Is the Anti-Work Movement For Real?

There’s a new term becoming popular with Redditors, podcast hosts bloggers and more: Anti-work. What is the origin of this new trend? Exactly what does it mean? Is it real, or just one more of the many dumb and viral memes that capture our attention? We’re going to dig a little deeper into this fascinating and trendy term.

Origins On Reddit

The term appears to have first been seen on the popular subreddit, “R/antiwork.” Essentially, the redditors on this form, largely communist and socialist leaning folks, supported strikes, union actions, boycotts, protest and more.

Reddit actually lists the creation date of this forum as August 14, 2013. That’s nearly 7 years before the COVID-19 pandemic. The subreddit certainly gained in popularity, however, as millions were furloughed or laid off from their jobs during the 2020 lockdowns. 

How Can One Be “Antiwork?”

You might be asking yourself the following valid questions: “If you don’t work, how will you get paid?” “If you don’t get paid, how will you support yourself? How will you buy food, or afford a place to live?”

Good questions. R/antiwork has some answers. To be honest, they aren’t all crazy answers either. Like many movements, this one seems to have some valid points as well as several crazy ones.Delving into the forum’s frequently asked questions, you come away with the following takeaways.

The antiworkists believe that the modern capitalist economy of places like the United States gives rise to exploitation worker/employer relationships. They feel that work “puts the needs and desires of managers and corporations above and beyond workers, often to the point of abuse through being overworked and underpaid.”

They acknowledge some diversity in opinion among their ranks. They admit some of them are lazy, but in their words, “What’s wrong with that?” They admit that some of them are in fact full fledged communists and anarchists.

The FAQs don’t advocate any direct action, or quitting on the spot thankfully. Instead they recommend organizing coworkers, joining unions and other things of that nature.

What’s Good About Being Anti Work?

Certainly the first thing that comes to mind when you think of being anti-work is laziness. We all know how fun being lazy can be. For most of us that means working hard all week, then sleeping in on the weekends and just taking some time to relax.

Well, most of us know that you can’t just do that all the time. So, is there anything really redeeming about this movement? Possibly.

As a movement, it does certainly bring to the forefront discussions about the harms of overworking. If you do nothing but work and hate it, you are really being robbed of your humanity. You deserve time to reap what you sow. Some people use work as a form of escape from difficult personal circumstances at home, which isn’t ideal either.

Poor treatment of employees harms the economy greatly. When people hate going to work, or feel they are being forced to, it leads to bad morale, high absenteeism and an exacerbation of mental health conditions. Worker burnout is a problem at all levels, from low skilled workers to the white collar folks in the C-suite. It’s always bad when talented people leave a workplace for good. Fostering worker well being is essential for keeping businesses thriving and succeeding.

So, you could say that the presence of the anti-work movement might be a way of working towards a better work-life balance. Capitalists know that a good workplace culture leads to higher profit which leads to higher wages. Instead of working long hours for low pay, people love their jobs. They feel well compensated and go home happy each day.

Of course, if healthier workplaces were all this movement advocated they would be little more than a public service announcement. So, they tend to go much further advocating a fully work-free life.

How Did Anti-Work Become a Meme?

Two words: Fox and News. In January of 2022, Fox News Host Jesse Watters invited one of the moderators of r/antiwork to come on the show. The moderatore, Doreen Ford, unfortunately was vastly unprepared and “looked the part” of yet another one of the “millennials” who simply don’t want to work. Poor Doreen explained that “laziness is a virtue.”

The antiwork subreddit had actually been increasing in popularity before this. The redditors had been apparently spamming companies like Kellogg’s with various communist and anarchist slogans, along with messages expressing their desire for a work free life.

Could Anti-Work Really Work?

Well, no. It can’t. It’s dumb. There’s really no way to put too fine a point on it. We are blessed creatures, that’s for sure. The early humans who were antiwork died. Evolution favored those who scraped to build shelters, hunt and gather food, impress a mate, and then reproduce enthusiastically. 

The lazy ones either starved, were probably murdered by irritated productive cavemen, or more than likely, were viewed by potential mates as losers and idlers. Somehow, by the grace of God, these future parental basement dwellers continue to hang on today, enthusiastically sucking off the teet of the more productive. By the miracle of the internet, they seem to be able to mate once in a while, which seems like a biological impossibility, yet…here we are.

These social media socialists seem to forget that much of the “work” that is done in labor market sectors like healthcare and government is completely essential to maintaining a peaceful, functioning society. What happens if nurses and doctors decide they are anti-work? How about cops? Air traffic controllers? President and life-long hard worker Ronald Reagan certainly had the answer to anti work air traffic controllers!

Now, as stated above, taking a fresh look at the workplace and how to make it better for everyone is a great idea. Different groups have postulated different ideas. For instance, a bill is advancing in California to make a shorter workweek. Still dumb, but better than not working at all. 

Ultimately, this is an idea that will go nowhere. There’s a massive labor shortage right now and most sane people realize they can get a pretty good job on pretty good terms. 


Is It Only Americans That Are Anti-Work?

While there are probably a few anti workers globally, it seems to be a homegrown phenomenon. Only here could Mercedes Marxists like those at the New York Times praise a movement like this. One wonders if Marx himself might call these people lazy idiots. 

Even Marx didn’t seem to want to end work, he just wanted to put workers in control of their lives. It really says something about the lunacy of this movement and the fact that a lot of people seem to be falling for it for me to praise Karl Marx as the grownup in the room!