14 episodes

The Sunday Letters Podcast is the weekly audio newsletter on the meaning & purpose of daily work from work and business psychologist Larry Maguire and philosopher Dmitri Belikov. We explore how human beings may break free from tiresome means-to-an-end labour and take command of their own working lives. Topics include daily work, jobs and careers, self-employment, socialism, capitalism, economics, slavery, colonialism, and society & culture. Content follows the written newsletter, which goes out to subscribers every Sunday.

sundayletters.larrygmaguire.com

Sunday Letters Sunday Letters Journal

    • Society & Culture
    • 5.0 • 3 Ratings

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The Sunday Letters Podcast is the weekly audio newsletter on the meaning & purpose of daily work from work and business psychologist Larry Maguire and philosopher Dmitri Belikov. We explore how human beings may break free from tiresome means-to-an-end labour and take command of their own working lives. Topics include daily work, jobs and careers, self-employment, socialism, capitalism, economics, slavery, colonialism, and society & culture. Content follows the written newsletter, which goes out to subscribers every Sunday.

sundayletters.larrygmaguire.com

Listen on Apple Podcasts
Requires subscription and macOS 11.4 or higher

    006 The Pullman Strike of 1894

    006 The Pullman Strike of 1894

    Welcome to this week’s edition of the podcast. If you like what we’re doing, consider becoming a paid subscriber. If you’d rather not, you can offer a one-off tip here, or get yourself some merch here. Many thanks for your support!
    Mark Twain referred to it as the Gilded Age. Given his wit and occasional cynicism, I’m not sure that was entirely in celebration of the growth and expansion of industrialisation in America at the time. It was a gilded age for some, such as the industrialists and capitalists, but not so much for the common worker. With the new “opportunities” that opened up for the people of the New World after the Louisianna Purchase of 1803, the next one hundred years would witness dramatic change and a conflict between the capitalists and the workers.
    The Pullman Strike of 1894 is one of the most significant events in American labour history. It reflected the intense struggles between labour and management during this century of economic growth. This strike not only highlighted the harsh working conditions and economic disparities workers faced but also marked a pivotal moment in the development of labour unions and federal intervention in labour disputes.
    George Pullman was a carpenter by trade from New York, who, in the 1850s, headed west to seek his fortune. He made his reputation raising houses and other buildings to the newly required street level. Later, he turned his hand to manufacturing luxury railroad sleeping cars that allowed wealthy passengers to travel in luxury from East to West. Pullman envisioned a utopian community for his workers, establishing the company town of Pullman, Illinois. This town included housing, shops, churches, and schools, all owned by the company. Pullman believed this controlled environment would foster loyalty and productivity among his workers.
    Read the full article; https://sundayletters.larrygmaguire.com/p/the-pullman-strike-of-1894
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    • 58 min
    005 Universal Basic Income & The End of Work

