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Anti-work: The 2022 Work Revolution

You know how it is. You wake up every day, eat breakfast, put your clothes on, drive to your office, or simply move to your home office area. And you do this again, and again, and again until weekends come and change your life somehow.

But what if I tell you that every day can be Saturday or Sunday?

You'd probably say, "Unemployment, you mean?"

Yeah. But what if I tell you that unemployment is cool now?

"No way!" I guess you'd answer.

A wise man once said, "People don't hate Mondays, they hate the entire week."

Whether perceived as a joke or universal truth, this saying has been put under the microscope by many Americans. It was then taken apart to come to a surprising conclusion:

Work is meaningless. It's abusive and simply makes no sense. Let's quit.

But let's go back to the beginning.

In 2013, a group of job-haters, motivated by their work-related dissatisfaction, decided to vent their grievances and frustrations on the internet. More specifically, on the online platform called Reddit. They gave birth to a subreddit dubbed "Antiwork: Unemployment for all, not just the rich!"

A small community stemming from Marxism, socialism, and anarchism gradually gained more and more followers. The rather unimpressive movement of 180,000 people (as of October 2020) finally gathered over 1.8 million followers as of February 2022.

And what is their crusade? In a nutshell:

  1. Discussion over poor working conditions
  2. Condemnation of unsatisfactory wages
  3. Helping those trapped and exploited in their jobs
  4. Questioning the meaning of work

So, at MyPerfectResume, we've decided to poll 1,000+ Americans to discover more about the anti-work movement. Is it hopeless idealism or a realistic response to modern working life?

Keep scrolling to accompany us on this journey.

Anti-work on American soil

An infographic about how many people heard about the anti-work movement and how many people are its members

The anti-work movement has expanded its ranks significantly over the past few months gaining new members at a fast pace. Consequently, its ideology has become more popular and widely known.

As a result, as much as 69% of our respondents are aware of the anti-work movement. People know that such a community is active in the country, and they are more or less familiar with the theories they preach.

Moreover, anti-work seems to have put down roots and is flourishing. It's definitely not a reading club attracting just a few loyal fans.

Almost half, 48%, of research participants say they're members of this community.

Thus, no one can claim that the anti-work movement is a marginal phenomenon. As dissatisfaction with the labor market grows, it has the potential to attract even more new members.

Perhaps you're an anti-work member yourself. Or perhaps you're not. But have you ever wondered who the proud members of this community are?

An infographic about characteristics of the anti-work movement members (gender, education, region, political affiliation, seniority) and question whether people who are not part of the anti-work community plan to join it in the future

As can be seen in the infographic above:

  • The anti-work movement involves men and women in equal numbers (48% of each gender from our research sample).
  • The highest number of members is found among those with a doctorate or master's degree (58%). In contrast, the smallest number is among people without any college degree (18%). 
  • Most members live in the West (59%), while the fewest live in the Midwest (39%).
  • Both Democrats and Republicans account for a similar percentage of people belonging to the anti-work movement (53% and 50%, respectively). In contrast, Independent-leaning is the smallest political group within the movement (36%). 

We found the split in political affiliation to be particularly interesting. Despite the movement having very left-wing roots, it seems to have attracted members from both sides of conventional politics.

As you probably already noticed, we also asked about seniority in the movement's ranks. Members can be divided into two dominant groups:

  1. People who joined the anti-work community 12 months ago or less, and
  2. People who became its members from 2 to 3 years ago.

We can confidently say that the anti-work movement is quite popular. It is also evident that anti-work gained its members over several years, not just overnight.

But still, there's a remaining 52% of respondents who aren't representatives of the refuse-to-work ideology.

Of those who are anti anti-work, 56% don't plan to join the movement, while 25% are unsure. Only 19% of people who are not part of the anti-work intend to enter it in the future.

So now you probably only have more questions. Are you wondering why the majority of respondents don't belong to the movement? And what, in turn, has encouraged almost half of our survey takers to proclaim anti-work ideals loudly? Money? Power? Famed anarchist, Bob Black?

We've got the answers for you. Let's find out:

The greatest firebrands

People have become fed up with work. This is a fact, visible, for example, through the Great Resignation phenomenon.

Employees began to realize that their work was not meeting their expectations. They woke up one day and noticed inflation, wage stagnation, disturbed work-life balance, and corporate greed. And like so many times before in history, they rebelled.

In our study, 1,000+ American respondents revealed their reasons for joining the anti-work movement.

What motivates people to join the anti-work movement?

"I realized society forces people into working too much for too little pay."

"Dissatisfaction with the way I was treated at work."

"My labor hasn't been valued by society, and I'm sick of being exploited."

"I think our society has become slaves to an economic system rather than working to help people live fulfilling lives."

"Wages have stagnated, benefits have dwindled, and most companies do not properly value their workers. We need the return of strong unions to protect the working class."

