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Work is A Four Letter Word

4 Extra Debut. Professor Andrew Hussey charts the development of the idea that work is good for us, but is it really? From 2016.

Many of us have grown up with the belief that a strong work ethic is a positive thing, and that by contrast idle hands are the devil's playthings.

According to Professor Andrew Hussey, that argument makes very little sense. Starting off with a line from the Cilla Black song 'Work is a Four Letter Word' he offers a powerful counter-argument by navigating the ideas of, among others, Bertrand Russell, John Ruskin and the Situationists in France, whose graffiti slogan 'Ne Travaillez Jamais' - never work - still appears regularly on Parisian streets. Hussey argues that the corporate culture in particular, born out of mid-20th Century America and built upon ideologies of work developed during the industrial revolution and on through to the development of the assembly line, can have a hugely corrosive impact on people's lives.

The programme features the voices of workers from the 1930s through to the present day, describing working life in call centres where even a trip to the toilet is timed by management. Hussey doesn't, however, suggest that we all take to the sofa to watch TV and eat crisps, though; instead he argues that by taking control of the work we do and the way we do it, work can actually become a positive force in our lives, once stripped of what he regards as the caustic power of modern managerialism.

First broadcast on BBC Radio 4 in December 2016.

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