    005 Universal Basic Income & The End of Work

    Welcome to this week’s edition of the podcast. If you like what we’re doing, consider becoming a paid subscriber. If you’d rather not, you can offer a one-off tip here, or get yourself some merch here. Many thanks for your support!
    With the progression of artificial intelligence, many voices are heralding the end of work as we know it. It is not just one trade or profession that will be impacted, they say. There will be many, from data analysts to legal professionals, those in the arts and media, truck, bus and rail drivers, food delivery, security, teaching—you name it. There is no domain of work that will not be affected. Over the next twenty to thirty years, vast swathes of people will have no job. So what are we going to do? How will we earn a living (as if we should have to work to earn the right to live and be comfortable in the first place)? Universal Basic Income (UBI) may be the solution. In this week’s episode, Dmitri and I discuss this idea and the results of recent trials of UBI in various countries around the world.
    Universal Basic Income (UBI) is a financial policy model that involves regular, unconditional payments made by the government to every citizen, regardless of their income level or employment status. The core idea behind UBI is to provide all citizens with a living wage that can support basic needs, thereby reducing poverty and its associated negative health outcomes and increasing equality within society. This concept has gathered both acclaim and criticism over the years and is backed by various philosophical, economic, and practical arguments.
    The idea of a universal basic income isn't new. One of the earliest proponents of a form of UBI was Thomas Paine, an 18th-century political activist, who proposed a capital grant for all individuals upon reaching adulthood in his work "Agrarian Justice" (1797). In the 20th century, economists like Milton Friedman introduced the concept of a "negative income tax”. Although not strictly a UBI policy, it parallels the ideas of UBI in providing a financial safety net to the less affluent. These early ideas laid foundational thoughts that challenged traditional welfare systems, proposing instead a simpler and potentially more effective means of redistributing income to support economic and social welfare.
    In recent years, several pilot programs and studies have been launched to test the feasibility and effects of UBI. One notable example is the 2017 to 2018 Universal Basic Income experiment in Finland, where 2,000 unemployed people were given €560 per month without any conditions from January 2017 to December 2018. The findings, published by Kela, the Finnish social security agency, suggested that while the UBI did not significantly improve employment outcomes, it did increase the beneficiaries' well-being, giving them a sense of better financial security and mental health.
    Another significant case study from the United States was conducted in the city of Stockton, California. It was conducted involving 125 residents who received $500 monthly and operated for two years. The preliminary results indicated improvements in employment and stability, debunking myths that financial aids discourage work. These contemporary experiments provide crucial data points and insights into how UBI could be structured and implemented effectively in different socio-economic contexts.
    The future of UBI is a subject of vibrant debate among economists, policymakers, and the public. Proponents argue that UBI could be essential in addressing the challenges posed by automation and the precarious nature of modern work environments. It's seen as a tool for promoting consumer spending and economic stability. Critics, however, caution against its high costs and potential to dissuade individuals from seeking employment. Although, these arguments seem to be based on personal moral values rather than solid research findings. For example, a trial in Namibia from 2008 to 2009 found t

    • 57 min
    004 On B******t Jobs: David Graeber's Theory of Work

    004 On B******t Jobs: David Graeber's Theory of Work

    Welcome to this week’s edition of the podcast. If you like what we’re doing, consider becoming a paid subscriber. If you’d rather not, you can offer a one-off tip here, or get yourself some merch here. Many thanks for your support!
    In this week’s episode, we’re discussing David Graeber, anthropologist and activist, who introduced the concept of "bullshit jobs" in a 2013 article in Strike Magazine titled “On The Phenomenon of Bullshit Jobs”. He hit a nerve and later expanded into a full book titled Bullshit Jobs: A Theory, published in 2018. Graeber defines a "bullshit job" as a form of employment that is so completely pointless, unnecessary, or pernicious that even the employee cannot justify its existence. At the same time, they feel obliged to pretend that this is not the case. He argues that these jobs have proliferated due to societal and economic factors that prioritise employment for its own sake, rather than for the productive contributions it may offer people and society. He also discusses second-order bullshit jobs; the ones that are created to support the higher-order b******t jobs. Think about the cleaners, security staff, electricians and plumbers needed to maintain a building filled with people administering speculative investments.
    There are five categories of b******t jobs according to Graeber;
    Graeber argues that meaningless, soulless jobs not only cause severe psychological distress but also represent a misallocation of economic resources and human potential. His theory has implications for understanding organisational inefficiencies, worker dissatisfaction, and the societal value placed on work.
    How do you feel about your work? Take the short survey.
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    • 55 min
    003 To Compete or Cooperate: Which Works Best For Humanity?

    003 To Compete or Cooperate: Which Works Best For Humanity?

    Welcome to this week’s edition of the podcast. If you like what we’re doing, consider becoming a paid subscriber. If you’d rather not, you can offer a one-off tip here, or get yourself some merch here. Many thanks for your support!
    In this week’s episode, and I discuss one of the fundamental dichotomies of human behaviour: cooperation versus competition. Are human beings inherently competitive, or are we more socially oriented and naturally cooperative? The question is important because the workplace seems primarily oriented towards competition. We compete for a limited number of clients and projects, departments within the same organisation may be adversaries, and workers are encouraged to compete for recognition, bonuses and promotions. In parallel, we also find workers in these same situations cooperate, albeit reluctantly at times, to achieve goals and get things done.
    Ultimately, however, jobs require people to be agents of the profit-seeking organisation within a system of apparently limited resources. Making a profit is necessary, but the competition for it never stops, and it’s rarely shared equally among those who generate it (although that’s a topic for another day). Businesses, especially larger corporate ones, are never satisfied, and they demand that you and I, in our jobs, keep pushing for more. They squeeze as much as they can out of every human being, often until we are dry, broken husks of people. In this sense, we work in the metaphorical vice of competition for what are perceived as limited resources (again, a topic for another day).
    The Capitalists argue that competition is good for society; it has given us all the technology, goods and services we take for granted. It has improved living conditions and made life better for all, or so the argument goes. Socialists offer a counterargument - competition has destroyed the fabric of life, raped and pillaged the planet, treated human beings and the natural world as objective means to material ends, and will kill us all. Cooperation and mutual aid, they say, are the keys to our survival. Read more
    The Sunday Letters Journal is a reader-supported publication. To receive new posts and support my work, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber.
    References


