I responded to a post on my solarpunk tumblr earlier today, asking why the Solarpunk community seemed to be taking it for granted that we'd have a lot of free time. I wanted to repost it here.
First of all, this is a really good question. I think the Solarpunk community is justified in believing we can tend towards more free time in a Solarpunk community, but coming out of a Capitalist one that’s not going to happen organically.
Part of it is that a lot of us are definitely conceptualizing a lot of overlap between labor and free time. For the Solarpunk who loves large-scale art projects, re-paving the town square might feel more like a free time kind of activity than labor.
This ambiguity, generated by the community motivation to change attitudes towards labor from the oppressive ones that come from capitalism, is, to my mind, a positive attribute of Solarpunk communities, but it needs to be considered critically to resist corruption.
But aside from that, a huge amount of this free time can be generated simply by providing for people regardless of employment.
Study after study has shown that the majority of full-time employees do about 3 hours of work in an 8-hour day. Those same employees do 3 hours of work in a 6 hour day, 3 hours of work in a 3 hour day, 2 hours of work in a 2 hour day, and so on.
The fact is for most jobs there isn’t enough to do to justify making somebody sit at a desk for 40 hours a week, and most people can’t actually physically or emotionally handle the load of 40 hours of actual work every week.
As it stands, the middle class already have about 25 extra hours a week, but they risk their livelihood by not spending those 25 hours in a state of restrained anxiety.
Other jobs may end up taking up whole days, like a lot of retail work or physical labor. But some of that work can be made massively redundant with new technology. 3D printing makes every plastic object less than a cubic foot in size available without the intervention of a retail location. Better 3D printing may do the same for metals, electronics, even food or molecular structures like medicine – and certainly will make plastic things available more quickly and in larger size.
Fast food, too, will probably close to completely go away when most people have the time and money to do their own cooking. Certainly some people go to McDonald’s because they like it, but not enough to keep them in business: most of their money comes from people so overburdened that they have to get breakfast and lunch that takes 5 minutes to grab and doesn’t require you to get out of your car.
This video, CGP Grey’s “Humans Need Not Apply,” covers a whole bunch of reasons why employment is pretty soon going to stop being a thing most people do. With improving technology, there will definitely be enough additional free time for interested people to take up hobby or personal farming.
With that disintegration, coupled with a well-organized community prepared to support the mass of unemployed citizens, hopefully there’ll be enough fluidity in the job market that everyone who wants to do stuff can take up jobs in the stuff they want to do, to the degree of involvement they’re comfortable with. Or something close to that.
Thereby, everyone will have more free time, and the work that happens will be a voluntary use of free time by the people doing it.