Lying Flat, Anti-Work and Quiet Quitting — A Crisis within Capitalism

How do you know if a system is struggling under the weight of its contradictions? You observe its internal dynamics, alongside emerging trends.

Capitalism has largely abrogated its duty to train and mentor young employees. This has reinforced the already low prospects of ever climbing up the corporate ladder. Now a new breed of workers is revolting against the system. They challenge the capitalistic mode of production and its twin enforcer known as the Protestant Work Ethic. We, fellas from the older generation of millennials and boomers hold dear values and views that support capitalism and the gospel of hard work. It comes as a surprise when we see GenZs coming into the workforce with different views of what should constitute work and how it should be organized.

The new generation of workers is progressively taking a direction that could be viewed as extreme socialist and communist when we were growing up. This direction will tear up the edges of capitalism if not reigned in. Three examples of GenZ-supported trends that seek to edit capitalism are Quiet Quitting, Lying Flat, and Anti-Work.

Quiet Quitting

From the ashes of The Great Resignation, a new subculture is brewing, and it's that of not officially resigning at all, but not putting in anything above and beyond what the job description entails. They're calling it Quiet Quitting. It's the equivalent of Constructive Dismissal. The employee constructively quits but does not do so formally.

Quiet Quitting is not performing below expectations. The employee is performing as per expectations set by the job description and does not give in to extra demands from the line managers. Quiet Quitters do not take responsibilities over and above their paygrade and working hours. They don't take work calls after hours, during lunch, or some other private time. This is of course the normal thing to do but going over and beyond had been normalized by the hustle culture, business culture, and the drive to climb up the ladder. Proponents of this new work subculture are essentially raising a middle finger to prospects of climbing up the corporate ladder. They are not that interested.

Quiet Quitting meme

Quiet Quitting is a response to the culture of burning out and work-life imbalances. The job you hold is not supposed to be your whole personality. There has to be a life outside of your job. These are of course normal things that had been stolen from employees by the relentless pursuit of growth under Late-stage Capitalism.

Quite Quitting appears new but it's the same old tactic used by trade unions (in an era when they were still active). They used to call it Working-to-the-Rule. The trade unions have been busted, completely eviscerated. Quiet Quitting is not going to be easily busted because technically the employee is still performing as to expectations. It just provides a headache for managers who are used to capturing a lot of value from employees by making them perform many unpaid activities. It reduces profits. It's a trend that totally diminishes the rate of profit accumulation.

We, the old generation, can be quick at criticizing the GenZ Quiet Quitters for not loving work. We normalize performing unpaid activities. We are hypocritical. It is okay when a company seeks to maximize value (profit) by minimizing costs (your paid time), but we say it’s not okay when an employee does the same. Through Quiet Quitting, the employee seeks to maximize value by minimizing unpaid input.

Lying Flat

In China, they have been Lying Flat for years now. The version of capitalism there is brutal. They have a 996 working hour system where employees work from 9 am to 9 pm for 6 days a week. It's simply brutal. The younger generation is protesting against the system. They are increasingly choosing a much easier lifestyle. The Lying Flat movement is a resistance movement that is a direct result of the diminishing returns of the rat race.

Lying Flat

These people who chose to lie flat can be called extremely lazy. They have no ultra-desire to get ahead in life. What's surprising is the sheer number of young workers opting for this lifestyle. Why are many people giving up? Surely, under capitalism, everyone wants to maximize wealth and acts in pursuit of such. It comes as a surprise to economists that there are people who would rather have just the bare minimum needed to survive and are not overly interested in the pursuit of riches (at any cost). This was never factored in their economic models theorizing on Output, Labor, and Capital.

The Chinese Communist Party (CCP), which has been steering the economy towards extreme capitalism is scurrying around trying to trample down on the rise and popularity of the Lying Flat Movement. The government in Beijing is anxious. If this trend catches on, who is going to be the supplier of cheap labor that enables the whole world to enjoy cheap goods and services? Production targets cannot be met when a significant number of young workers are lying flat.


There is the Anti-Work Subculture which is fundamentally against work under the capitalistic mode of production. Anti-Work is driven by the subreddit r/antiwork which demands unemployment for all not just the rich. The subreddit has 2.2m Idlers (just idling, not working at all)

The tagline on Unemployment for All needs a small explanation. Under capitalism, rich people can choose not to work because they can deploy capital. They can choose to be technically unemployed. They do not work because their capital works for them. The workers who do not have capital must work in order to generate money to survive and potentially prosper. The anti-work chant line thus recognizes this state of affairs. The anti-work idlers know that the rich spend their days on golf courses, idling around a tiny ball in green grasses. That is the goal. But they want to get there without working their asses off, which obviously doesn't make sense at all. But that's what they want, unemployment for all. They do not want a situation whereby they create value for someone else who is idling somewhere just because he happens to own the means of production.

These far-left extreme communists actually loathe the capitalistic mode of production. The anti-work is in effect a modern-day labor movement as the context there generally gravitates toward advice on how to handle the current working conditions, unionize technologically, and general labor activism.

Idlers call for the abolishment of meaningless work under the capitalist system and some propagate a redefinition of what is conceptualized as work. Anti-work correctly identifies most of today's jobs as unnecessary. The purposelessness of most jobs is under challenge here.

The impact of this minor trend is not big on the ground. However, it is nonetheless, a solid nascent proliferation of an ideology (a dangerous one) that tears into the heart of capitalism. The growth of the subreddit over time shows the increasing popularity of the ideology.

These minor trends are a Sign

These and other trends are showing us signs of a system suffering from an internal crisis. Many (especially the young GenZs) do not want to be part of the system as it is. Yes, we can say Nobody wants to work anymore under this system. The criticism has always been directed to social utopias when economists say that under socialism nobody really wants to work. We are witnessing the same things play out under the capitalist mode of production. Nobody wants to work anymore, and the robots are not yet fully here to take over.

Antiwork and Quiet Quitting in the USA and Lying Flat in China are tiny trends, yet they are important signs that allow us to peep into the labor market dynamics of global capitalism. The system is storing up trouble. The emergence of these trends is a sign that all is not well. The middle-class dream is evaporating, and the rat race is increasingly not working.

Technology has to reach Escape Velocity faster. Human labor has to be replaced by robots and automations faster. If these do not happen faster, we could have a bigger crisis emerging from the labor markets. In the absence of robots, capital is nothing without labor to exploit. In the presence of robots, capital can produce without much human labor.

A collapse of labor markets before the technology reaches Escape Velocity can potentially collapse capitalism. A hard landing of capitalism is bad for everyone because it can potentially destroy civilization. An unguided workers' revolution is not the way to go now. A guided transition (evolution) from Late-Stage Capitalism to Post Scarcity Communism driven by technology works better for everyone.




Financial Analyst, Cloud Accountant, Citizen Data Scientist, FPL Boss

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Ryan Gosha

Financial Analyst, Cloud Accountant, Citizen Data Scientist, FPL Boss