In recent years there has been a lot of talk about the topic of a post-work economy. This includes conversations, news articles, and professional studies.

Take for example this LA Times article, that reports

in the U.S., 38% of jobs could be at risk of automation, compared with 30% in Britain, 35% in Germany and 21% in Japan.

It further reports

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said Friday that he wasn’t worried about artificial intelligence taking over American jobs.

“I think we’re so far away from that that it’s not even on my radar screen,” he told Axios Media. “I think it’s 50 or 100 more years.”

That Mnuchin is not the most reliable source on this topic aside, 50 or 100 more years is not exactly a long time. Regardless, that Mnuchin was asked about this demonstrates how the idea of robots taking over work is very much on society’s mind.

Whether or not we are headed for a post work economy is up for debate (yes, no — I cant speak for these websites’ credibility), but, while it is fascinating, its viability is not what this question is about.

This question is more historical (and rightfully so): has there in the past been such discussion or philosophizing on a post-work economy?

  • Comment not answer because I don't have sources at hand, but I think this has been a major theme in (hard) science fiction. See Edward Bellamy's "Looking Backward". Commented Sep 3, 2017 at 22:27

4 Answers 4


There have been chats related to a post-work society at least since the industrial revolution.

Paul Lafarge, for instance, wrote an essay called the Right to be Lazy (1880, published 1883):

The essay polemicizes heavily against then-contemporary liberal, conservative, Christian and even socialist ideas of work. Lafargue criticizes these ideas from a Marxist perspective as dogmatic and ultimately false by portraying the degeneration and enslavement of human existence when being subsumed under the primacy of the "right to work", and argues that laziness, combined with human creativity, is an important source of human progress.

Earlier in the 19th, Charles Fourier "characterized poverty (not inequality) as the principal cause of disorder in society, and he proposed to eradicate it by sufficiently high wages and by a 'decent minimum' for those who were not able to work."

These ideas and others made their way into more contemporary chatter. For instance In Praise of Idleness and Other Essays (1935) by Bertrand Russel, or more recently The Abolition of Work (1985) by post-left anarchist Bob Black.


Arguably R.U.R and Metropolis are descriptions of post-work societies, and there a innumerable science fiction stories (Marching Morons) et. al. where "work" no longer has the same meaning. Communism assumes that the proletariat will create a state where work is no longer required.

But if you're looking for the term/concept of a post-work society in the modern sense, I can't find anything earlier than this December 2000 Guardian article prior to that, the term "post work" seems to refer to escort services, and I choose not to read any further.

Google permits you to search for a term or set of terms and limit and sort by date. I used

"post-work" "post work" post work society

"Post scarcity" may also be relevant.


Marx discussed his concern that a postindustrial society would, through automation, result in high unemployment. Much has changed since his time and the remedy of much free time to pursue largely cultural interests have lost validity. Most countries have a fairly large percentage of the work force on monetary stimulants with no indication that this remedy is satisfying to the recipient or respected by society.

A problem exists with an elite but small workforce supporting a portion of the potential workforce with inadequate skills.


You are asking about the Luddites. They were the first to notice that the robots would take all of the real jobs and put everyone in desk jobs. According to Wikipedia there were pre-Luddite movements going back to 1675. The main Luddite movement was in the 1810s.

  • 3
    Not sure that Luddites are connected with post-work society.
    – MCW
    Commented Sep 4, 2017 at 2:38

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.