    Get full access to The Sunday Letters Journal at sundayletters.larrygmaguire.com/subscribe

    • 58 min
    002 The Philosophy of Why We Work

    002 The Philosophy of Why We Work

    Welcome to this week’s edition of the podcast. If you like what we’re doing, consider becoming a paid subscriber. If you’d rather not, you can offer a one-off tip here. Many thanks for your support!
    On Tuesday, I wrote about the false promise of the future of work. I highlighted, amongst other things, that education helps school us towards direct paid employment or waged slavery, according to some, and not towards the freedom of self-employment, for example. Self-employment is too risky, it seems. If we take the chance and fail, we’ll lose everything we’ve earned. In this, we accept the prison of our employment over the freedom of the unknown.
    The structure of the workplace provides us with a degree of certainty. But what if this apparent ground of our belief was not factual but something the system taught us? Maybe it is the pursuit of hedonic pleasure and the avoidance of pain that keeps us there. wrote this week that the philosopher Karl Marx believed work was a natural thing human beings seek to do, and in this need to express ourselves, we are manipulated by capital. In contrast, Plato and Aristotle believed manual work was of the lower order and not for sophisticated men. They also believed that slavery was right and proper, so perhaps not the best judges on these matters.
    The question remains: Do we work to attain the means to live or merely survive, or do we seek fulfilment of a deeper, more innate human need? What would we do if we didn’t need to work to meet those basic needs? What would we do with our time? Is contemporary work designed to line the pockets of the capitalists, and do we comply through blind habit? That’s several questions, yes, but you get the picture.
    Read more



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    • 51 min
    001 The Sunday Letters Podcast: Refreshed

    001 The Sunday Letters Podcast: Refreshed

    Welcome to this week’s edition of the podcast. If you like what we’re doing, consider becoming a paid subscriber. If you’d rather not, you can offer a one-off tip here. Many thanks for your support!
    I mentioned on Monday that change was afoot; well, here’s the story…
    Welcome to the relaunch of the Sunday Letters Podcast. It has been some time since the last episode, and recently, I felt the urge to get this thing operational again. In doing so, I’ve managed to convince my learned friend and philosopher, to join me here and help build this thing out. Over the years, we have conversed privately on many topics we cover here on Sunday Letters, so the partnership seemed like a natural choice. Sunday Letters reflects how we both feel about and see the modern workplace - a fake plastic environment that, despite its best efforts to the contrary, seems incompatible with human welfare. This forms the basis of our forthcoming discussions on work.
    I will publish new written content on Tuesdays on the Future of Work. Dmitri will publish the general topic of the week on Thursdays. New podcast episodes will be published weekly on Fridays with a full (but raw) conversation transcript. We will cover the issues affecting people's working lives and the role work plays in global politics, economics, and broader social issues. Work, after all, is so intertwined with all human affairs; it’s hard not to connect it with what’s happening in the world. From pollution and the global climate crisis to the conflict in the Middle East to the mistreatment of the vulnerable in society and the abuse of workers in the Global South, our jobs and our daily work play no small part.
    In case you missed the hint, The Sunday Letters Journal is firmly on the Left—we are for people first, organisations second… at best. One of the most challenging problems in society today is that the interests of organisations often come before those of the people and the environment. A misalignment of values and motivations is at its core, and we think there’s something we can do about that.
    Alright, thanks for being here. We’re looking forward to engaging with you in the comments, and if you’d like to support this work, become a subscriber today and get 20% off forever.



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    • 40 min

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