If we want to improve ourselves and improve the world, consumption isn’t what empowers us. Only the conquest of work can do it.
Let’s start with a fact: consumption is an individual activity, something that we generally do alone. So, thinking about society in terms of consumption leads us to think that the only way we can transform our surroundings is through the “sovereignty of the consumer”—basically, changing brands. As consumers, we’re alone and infinitely small. Not even by joining together by the millions will we be able to question the hegemony of the great corporations, their regulatory capture, or their attacks on competition. All we’ll be able to do is get them to change certain practices in favor of others that are “greener” or “more social.” And that’s not a bad thing. But it’s clear that isn’t a place that makes us freer or more responsible. That’s why any attempt to build community through consumption, whether through cooperative forms or through networks and platforms, won’t go anywhere.
On the other hand, productive activity, work, is a community act, something that links us to others on the basis of commitments and responsibilities. It is there, in production on a community scale, where building egalitarian relationships becomes “spontaneous,” because the center is in everyone, and each one is a decision-maker. And when those products that incorporate our knowledge and our work enter the market, they enter the world of exchange, a space that, in turn, demands a strong ethical base.
Recovering the centrality of work and an awareness of what it means transforms us and transforms the world. There is nothing more revolutionary for a generation that has been thrown out of the market than to conquer work.