CalvinistWatch – Happiness is having a job, according to Civitas

In a shocking confusion of correlation with causation, Anastasia de Waal from Civitas bangs the drum for the Calvinist world-view that happiness is having a job. I’ve already had a run-in with the Calvinist work-ethic on here. It may be damned fortuitous that this makes the wage-slaves pliant, but it still needs shooting wherever it arises.

Say it ain’t so, Anastasia. Even at Civitas they must know deep down that there’s more to life than having a job. It’s also damned convenient for a right-wing think tank to take the line that the serfs do it for the good of their souls and the money doesn’t matter. So there’s no need to pay the oiks a living wage then, leaving more for Sir Hector Fat Cat’s bonus, presumably.

Clearly the standards of logical discourse are slipping these days. I think that in a capitalist society such as ours, for most people having a job would appear to be a necessary, but not sufficient condition to be happy. Me, I’d kick the job into touch in a heartbeat – it’s having an income that is necessary, though again not sufficient for being happy.

Civitas take a look at the undoubted unhappiness that goes with not having a job if you have no other means of supporting yourself and your family, and flip the sense of it to imply “Happiness…. is having a job” to plagiarize the Hamlet cigar ads of yesteryear.

Anastasia de Waal, a social policy analyst at the think tank Civitas, said employment was central to people’s sense of identity and wellbeing.

“A job is about your life, it is not about your income,” she said.

“It is about every aspect – having the motivation to get up in the morning, self-esteem and being a role model to your children. Income is almost secondary to that.

“People’s lives fall apart if they don’t have a job. They are much more likely to be depressed if they are out of work, and there is a strong relationship between unemployment and family breakdown and health difficulties.”

Well, colour me stupid , but let’s just run that lot again with “have any money” swapped for “have a job”

Ermine, a cynical bastard at the blog Simple Living in Suffolk, said having enough money was central to people’s sense of identity and wellbeing.

“Having enough money is about your life, it is not about your job,”

[Calvinist claptrap omitted]

“People’s lives fall apart if they don’t have any money. They are much more likely to be depressed if they have no money, and there is a strong relationship between being skint and family breakdown and health difficulties.”

Works pretty well for me. None of this is to gainsay the obvious suffering and hardship that many people are suffering as they lose their jobs, but I’d say that the hardship would be a damn sight less if they didn’t lose their income at the same time as losing their job.Some of the wage-slaves might even get to meet their kids and see what they’re up to these days…

We need to understand this subtle difference if we have to re-engineer our societies for a world in which the myth of continuous growth is shown to have been an illusory dream all along. Although it is hard to image from where we are standing, it is possible to conceive of a society where not everybody had jobs, but everybody had enough income to lead an interesting life.

Say, for instance, we were in some sci-fi future where we had matter replicators and robots. Provided we had managed to avoid the MegaCorporation of Earth copyrighting everything beforehand, this could lead to a society where there were no material wants. Of course it would probably be unsustainable and environmentally destructive too, but hey, if you run out of Earths you could always make another, that’s what a matter replicator is there for πŸ™‚

9 thoughts on “CalvinistWatch – Happiness is having a job, according to Civitas”

  1. I’ve never understood it either. I havent been as happy and content as I am now in a long time. I now realise how miserable and imprisoned I felt.

    Not all jobs are bad though, I hear that there are some people who apparently enjoy what they do. Is it just people who work in the professional world who are miserable? People who dont work in offices IMHO seem to be a lot happier. Is there a link here?

    But some of us really dont want to work:)


  2. >Is it just people who work in the professional world who are miserable? People who dont work in offices IMHO seem to be a lot happier. Is there a link here?

    I’m not too sure that *everyone* in an office is unhappy, depends a lot on the nature of the work and also the design of the office environment as well as the colleagues. That said I do a variety of tasks at my job from office based work to hands on practical stuff, and have flexible hours and remote working.

    I know plenty of manual workers who are also unhappy, especially when work becomes sporadic or their self-made businesses fail (often due to overstretching themselves or lack of customer service).

    there are also people who do indeed enjoy a ruthlessly competitive environment, at least until they lose a battle and are knocked off the top of the perch πŸ˜‰

    I noticed in the 80s/90s during the good times that the the Sir Hector Fat Cats of many UK companies often had such personal wealth they could *easily* just walk out of the office when they reach their 50s – or (in the case of a family business) pass the business down to their kids – but very few of them do so.

