TIM SHANER works as a full-time part-timer at Lane Community College in Eugene, Oregon and as a full-time part-timer at Umpqua Community College in Roseburg, Oregon. Picture X, his first full-time part-time book of poetry, will be published by Airlie Press full-time in 2014. With Kristen Gallagher, he edited Wig, a magazine devoted to poetry and art that appropriates the job, partly or fully, for artistic purposes (sans benefits). More from The Institute of Loafing can be read at: http://www.shampoopoetry.com/shampoothirtyeight/shaner.htm


from The Institute of Loafing

May 2, 2009
From the New York Times

To the Editor:
Re: “Latest G.M. Plan Cuts More Jobs, Halves Dealers” (front page, April 28)

Recent reports of restructuring
describe a company
that hopes to find a new
better life by closing
plants. Investors
may find comfort
in these cutting measures
but families will suffer
and communities
will find sources
suddenly boarded up.
General Motors may do well
but in its wake there are
so many sad stories
that must be told.

Gary Chaison
Worcester, Mass., April 28, 2009

The writer is a professor of industrial relations at Clark University.

The humans need an Institute of Loafing for precisely this reason

We too want a new better life by closing plants, but to the benefit of families and communities and people in general (sad stories and suffering, another matter)

The humans—especially the Americans, North, that is, but just south of Canada, who are addicted to the narcotic of doing and who are thus always and a day just doing it—need others to say it for them, so they can say it for themselves, and save themselves. Not only because many of the Americans, North, just south of Canada (SOCA), who have lost their jobs will have had little experience loafing, but more so because little will have heard the case for loafing and will thus be less inclined to loaf knowingly, that is, to give themselves over to loafing, and not be mired down by the guilt trip of being redundant

Now, naturally, there will be those who criticize the Institute of Loafing for its lack of class-consciousness. It will be argued that it is all very well to tout the virtues of loafing when you have a job, or you have the kind of privileged job, or situation, the would-be blogger has, never mind the ad hominem fallacy, but for those who are out of work and, say, facing foreclosure on their house, or something like that, if, indeed, they were lucky (or unlucky) enough to have been allowed to borrow the money to buy the house—nothing down, your home, a kind of magic—whose marriage is thus strained, due to how gullible you were (admit it) to have been suckered into that transaction, he both of you, and so forth, for those humans, loafing is a luxury they cannot afford, not to mention the developing world, the world in wait of development

To which, we at the Institute of Loafing, will have to develop a response, because, true, that is a good point

We will argue along the lines that the Institute of Loafing envisions a society in which loafing is inclusive, even if you don’t want to loaf, where, as Paul Lafargue put it, the humans have the “right to be lazy,” (not that lazy is loafing), not to mention the right to the means to be lazy, many times over, daily, if there but be the will—just do it (or, rather, the right to loaf)

Which is precisely where the Institute of Loafing steps in, as it will take some time for the doers to exorcise the beast—are we in a hurry?


The Breitenbush Hot Springs up the McKenzie River an hour or so from Eugene may appear to be a kind of Institute of Loafing, but in my mind, from what I can tell from a brief visit, it is too filled with purpose to qualify as such. I would argue then that Breitenbush is no Institute of Loafing. For one goes up there to cleanse oneself, both in body and soul, or, as they themselves put it, Breitenbush is “a peaceful and safe atmosphere for spiritual growth, physical and emotional healing, and mental relaxation”

So, they have massage rooms, and hot springs where you can get naked, and classes in sexual healing, in yoga and meditation, in poetry and probably knitting with some sort of spiritual bent to it, not to say I’m knocking that, knocking knitting, and so on

I’m not knocking knitting
Some of my best friend’s are knitters
Indeed, my daughter is a knitter

While all of that’s fine, if you’re into that sort of thing—I’d go for the naked soak in the hot springs any day—I probably couldn’t stomach the poetry thing, however, that kind of poetry, that is; the stuff that heals doesn’t heal me—but overall, there’s way too much activity, things to do, to qualify as loafing, though I would gather that they pretty much let you do what you want, including pretty much doing nothing, as if what you want is what you want, so long as you clean up after yourself, so loafing may be possible there

                “as if what you want is what you want”

But Breitenbush is a retreat, and while true, presumably one could, likewise, come to the Institute of Loafing for a “session,” which, really, would consist of nothing, nothing but hanging out and, at best, watching others loaf, maybe talking to them, if you so wish

But the Institute, in fact, is not really a place, but, yes, a state of mind, but even more so a matter of praxis, and so, something one does daily, if possible, wherever one may be

I’ll go over that at another time, having not completed it of course, sketching at it, at best, when the writing called after me just now, and I turned around and said

That, by the way, is in keeping with the poetics of loafing in so much as what loafing teaches us is not to force things, not to get all stressed out over plans, even if at the Institute of Loafing one has a fairly clear idea of what one is doing at any given time, the clear idea coming and going, of course

The poem was once a single paragraph, all the sentences crammed together, one after the other. But reading over it, I was feeling a little cramped and weighed down, so I decided to open the windows


Perhaps the institute is a conceptual one, whose walls are made of paper at best, like Laura Moriarty’s paper spaceship, but which really is not confined to the page


“For Badiou, the time of the fidelity to an event is the future anterieur: overtaking oneself towards the future, one acts now as if the future one wants to bring about is already here” (Zizek, In Defense of Lost Causes 460).

