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When I was a little kid, one of my favorite songs was “Bang the Drum All Day” by Todd Rundgren. Every time it came on the radio, I happily sang along: I don’t want to work, I just want to bang the drum all day.

Fast forward to the 2020s, and the 80s hit has become an unofficial anthem of the anti-work movement, a fringe radical movement that has somehow reached the mainstream, thanks to Reddit.

But understanding the anti-work subreddit and what it means to someone seeking financial independence isn’t the easiest task. The anti-work movement has undergone some major shifts in nature.

That’s why I put together this guide to understanding the anti-work movement and what you can learn from it on your journey to financial freedom.

What is the Anti-Work Movement?

The anti-work movement is an ideology that questions the necessity of working for a living. Over time, the movement has evolved from a militant desire to destroy the entire economic system to a softer one that requires better working conditions and a better work-life balance.

The anti-work movement gained traction thanks to the anti-work subreddit, which has skyrocketed from 100,000 subscribers to more than 1.8 million since the start of the COVID pandemic.

The Reddit movement and its founders have been featured in legitimate newspapers such as The Financial Times and The New York Times. And sadly, it was the subject of a disastrous Fox News segment that nearly destroyed the subreddit. But we’ll come back to that in a moment.

Where does the anti-work movement come from?

While the anti-work movement has gained popularity thanks to Reddit, the concept of anti-work is actually quite old.

You could even argue that the movement’s roots go all the way back to ancient Greece, when philosophers like Socrates and Diogenes argued that the burden of work infringed on the human right to enjoy oneself.

But it was really in the 19th century, at the height of the industrial revolution, that the anti-work idea was articulated by prominent anarchist and socialist figures.

They argued that people should only work as much as is necessary to stay alive, rather than work to create surplus goods and capital. After all, with the invention of all kinds of machines, nobody would have to work anymore.

Well, jump ahead more than 100 years and many of us are still berating capitalism. Technology hasn’t eliminated our need to work – instead, it has made work stranger.

How the pandemic spurred the anti-work movement

When the COVID pandemic first brought lockdowns here in the United States, many workers suddenly had time to think about whether work is really necessary. They began to wonder if the ‘hustle culture’, where your work takes precedence in your life over your family, friends, hobbies, etc., is really worth it.

During the pandemic, many employees were forced to work from home. Sitting through endless Zoom meetings at the kitchen table or bedroom desk literally brought their employers and co-workers into their homes. Work shifts became vague. Was there a way out?

Unhappy employees started exploring Reddit’s anti-work subreddit, where they found a group of people who were critical of the work culture. They realized they weren’t the only ones wondering why they’re stuck in a seemingly never-ending cycle of wage labor.

The tone of the subreddit has changed. While since 2013, it has been a small group of ‘little people’ leaning to the far left – with the slogan ‘Unemployment for all; not just the rich!” — it now became a haven for more mainstream people to share memes about horrible jobs and employers.

While some anti-work redditors have wholeheartedly embraced the anti-work ethic and joined the Great Resignation — a phenomenon that has seen millions of Americans quit their jobs recently — many others are just there to treat it like a water cooler venting session.

Learn more:

The Fox interview

On January 25, 2022, Doreen Ford, a moderator of the anti-work subreddit, was interviewed by Fox News host Jesse Watters. It didn’t go well.

During the interview, Ford was unable to clearly explain what the anti-work movement was about. Instead, Ford came across as a champion of laziness, rather than telling the world how our current work culture is flawed.

It was exactly what conservative critics of the anti-work movement were hoping for.

And it was a publicity nightmare for the movement. The r/anti-work subreddit went private while moderators engaged in “cleaning up ongoing brigades” (a form of Reddit sabotage).

Since the Fox interview debacle, Ford has been removed from the moderator position.

What does it mean to be anti-work?

Before the COVID pandemic, if someone told you that they were “anti-work” it would probably mean that they were all about disrupting the entire capitalist system of the West. They would tell you that our current model of paid labor should be abolished completely because it exploits workers. It is likely that they would identify themselves as anarchists or communists.

Today, “anti-work” has a much broader definition. Most people who see themselves as part of the movement believe that every employee should be paid better, that every person should have a work-life balance that allows them to enjoy hobbies and spend more time with friends and family, and that workers should organize themselves in labor unions to stand up for their rights.

Other than the union part, it doesn’t sound much different from the financial freedom movement, does it?

Those of us seeking financial freedom envision a life beyond working 9-to-5. We want to be able to enjoy our lives without worrying about micromanaging bosses or overbearing managers. We want time to explore our passions and be there for our friends and families.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

How does the anti-work movement relate to the great layoff?

As I mentioned above, the Great Resignation is a phenomenon where millions of Americans have quit their jobs since the spring of 2021. In fact, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, approximately 48 million people will have voluntarily quit their jobs by 2021.

Some of the workers who quit during the Great Resignation did so as part of the anti-work movement. And many of them share screenshots of their resignation emails in the anti-work subreddit.

However, not everyone who has voluntarily quit their job in the past year has done so because they share the anti-work ethic. About half of the parents who quit reported that with schools and daycare centers closed due to COVID-19, they have quit their jobs to look after the children.

But the majority of people who quit did so because they felt their wages were too low and they had too few opportunities to advance.

As more Americans quit, a staff shortage arose. This gave job seekers more bargaining power for better pay, better hours and better benefits.

And most of the people who left during the Great Resignation have since found new jobs. According to Pew Research, 56% of employees who changed jobs last year report making more money, having more opportunities for growth and promotion, and enjoying more flexibility.

Is the Anti-Work Movement the Path to Financial Freedom?

While the anti-work movement certainly has its virtues – I believe that every worker should be entitled to good wages, flexibility and a work-life balance that spills over to the “life side” – you don’t have to attribute this ideology to financial freedom. reach.

For many, the path to financial freedom means working even more now so that you can enjoy a job-free life later. Many people seeking financial independence take it upon themselves and start their own businesses or passive income streams. Then they retire early and live a good life without worrying about money.

However, for some people, financial freedom is very much like the post-COVID anti-work idea of ​​only working enough to make ends meet. They could be very lucky to just live in an area with a low cost of living, reduce their expenses and only have a part time gig.

Remember that how you define financial freedom is extremely personal and unique to you.

It comes down to

The COVID pandemic has transformed the anti-work movement from a fringe left-wing ideology close to its historical anarchist, socialist and communist roots, to a mainstream movement advocating better working conditions and a more clearly defined boundary between one’s professional and private life.

As for me, I left the 9 to 5 workforce over 10 years ago and have worked remotely as a freelance writer and editor ever since. Although I work very hard and often work long days, I still have the flexibility to enjoy my hobbies and spend quality time with my family.

I am also saving up and plan to make lifestyle changes soon so that in the coming years I can work less and enjoy life in our mountain cabin full time.

Maybe I can beat the drum all day long.

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