions are very rarely a matter of individual choice - isn't that the whole rationale of trade unionism? Few politicians are arguing that Australia has become far too competitive and oriented to personal success, or question the way we increasing rely on drugs to ensure relief from crippling depression and anxiety conditions.

We have a work/family structure where long-hours culture generates a twin-track labour market which dovetails neatly with employers' interests: well-paid jobs with long hours at the top, and poorly paid jobs with short hours at the bottom. Childless professional women will crash through the glass ceilings, but those with caring responsibilities (mostly women), who get trapped at the bottom with a big pay gap. Doesn't his work/family structure cause depression and anxiety?

We need to find ways of continuing, deepening and broadening the debate around the politics of wellbeing.Tilting the balance back from economy friendly families to family friendly economies would be a start.

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 8:59 AM |