I've never read a clearer, more erudite, more persuasive demolition of the old Protestant Work Ethic than Pekka Himanen's essay in this book. And that clarity comes from being part of a new constituency - the hacker community - who are redefining what it is to be a passionate, active, creative, tool-wielding human being (ie, it's much more than just being a "worker").
And rather than the Hacker Ethic being the usual pizza-stained celebration of digital anarchism you find in hacker commentary, Himanen begins to construct a real and tangible politics out of the self-organising energies of hackerdom. What might the hacker ethic mean for how we build educational institutions, as communities of inquiry rather than job factories? For how we generate technological innovation, in ways that don't always depend on the furies of the market? For how we might provide social services amongst ourselves, rather than waiting for politicians and bureaucrats to deliver?
I suppose the only problem I have - and it's one I'm trying to answer with my own project, The Play Ethic (on the web) is this: why do we need to keep describing unalienated human productivity and creativity (which is what hackerdom, and other forms of modern behaviour, are) as "work"? Isn't this the last legacy of Calvin and Knox, still shaping our minds through controlling our vocabulary? Why not call it "play", and be done with it - that's play as defined by Sartre, "that action we do when we apprehend that we are truly free": or Schiller's, meaning that activity we do when we are (as adults) "fully human"?
Play also extends beyond the hacker community (still, as Pekka admits, predominantly male), and touches upon all the other "arts of living" that evade the patriarchal work ethic - in emotions, parent-child relationships, New Age spirituality, gender androgyny, ecological sensibilities. There is also a whole world of non-Christian theologies and traditions out there which place human creativity at their core, which could have been mentioned. (And what about Harold Bloom's cry for an American gnosticism in Omens of Millenium? That's just waiting for Richard Stallman and his cultic robes!)
But hell, that's the book *I'm* writing... In the meantime, The Hacker Ethic is the worst news that the New Economy's work ethic could ever have - which means, the best for all us. Put a copy on your pal's desk: the one with the nervous twitch and the grey pallor. And watch the passion come back into his/her face.