Bertrand Russell wrote that work in the 1930s consisted of either ‘altering the position of matter at or near the earth’s surface’ or instructing other people to do so. In the 1950s Alan Watts described it as consisting of ‘activities which largely boil down to counting and measuring’. He speculated that humans might be superseded by calculating machines, becoming ‘a parasitic appendage to a mass of clockwork’. We have become ancillary to silicon rather than clockwork. Modern work consists increasingly of responding to computer generated instructions; being prompted by email to complete online training, or to enter goals and progress into performance management software.
In short work has become absurd. The purpose of the Corporate Absurdist Project is to capture these absurdities in economical prose, to leave a record of the World of Work in the early years of the 21st Century, to provide solace and reassurance to my readers who that it is not them, or even their company. We are part of a global phenomenon.
The tradition of absurd literature is long and proud, including Kafka’s ‘The Trial’ and Joseph Heller’s ‘Catch 22’. But this project draws inspiration primarily from two lesser known masters, a Russian author of children’s books, Daniil Kharms, and an insightful American commentator on modern work, James Altucher.
These influences provided the inspiration to start this project, but it requires two sources of fuel to keep it running. Firstly, I have a comfortable but spirit crushing job with a large multinational corporation that required me to spend 36 hours every week in an open plan office. Secondly, my enthusiastic use of cannabis allows me to see through the imaginary bullshit worlds of modern work, illuminating reality and the true essence of life.
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