Freedom means to accept responsibility
by Gustav Mechlenburg
Frithjof Bergmann demands a new understanding of work. The professor for philosophy at the Univeristy of Michigan known by his concept of New Work exposes "In Freiheit leben" (to live freedom) the philosophical basics of his life work.
Whist working eight hours in an office in tipp-free ergonomical chairs the idea of freedom that propagates the limitless also the limiless unreasonable spreads wildly. Like in the ad where it is about arranging cars in "Vier gewinnt" - (four wins) manner on a parking place. In the trailer to it it says in youth hostel tone: "Tu nicht so erwachsen!" (don't act so grown-up!).
These are the trivializations that outrage the work theoretician Frithjof Bergmann. Freedom is just not the absence of borders Bergmann writes in the topic preface for his German translation of his thesis submitted for the certificate of habilitation "On Being Free" which was published in 1977 already. Limitlessness was an idea which is condemned for failure because it cannot be lived. Freedom for Bergmann is something quite different. Freedom means responsibility for own actions. Only he who decides freely can identify with the issue he is devoted to. And the other way around only who identifies with his actions is free. Because of that he judges democracy as the best form of government - because it represents the most intelligent and effectiv system. People can choose, they can identify. It would be nice if that would apply to the world of work as well.
The attractive about the 'New Work' - movement which steadily wins more followers worldwide is its absence of ideology. As well his ideas for improvement for efficiency of a company can be used for social design of states or as a life concept of critics of capitalsm who opt out or social ecological view changers.
Participation is the cue with which Bergmann cuts in. In his opinion it is a scandal how much energy is wasted in outside appointed and by that non democratical work processes. When there are alternatives that can easily be realized says Bergmann. One could change one's workplace more often. The principle of rotation shields from dullness as well as from self overestimation and arrogance in front of other professional groups. Of course a neuro surgeon cannot swap work place with a pottery maker, but a secretary can well swap with a retail manager.
Still not revolutionary enough? Bergmann goes further and demands to neutralize work and live support. This would free society to a never-have-seen extent. The day when one has to work only three, four hours a week is said not to be far.
Bergmann regards the clinging to full time imployment as hysterical. It was in ever more discrepancy to the technical possible automatisation. What is bad about, Bergmann asks, replacing dull work places with automatons?
As utopical some thoughts may sound that Bergmann has in his text first published 28 years ago - philosophically his book is wellsubstantiated and rethorically brilliant.
If one compares "Freiheit leben" (live freedom) with Bergmanns "Neue Arbeit - Neue Kultur" (new work - new culture) from last year, there is very little change with his basic thesis. But with their being-known.
New Work - New Culture. Informations & links posted by A. Loewenberg in connection with her talk in EINSTELLUNGSRAUM e.V. 09.12.2005