Alternative Hedonism

I was listening to an interview with Kate Soper entitled “Alternative Hedonism” on a podcast called Philosophy Bites and it very much related to notions of “Love” and “Pleasure” in relation to work and labor. It is a generally held belief that to “Work” in what you “Love” or have a passion for is the perfect balance that one can find in life. The working Artist is the epitome of such a concept since they have found a way to make the supposedly intangible, their expression, commodifiable and concrete through their career. There is so much that is problematic to this ideal of the Working Artist and the fusion of love and work, pleasure and labor where, the end goal, would be to essentially make the labor more pleasurable, to brighten the necessary evil.

First, there is the strange compulsion that we must work and strive towards a satisfaction that is never achieved because the model that we work within is one that economically forces and pressures us to constantly labor. It is extremely difficult or at least seemingly difficult to survive alternatively to consumerism. Our agency is dictated by the necessity to work.

But secondly, why is it that work, that commodification, is considered a corruption, why is it that we do not derive total joy from our work? Or maybe the case is that many people do in fact find satisfaction in their practice; in this example, we once again return to the working artist, but furthermore the entrepreneur and the self employed. Yet it seems that in fact it is the individuals who are most directly connected to the accumulation of an enterprise, who witness and decide the growth of the empire or business, essentially, the people with the most agency within the confines of the workplace, who derive the most happiness from the endeavor. The Working Artist could be seen as the archetype for such a situation of hierarchical working where they are in a sense their own boss in the workplace.

Thirdly, what does it mean to sell one’s “Love.” What is the value in a distinction between hobby and career? Is it not problematic to not only sell one’s Time and Life towards labor and wages but then, on top of that, to sell one’s Love? To take the thing that drives your pleasure life and quantify it, assign it a designated and precarious value. Yet why is it alright to dedicate your Time, the very fabric of one’s life, the span of our existence, to a regular 9 – 5, but it is considered a heinous crime in some circles to sell our Love, our Art, to work with galleries. What is this drive to keep things pure, where does it come from, what is this fiction of purity?

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One Comment

  1. joyzdimaano
    Posted May 20, 2010 at 1:28 pm | Permalink

    Fiction of purity, stemming from Jack Kerouac’s own definition of Hedonism? There’s too many ‘definitions’ nowadays, trying to create a marriage of convenience with ‘balance’. Frankly, I don’t get it.


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