While skimming through answered questions on another SE site to look for good short stories to read, I came across "The Good Work", written in 1959 by the American author Theodore L Thomas, and available to read here. It paints a grim picture of life in a future world, with a population of 350 billion, in which everyone lives on dull food called Standard Fare unless they can somehow, by some miracle, find a job. At the end of the story it transpires that the jobs people are given by the government are entirely useless; they only work for the sake of having work.

Is this story a commentary on any kind of real-world society? Either a society which actually exists or has existed, or a model proposed by political theorists of the time. My first thought, due to the header "Loosener, Tightener, Socialism" on the blog post linked above, was that it might be a satire on Soviet socialism, but I'm open to any plausible interpretation.

(A good answer might be based on comparison of the text of this story to such societies as described or actualised in the real world, or potentially on an analysis of the author's political views e.g. as expressed in his other writings.)

  • This is a pretty good example of an XY question. It's possible that someone could write an answer arguing that the story represents a different type of society, but the way this question is asked precludes such answers. (Unless the answerer wants to use a frame challenge, but those are hard to write). I would recommend changing this question so it asks something along the lines of "what is the society in this story supposed to represent"
    – user111
    Commented Oct 17, 2017 at 11:22
  • @Hamlet When I saw the first sentence of your comment in my inbox, I first thought "oh no, I spent ages on this question and all I'm getting is criticism". However, your suggestion is a very good one - it makes the question slightly broader, but actually expresses better what I'm really interested in - and I've edited accordingly. Thanks!
    – Rand al'Thor
    Commented Oct 17, 2017 at 11:28
  • There's a story by Ray Bradbury (I can't remember the title atm) that describes a capitalist society with very similar conditions. It might be interesting to compare the two.
    – user111
    Commented Oct 17, 2017 at 11:29


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