"What are you reading?" enquired Bronstein, tentatively.
"An article in The Guardian about tech and teleworking, bemoaning the implications for work / life balance," the Cow muttered grimly. "You know, the usual stuff: technology ushering in a dystopia where we're all chained by our ethernet cables..."
"They've not heard of wifi?" mumbled Gramsci, missing the point of the Cow's unfortunate analogy.
The Cow ignored him and continued. "This technological determinism is either naive, or malicious. It's as if they don't want you to acknowledge that the problem predates this current iteration of tech!"
"You mean, the roots lying in the breakdown of the social contract, with employment no longer 'for life' despite the 'fast capitalist' expectation of an almost evangelical belief in the employer's core mission and values? So the employee is never really 'off duty'?" squeaked Bronstein, almost out of breath. His copy of The New Work Order (Gee, Hull & Lankshear 1996) slipped from his arachnoid lap in his ungainly enthusiasm.
The Cow smiled vaguely. She agreed with their observations of the "profoundly imperialistic Discourse" which demanded that workers find "meaning" in their work and buy into the "vision" of their employer, setting them up to be exploited through working harder, smarter, longer because they are now part of this "team", rather than merely employed by it. The Cow had worked long enough at The Knowledge Factory on the Hill to have seen such practices gain traction, and had watched colleagues burn out one by one under this regime. The tech that The Guardian was bemoaning was decades from conception when The New Work Order was being observed and written.
But the issue, she felt, went still further. "The whole construct of work / life balance," she protested, "relies on the concept of work as separate from life!"
"Aha!" roared Gramsci. "I see where you're going! Alienated labour! Good old Marx!"
Bronstein looked less convinced. "You're not suggesting..." He succumbed to pallour as he struggled to articulate his fears. "You're not suggesting... we go back to subsistence farming, and move off grid? I'm a spider! How would I manage without The Web?"