    Many actually die in service, working till the last until their arteries stop pumping. Some of them seem to work on boards of directors even after they retire, virtually being wheeled in to the conference rooms or hobbling in on mobility aids..

    perhaps these people are insane or have masochistic tendencies or a different species, but clearly they must enjoy the cut and thrust of the boardroom more than anything else they could spend their time doing..

    Actually particularly since the economic depression started I’ve noticed a lot of high fliers (some only in their 30s…) go down from heart attacks in recent times, others have kept the NHS’s finest at Papworth busy…

    I disagree with Ms de Waal’s overall assesment though as even “dream jobs” can go bad especially when the economy declines and competition increases. For instance to get to where SLS works was once a “dream job” for techies during the heady dot com days, I believe (putting aside the bureaucratic structure which came with its history) it was once even *fun* to work there!


  3. It’s not the work that makes people unhappy.
    It’s the crazy people whom we call ‘managers’.

    I seriously believe that most of them are mentally ill.

    Show me someone who wants to be a manager and I’ll show you a narcissist who shouldn’t be allowed near the job.

    Ten years or so it wasn’t too bad. Then we got what I call the `Cult of Management’.

    Most of these people couldn’t manage to find their own arse without a map, never mind manage people properly.

    How does one manage people properly?
    Treat them as people rather than chattels and without resorting to policy and procedure at the first hint of anything out of the ordinary. How about some managers who can think for themselves without reaching for the ‘Management for Dummies’ book.
    Treat people with respect rather than bullying them.

    Work is extremely over-rated and, like your good self, I will drop it like a hot brick at the earliest opportunity.


  4. @Dreamer, I wonder if it is more that people who work in offices grouch about it more. And yes, mea culpa πŸ™‚ When I worked in kitchens and restaurants as a youth there were folks that hated it there, though the overall cameraderie was better than some office jobs nowadays. That, FWIW, is one area where I can’t moan about mine.

    @Alex I don’t know what the fat cats are doing either, they seem to have no significant life outside work, though on the face of it the trophy wife, kids @ private school/uni etc look fine. But there seems to be no mechanism for coming to the conclusion that enough is enough, the days are being counted off their lives and it’s time to do something more interesting than work. There’s only so much caviar and Dom Perignon you can take on board πŸ˜‰

    @Ian – I’d go along with some of that, more as a particular example of the reovlting way business fads whistle through big companies like a dose of salts. When companies were managed by people that worked their way up there was more diversity in company management styles, but now a lot of top brass seems to be draw from a self-serving pool of ‘top talent’ they end up relying on management cliches and fads, which all resemble each other. I’m not sure that you can manage the diverse range of companies using the same basic principles, hence the shortening tenure of Hector Fat Cats. The last local boss of the division of my company I work in was such a stain that he was outed, sorry, ‘chose to pursue other interests’.

    A little bit of research on Google, which I did when he joined, showed that he left Qwest under a cloud and his much vaunted innovations at Dresdner Kleinwort Benson had to be rolled back by the next guys because his innovations led to inflexible systems. Funny how recruitment for big cheeses seems to manage to miss such obvious tricks. People more cynical than I might imagine some back-scratching was going on…


  5. @ermine,
    A long time reader and ex-Blighty (lived 7 years there) so, you are my one of my ‘windows’ to ol’ Blighty! I share your outlook on many things, and we have a mutual friend too, “Extreme Jacob!” πŸ˜€

    Last year was quite taxing personally, professionally and emotionally, so I left things hanging abruptly. I have revived the blog with the intention of writing/documenting more.

    Moving on to the topic,……Bertrand Russell was always big in our house. My father, who was himself opposed to this 7AM-8PM (total time from waking up to getting back home) slavery and would often quote “Belief in a cause is a source of happiness” sarcastically to his other enthusiastic colleagues! So, who better than Uncle Bertie to support your side of the argument? πŸ˜‰
    Here’s Bertie with In Praise of Idleness. This is one of his lovely pieces and does take apart all those “Work is a virtue” claptrap.

    I say, down with the (in)famous “Work Ethic”, for life’s too short to be spent shuffling papers.

    Hope I can keep your interests piqued in my writing πŸ™‚

    Yours Aye,


  6. @Surio Berties piece was good reading. I was tickled by this

    > it would not have been true at any earlier period. There was formerly a capacity for light-heartedness and play which has been to some extent inhibited by the cult of efficiency.

    Nice critique of the work hard – play hard ethos πŸ™‚ Okay, the boosting of communism didn’t work out, but a four hour day, that’s definitely a step forward!


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