Freedom, Distribution and Work from Home: Rereading Engels in the Time of the COVID-19-Pandemic
The aim of this paper is to understand the emerging practices of work from home drawing from the works of Friedrich Engels. Situating the rising debate on work from home, particularly in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, this article revisits some of the texts by Friedrich Engels to understand the issues of distribution, freedom, necessity and work. The idea of work from home becomes especially critical in the context of a developing country like India, with its limited access to digital infrastructure, inadequate work-space at home, and precarious work conditions. However, the digital network and devices play a pivotal role under these conditions and often offer a promise of “new freedom” and flexibility. It is not just the middle-class professionals, but several other dimensions of work and labour are implicated within the idea of work from home under sudden economic and social disruption. The new organisation of production, assisted by capitalism, forges new relations of production, and new predicaments and Engels's thoughts on freedom, work and the condition of the working class become increasingly relevant to understand these shifts, particularly in a neoliberal, developing country like India under nationwide lockdown.
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