The Disney Strike of 1941
There is a crisis emerging around work and it is getting closer to the romanticised idea of the artist. The work model of the artist is a problem.
Fast disappearing is the stability and the community that work and the work- place offered in the 20th century. When Walt Disney took the huge profits from Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (nearly four times as much profit as the next best selling film of that year) and built his Fordist studios at Burbank the animators and staff, over 1000, were gathered together on the one unifying site.
This gave rise to a collective identity and by extension collective bargain-
ing and independent unions. Wages were structured and grew in line with the economy, jobs had permanent contracts and healthy pensions provided for workers when they were no longer fit to do so. The Fordist model at least provided the conditions by which solidarity could foster and develop giving some power to the worker in relation to management.
These conditions mostly found but not exclusively in manufacturing have been dwindling in the western world since the seventies and only exist in develop- ing countries where labour is very cheap.
The logic of the Fordist model, to isolate single tasks to individuals in a production line moved into increasingly Taylorist methods of further breaking down the process of manufacturing and organising them in the most efficient way. It seems that now the factory floor, the community of the workplace is breaking down into disparate geographical places for the individual to work in. The gig economy is becoming the model for work.
Digital platforms, like Uber, AirB’nB and even this journal are the new thing, its often labelled as revolutionary as if its an emancipation.As workers are en-couraged to get on board with the new digital age we are our own bosses this gives us the flexibility to organise our working patterns and are masters of our own destiny. If we fail its our own fault and if we are a success the we have earned it.
This self employed model of working is akin to the artist. The artists at Disney and the nature of their work is more related to the manufacturing process of the time rather than the artist of the 20th century however there are obvious overlaps. The point is not so much about the work of artists but work in general. Work in general is getting closer to that of the artist, individualised, isolated, and filled with hopeless dreams. In fact work itself is becoming the dream. To dream of success in work, is to dream of the opportunities of success offered by the gig economy. To dream that you can be that entrepreneur that will work 24/7 and make a million. To dream that you will be used and exploited by the system enough that you will rise above the unemployed and destitution.
If you have wings you don’t need a magic feather to realise you can fly what you need is a better system of community that seeks to support not exploit.