This quote from Badiou explains The Dude’s way of life in The Big Lebowski. If he is indifferent to the ridicule of the police officers when he tells them that he is unemployed, it is because The Dude exists in a post-labor world. In such a world, labor is not considered the be-all, end-all of human being. Rather, it is something one does or not, depending on the situation. (It may be necessary for some not to work, for example, work at a job; or: perhaps people could rotate in and out of work, like in a volley ball game: in for a stretch, then out for a stretch, giving everyone the satisfaction of contributing to the society (getting in the game) and one’s local community while, at the same time, giving everyone significant time away from the task (job) on a regular (planned) basis, so that “retirement” isn’t something that happens at the end of one’s life, but something that is interwoven throughout one’s life.) It’s like asking The Dude whether he’s done the laundry. The plot that The Dude is embroiled in is simply the laboring world intruding in on The Dude’s future anterieur, hence the meaninglessness of it all. It is up to the laboring world to catch up with him, that is to say, to turn their back on labor. Walter’s “blanks,” his heroic attempts to solve the plot, attests to the bankruptcy of the laboring society, as do the blanks of the other characters, from Jesus’s pedophilia, to Mr. Lebowsky’s fraudulent achievements, to Maude’s artistic pretences, to Jackie Treehorn’s pornographic empire, and back again to Walter’s faux Judaism—note that Walter’s more than willing to break with his “day at rest” conviction when The Dude threatens to quit the bowling team—this attests, in turn, to the fact that the Dude himself has been momentarily led astray in his attempt to labor (that is, to solve the plot); the Dude, after all, is unchanged as a character by the end of the movie—the price to be paid for momentarily losing his way: Donny; that’s what the laboring society gets you, in other words—yes, it’s funny, but


“I want to take issue with the negative way public institutions are perceived by the mode of radical critique fashionable today: Celebrating ‘desertion’ and ‘exodus,’ to use the terminology of Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri . . . such critique asserts that political action should withdraw from existing institutions so that we might free ourselves from all forms of belonging. Institutional attachments are presented here as obstacles to the new, nonrepresentative forms of ‘absolute democracy’ suitable for the self-organization of the multitude. Yet such an approach forecloses any immanent critique of institutions—critique with the objective of transforming institutions are perceived as monolithic representatives of forces to be destroyed, every attempt to transform them dismissed as reformist illusion.”
                   —Chantal Mouffe, Artforum (Summer 2010) p. 326

And does this not doom nascent institutions like the Institute of Loafing before they even have had the chance to institutionalize themselves

I imagine, for example, if there were to be such a building, with the offices of those loafing about, if they cared to, that there’d be things like Kafka’s leg dangling through the hole in the ceiling


In chapter “19. Bulk Rate Permit” of his Memoir and Essay, Michael disses on Charles for not working hard like everyone else—they were working on publishing a book or something, I seem to recall—but acting like he was all involved in the project, hanging out, taking advantage of everyone being there, mingling and joking around, everyone working, but he alone loafing/mingling—messing around. While Michael has a point about this, at least according to his account of events, his criticism comes entirely too much from the position of laboring and not from the position of loafing, where Charles’s action would be seen in a more favorable light. In fact Michael admits as much when he writes:

The thing was, this kind of menial, thoughtless, rote production work was right up my alley. I had always, if not exactly enjoyed it, found it congenial. I suppose I must admit that I do still. It allowed me, I suppose, to believe that I was being productive while at the same time taking up so little of my attention, such as it is, thus allowing it to freely range over whatever topic, fantasy, possibility for a decent line or phrase, or compulsive anxiety that struck my fancy. I was also sporting the bureaucrat’s eyeshade. That mid-level manager’s officiousness was a pose I fell prey to often in those days. (74)

So, here they all are, gathered together to work on whatever, and Charles shows up, a bit late (as usual; I’m embellishing, here), and instead of helping out on the actual work, he bounces around chatting and making jokes, basically doing nothing. Yet, later, he acts like he was in on it, taking credit for being involved, etc.—that’s the implication, right? Naturally, Michael gets miffed by that, as the task at hand is to work on publishing that damn book, sewing it together or whatever they were doing. Folding and stuffing. Actually. I went and looked it up. Now, from a laboring point of view, Michael’s right: that’s messed up that Charles is just cashing in on the thing, as if it was a social event. But, from a loafing point of view, Charles is entirely justified in his loafing. First, who knows, maybe Charles had just come from his job, where, true, maybe he was loafing too, but then he’s still on the job and hence laboring. Actually, the event was on the weekend, so forget about what I just said. And perhaps Gottlieb had been loafing around all day and only now was arriving at work, even though it’s not, strictly speaking, laboring, laboring has to do with making a living. Even if it wasn’t this way, even if I’m just making shit up here, hypothesizing, where, with a little digging, I could arrive at the truth, so easily, having the book in my library, somewhere, even so, Charles’s loafing would be entirely justified in that loafing often requires a bit of shamelessness, wherein one loafs while others labor away, loafing in the face of the laboring. That is to say, loafing means loafing in the face of the laborers. I mean, you’re into laboring anyway, right? I mean, you get off on all that, right? Did the work get done? Yes, thanks to those of you who were laboring, like you. Yes, but the work actually has to get done and if everybody did what Charles (me) did, the task would never get completed. True, but I want to loaf and even when I loaf and you labor, the work gets done somehow. I mean the task got done, right


from Card Chronicle:
“I liked my job once. Then I found out I had to show up EVERY day.” – Cards78


Twenty-First Material Confession (after Apollinaire)

We who want to work less
Say to you who want to work more:

Go ahead, make my day


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