Andrew Taggart, Ph.D.,

is creating stories about how work took over the world

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Total Work Newsletter

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The Art of Inquiry

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As a patron, you'll receive a copy of an e-book The Art of Inquiry. 

In this book, I teach the reader how to inquire into the things that matter most. 

You'll also receive a subscription to my newsletter, which comes out once a week.

The Art of Inquiry + The Good Life

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As a patron, you'll receive two e-books: The Art of Inquiry and The Good Life and Sustaining Life

In The Art of Inquiry, I try to teach the reader how to inquire into the things that matter most. In The Good Life and Sustaining Life, I discuss how to live a flourishing human life in the modern world.

You'll also receive a subscription to my newsletter, which comes out once a week.



About Andrew Taggart, Ph.D.,

I'm trying to spread the word about total work in a number of different media: a newsletter, public talks, interviews, articles, a book, and videos. (See "How I Can I Learn More?" below.)

I’m a practical philosopher with a Ph.D. I ask and seek to answer the most basic questions of human existence with others around the world. In this capacity, I speak daily over Skype with business executives, artists, and tech entrepreneurs throughout the US, Canada, and Europe about the nature of a good life.

“Total work,” a term coined by the German philosopher Josef Pieper, is the process by which human beings are transformed into workers as work comes to engulf all other aspects of life. I expound on this further in a science-fiction-based article I wrote for Aeon

During the past 7 years, I've had philosophical conversations with many individuals--those living in Silicon Valley and on Wall Street, those in Scandinavia and South America. After a while, I began to see something uncanny happening: the more I spoke with those who had never met before, people from different cultures and backgrounds, the more I began to notice that work had come to be central in their lives and that they were suffering as a result. In fact, the closer I looked, the more I began to see work almost everywhere. I wanted to know how this occurred, what it meant, and why it mattered.

Work shall truly be total when all of the following conditions are met:

1. When work is the center around which all else in life turns.
2. When almost everything else in life is not only put in the service of but also made subservient to work.
3. When leisure, play, and festivity slowly, perhaps imperceptibly are turned into work.
4. When we come to believe that we were born to work.
5. When all other ways of living, those that existed before work took over the world, fall away from cultural memory.

The truth is that we're on the verge of all this becoming true. 

To begin with, many human beings are suffering their burdensome ideas about work (see the video essay above); it's these ideas that I'm trying to elaborate upon in various media (see "How Can I Learn More?" below). Secondly and at a more fundamental level, our ideas about work, those that define the modern culture we live in, have been obscuring the possibility of our embracing the vita contemplativa (the contemplative life). I define genuine leisure as that which enables us to apprehend ultimate reality. Could work be closing us off from deeper immersion in reality: from genuine love, from art, from philosophy, and from religion or spirituality? I now think so.

I'm trying to trace the disappearance of the vita contemplativa and the emergence of a new work form of the vita activa (the active life). It took a long time for work to take over the world. Ancient Greeks viewed work as ignoble, slavish, and ignoble while those living in the medieval period regarded work as penance for Original Sin. It was only after the Protestant Reformation that the value of work was turned on its head. The result is that the useful, the necessary, the urgent, and the expedient have not only won out but also eclipsed any ideas of the higher, the greater, and the more real. I want to understand what this unacknowledged loss of a greater, abiding reality means for us, and I want also to see how we can begin to rethink the vita contemplativa for our time.

  • This website is devoted not just to housing the content related to total work but also to making more vivid what it is and what may mean for us. 
  • "Total Work: How Work Took Over the World." Beginning in January 2018, I started a newsletter in which I seek to document, reflect upon, and understand this world historical process, one that started at least as far back as 1800 and quite possibly well before then. 


Since 2012, I've been living in a gift economy, an alternative to the market system. Through this means, I've been able to support myself as well as my wife. Though a gift economy differs from Patreon in that the latter is essentially an exchange and not a gift (I help to support you with a project and, in turn, I receive rewards), I think it's worth trying to "deconstruct" this platform in order, at least in this case, to bring it closer to the spirit of the gift.

Special thanks to Daniel Kazandjian, who pretty much did everything for the video essay above except for writing the script. Special thanks also to my wife Alexandra Taggart, who provided me with the pictures of natural landscapes accompanying the rewards.

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