Our respondents simply felt their work was unsatisfactory or harmed their lives. Good reasons, right?

Therefore, we can draw another conclusion from our study. Anti-work doesn't equate with simply refusing to work. It also entails a desire to be valued and the need for more balance in life.

Through anti-work theories, people set themselves free. Free from miserable jobs, chasing a career at the expense of their private lives, promotion, and hustle culture in general. Their motivation is not laziness or lack of ambitions. As their working environment somehow damaged them, they now want to fight for change.

But still, our negative work experiences are one thing, but ideas proclaimed at Reddit are another. So, digging deeper, we may find some universal beliefs we can relate to.

Anti-work theory in practice

Now, we've reached the point where we know a little about the anti-work movement, its members, and the reasons for its popularity. Thus, we should debate over the theories that anti-work advocates.

In our survey, we presented respondents with anti-work ideology. We asked how much they agree with anti-work theories.

An infographic about anti-work theories related to work and work-life balance

What did they tell us? So, without further ado, below, you may find a list with the theories that the most significant number of respondents pointed out as "I can relate."

  • 75% agree that the aim of every employee should be searching for a healthier, happier way of working for a living.
  • 71% believe everyone should get help with their job/work-related struggles.
  • 63% say that labor rights should be the subject of intense scrutiny.
  • 62% feel that society pressures people to put an unhealthy emphasis and importance on work.
  • 60% conclude that work-free life is achievable.
  • 55% admit that the anti-work motto "Unemployment for all, not just the rich" appeals to them.

The concepts presented above can be described as the more idealistic ones, aiming to change the system and show the anti-work movement's good side.

But we would be lying if we didn't say that anti-work also preaches controversial views. Like it or not, society does need people to be productive, carry out essential tasks, and be able to support themselves.

But still, we have a significant percentage of respondents who believe that:

  • Work is modern slavery: 54%
  • We should advocate for the abolition of work: 53%
  • I doubt the purpose of work: 48%

Note that the percentages indicate the share of respondents who agree or strongly agree with a particular statement.

And that's how we came to the following conclusion.

At first glance, it seems that anti-work supporters want to abolish work, get freedom from "modern slavery", and refuse to do any job. But in fact, the movement is about the protest against an abusive economic system designed to produce wealth for the few. It aims to achieve balance, a work-life that doesn't cost us our private life.

The conclusion, in turn, encourages us to analyze how strongly we are guided by anti-work principles when it comes to our current jobs.

Me vs. anti-work

An infographic about the value of work and people's attitude to anti-work theories when it comes to their jobs

We gave respondents a series of statements and asked how much they agreed or disagreed with them. Their choice was simple. They had to decide if they would quit their jobs in certain situations. Of course, all scenarios were maintained in an anti-work spirit.

The overwhelming majority of survey takers admit they would quit their job if their boss/manager were toxic (73%), if their work-life balance was disturbed (64%), or if their job stopped giving them satisfaction (58%).

What is surprising, more than half of the respondents (58%) would like to withdraw from working life completely.

At the same time, "only" half of respondents would join strikes that support anti-work theories (50%).

However, in this study, we also asked about the value of work—literal value and a more abstract value.

It turns out 73% of respondents don't know how they would have made it through life without income-generating work. Moreover, 66% agree that lack of employment would negatively affect them.

Basically, we can summarize the above, saying that 73% consider work as having value itself.

So, conclusion number four. Work still brings value to our lives. Not only money.

Work satisfaction—a weapon against the anti-work movement?

Work satisfaction is a powerful weapon. Besides the general attitude towards the job, it also resonates with our personal life. Few people can completely separate private life from professional life, and we've all had work affect our well-being.

Work satisfaction influences anti-work sentiments. It can prompt you to become a member if your job doesn't satisfy you, or quite the opposite. If you are pleased with your work, you don't manifest rebellious thoughts and behaviors.

As part of our research, we asked our respondents how satisfied they were with their jobs.

An infographic about people's work satisfaction level that may influence anti-work moods

We cannot deny that most respondents are satisfied with their job. Each time, between 60% and 77% of survey takers agreed or strongly agreed with our questions examining job satisfaction levels.

77% like their job, 75% keep a healthy work-life balance, while 73% declare their job satisfies them.

At the same time, 68% believe that work gives life meaning, while 64% admit they care about their career fulfillment. Moreover, 64% are also satisfied with the monthly salary.

But, 65% say they work only for financial reasons. Rather unexpected, right? Especially when we consider previous findings. Just let me remind you:

  • 73% consider work as having value itself
  • 68% believe that work gives life meaning
  • 64% admit career fulfillment matters

So, given they work only for money, the share of people who consider work a value should be lower, right? Not necessarily. Superficially, it seems to us that we work only for financial security. Still, upon reflection, it turns out that work carries meaning and introduces values to our lives.

