Why do we work more and more and harder, why do we have to do it, although it does not translate into the improvement of the quality of our lives? Why do we work at all? Why is work have such a huge significance in the social system? Why is it just work that is to be the key thing in our life and constitute the foundation of our identity? Why hard work means something ethical, whereas laziness is to be condemned?

By contesting capitalism, the left-wing social movements (especially workers’, feminist and environmental ones), took up a critical reflection over the category of labour, its social and economic meaning, but first of all they used a huge potential inherent for imagination – they created utopias. The struggle for workers’ rights, a shorter working day, social warranties or abolishing slavery – these were only a few goals of left-wing movements in the past.

During her lecture Marta Trawińska will investigate the new goals, new rates and new political strategies of contemporary left-wing movements focusing on labour issues. What does the postulate of work refusal mean? What does the imagination of today’s social movements concentrate on? It is still boiling hot in the field of social theory and practice. Among others there is a fight for changing the definition of work going on, the biopolitical character of labour in capitalism is being exposed, the liberal vision of emancipation of women through including them into the labour force is being rejected and words of criticism are addressed to the ethics of work and productivism, which continue to be a regular element of both right- and left-wing narration. However, the crucial thing is that the left-wing social movements have never abandoned the labour of imagination and continue to see the sense in building utopias.

After the lecture – film screening of “Workingman’s Death”
Director: : Michael Glawogger, Germany/Austria, 2005, 122 min.

The workingman is not there anymore. A worker remained – someone inferior, someone who failed. Someone, to whom work does not give his or her dignity, but only takes it away. Accustomed to comfortable lives, we increasingly often forget what a hard work a man can perform. The author of “Workingman’s Death” abandons his own commentaries and in refined images (photography by Wolfgang Thaler) records inhuman efforts of contemporary forgotten heroes. Unusual photos and music (by John Zorn) make “Workingman’s Death” a monumental work saturated with emotions.
Today’s heroes are not accompanied by laudatory songs. They can only console themselves that any work, even beyond one’s strength, is better than no work.

A group of Ukrainian men all day long expose their lives to danger in closed, illegal coal mines that can collapse any time. In Indonesia miners excavating sulphur breathe in hot and poisonous vapours over craters of active volcanoes. Their way down is an equally big risk. Blood, fire and terrible stench – a slaughterhouse in Nigeria is hell on earth. With almost bare hands Pakistanis tear away pieces of metal from old ships. Chinese steelworkers with fear perceive themselves as a vanishing species.

Ukraine, Indonesia, Nigeria, Pakistan and China – “Workingman’s Death” presents five portraits of hard physical work, less and less visible in the mechanised world of 21st century.
(Film distributor’s materials).