Work / Labor
Although the concept of work is found less frequently in Vilém Flusser’s writings than, say, the concept of the code, it plays just as central a role. It complements the codes insofar as it concerns the practical relationship of human beings to the world. The form, object, and means of work change radically in the transition to post-Marxist post-history: We no longer produce commodities but instead program worlds. To that end, we no longer use machines but rather apparatuses, so that the work of factory workers is no longer the source of all value; rather, information is. Using the examples of the means of work – tool, machine, and apparatus – Flusser schematizes the ideal types of human approaches to nature: In an agrarian society, farmers use their tools to work an organic cosmos; in an industrial society, workers use their machines to work a mechanical nature; in an information society, functionaries form the universe of post-history, which has disintegrated into dots, to form new information, that is, new worlds (“Our Work,” in: Post-History, 2013, p. 31).
“The fact that the apparatus does what the human being wants, but only the human being can want what the apparatus can do” (“Die Fabrik,” in: Medienkultur, 1997, p. 168; translated from the German) points to the “reversible” relation between apparatus and human being. This relation is paradigmatic for our own practical relationship to all “cultural things” in post-history. We relate to the world in a fundamentally “apparatus-like” way (“Arbeit,” in: Medienkultur, p. 73), except when we manage to play against the apparatuses and emancipate ourselves not only from them but also from the compulsion of work generally and occupy ourselves only with the creative, playful side of processing symbols (Towards a Philosophy of Photography, 1984, p. 20).