And finally, the last but not least question we asked in this section. Do you plan to change your job in the upcoming 12 months?

  • 48% want to change their job shortly
  • 15% are not sure
  • 37% are certain to stay in their current job

Sorry, no firm conclusion here. But if you have any, feel free to let us know. In the meantime, let's get to the icing on the cake—politics.

Influenced by politics?

A discussion about the labor system and thus the anti-work movement cannot proceed without politics.

At the end of the survey, we asked our respondents to indicate their political preferences.

In most cases, our respondents' views on anti-work were similar, regardless of political preference. Nonetheless, some aspects of this ideology caused divides across political affiliations.

An infographic about political affiliation and its influence on anti-work theories

As you see, most members of the anti-work community are within Republican-leaning respondents (53%). Again, a little counter-intuitive to the stereotype of anti-work being purely a left-wing phenomenon.

In turn, the smallest percentage can be found among independent-leaning (only 36%).

However, as Doreen Ford, moderator of the anti-work subreddit, once said in her interview for The Independent:

"We have people who are anarchists, people who are Communists, people who are social Democrats, people who like Bernie, people who like Andrew Yang … there's lots of different kinds of leftists."

So, whether part of the anti-work community or not, people leaning towards different political parties hold different values.

Therefore, you may notice that while 58% of Democrats believe that "We should advocate for the abolition of work", also 54% of Republicans agree. At the same time, only 36% of independent-leaning agree.

Or, you may observe that 56% of Democrats and 48% of Republicans "would join strikes that support the theories of anti-work", while only 36% of independent-leaning would do so.

You also see that 76% of Democrats and 74% of Republicans admit that "Work is a value in itself." This belief is also shared by 60% of independent respondents.

By now you have probably noticed that independent-leaning respondents are most sceptical about the anti-work. Each time, they were the smallest political group to align with the statements we proposed.

Independents mostly disagree that we should abolish work or that the purpose of work is doubtful. In contrast, compared to Republicans or Democrats, they aren't convinced that work is a value. They are also the least satisfied with their monthly salaries.

So, are they sceptical only about anti-work ideas? Or maybe the value of work in present-day social conditions is the problem? For sure, we will ask them in our next research.

But still, we must admit that diversity of opinion is critical. At least we have something to argue about.

In conclusion

The survey results show that the anti-work movement is quite popular, as almost half of the research participants are members. These include both men and women, college graduates, and both Democrats and Republicans.

The results also proved that most people, regardless of political affiliation, age, sex, and geographical location, agree that work is a value that gives life meaning. Career fulfillment and job satisfaction matter, especially when achieved with work-life balance.

So perhaps to keep everyone happy, we should listen to an old Chinese proverb. As Confucius said, "Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life."

Just remember, anti-work is not necessarily against all kinds of work. As underlined on r/antiwork in the FAQ section:

"We're not against the effort, labor, or being productive. We're against jobs as they are structured under capitalism and the state: Against exploitative economic relations, against hierarchical social relations at the workplace".

Methodology

We surveyed 1,030 unique respondents via a bespoke online polling tool. All respondents included in the study passed an attention-check question. The study was created through research, crowdsourcing, and surveying.

Limitations

The data we are presenting relies on self-reports from respondents. Each person who took our survey read and responded to each question without any research administration or interference. We acknowledge there are many potential issues with self-reported data like selective memory, telescoping, attribution, or exaggeration.

Some questions and responses have been rephrased or condensed for readers' clarity and ease of understanding. In some cases, the percentages presented may not add up to 100 percent; depending on the case, this can be due to rounding, or due to being part of a larger statistic.

Fair Use Statement

Whether you're part of the anti-work movement or not, don't miss the chance to share these findings! I'll bet you regret it. So, feel free to share it for noncommercial reuse. In return, all we ask is that you link back to this page so that your readers can view the complete study.

Sources

Black, B., "The Abolition of Work"

Cheung, B., "Antiwork' movement may be long-run risk to labor force participation: Goldman Sachs"

Cholbi, M., "Philosophical Approaches to Work and Labor"

Flynn, S., "The Reddit antiwork saga – and whether there's really a world without jobs"

Frayne, D., Critical Social Theory and the Will to Happiness: A Study of Anti-Work Subjectivities"

Hunt, E., "Ready to quit your job? Come and join me in the anti-work movement"

O'Connor, B., "Many employees are frustrated with the nature of employment. But some fed-up workers are asking a bigger question: what's the purpose of work?"

Reddit, "Antiwork: Unemployment for all, not just the rich!"

Rogers, T.N., "Reddit 'antiwork' forum booms as millions of Americans quit jobs"

Sull, D., Sull, Ch., & Zweig B., "Toxic Culture Is Driving the Great Resignation"

Weeks, K., "The Problem with Work: Feminism, Marxism, Antiwork Politics, and Postwork Imaginaries"

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