New Work & New Culture By Barbara Stachowski

New Work & New Culture

By Barbara Stachowski

April 14-21, 2012

Frithjof Bergman, the philosopher-activist of New Work, New Culture, recently visited the Boggs Center to continue the Reimagining Work discussions initiated at last October’s gathering.

Bergman has been working with rural communities in Africa and India to help them become self-reliant by utilizing new technologies that promote the creation of community.

People all around the world, he reported, are asking about Detroit , wondering whether and how we are reimagining Work and culture in an age when industry no longer provides us with Jobs.

He is confident that the new informational technology can develop new Work. He calls it Hi-Tech-Self-Providing (HTSP).

In the first stage of technology tools like hammers, axes, etc. liberated human beings. But in the next stage machine technology fragmented the different operations and established rules and boundaries between them, making us appendages to the machine. Today’s technology, like the first stage of tools, can be liberating because it makes possible not only the dissemination of ideas from one’s own PC, but also small-scale customized manufacturing.

By reimagining the concept of Work, we can create economies based on community development. These new technologies make it possible to become economically self-reliant by using resources available to local communities.

For example, Frithjof worked with HIV positive children in Africa to develop vertical gardens using compost produced locally by the community. This allows communities to become independent of the soil available to them: soil which may be too dry or contaminated with pollutants, as in an urban area. These children are now able to produce fruits and vegetables critically needed in their diets.

New technologies also allow innovative methods for constructing items needed by communities. The fundamental need for food and shelter can be fulfilled by using new materials like Eco Cement, which consists 97% of locally available soil and 3% of a remarkable new glue that allows the crafting of bricks and other building materials without the use of heat.

Eco Cement is used in the fabrication of compost toilets that turn human waste into precious nutrient rich compost used to fertilize vertical gardens. Ten African women using Eco Cement bricks were able to complete construction of a building in one day! And communitty

Frithjof identified the importance of women as Solutionary Revolutionaries. He told the story of a group of women involved in the first Center of New Work in Flint, Michigan. When the project was faltering in the early stages, the women were able to explain to the community how new Work replaces Jobs that destroy community because they promote individualist thinking. The women recognized that their new Work was life enhancing and community building; hence much more important than the dead-end Jobs they had been doing on the assembly line.

Detroit is now planning the summer of 2012. From July 1-15 we will be hosting people from around the country in conversations and activities that combine theory and practice to create New Work and New Culture from the ground up. As Frank Joyce explains;

“ In Detroit, we are working to push this concept of New Work further, faster and deeper, into real projects and real work that involves real young people.”

In Detroit. grassroots community-based centers of work and culture are emerging in the Brightmoor and Birwood neighborhoods, Catherine Ferguson Academy, and the MakrSpace in the Church of the Messiah on Detroit’s eastside.. They are transforming our city. As Frithjof explains, these community-oriented enterprises are the opposite of big corporations. Our challenge is to stake out our turf and say: “We can do anything you can and we can do it better and cheaper.”


You can read an interview with Frithjof Bergman at