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Debunking the Myths of Modern Work at Tribune

Airelle Perrouin reviewed Work Won’t Love You Back alongside Amelia Horgan’s excellent Lost in Work for Tribune magazine. She writes:

People everywhere are challenging the narratives that characterise work as a route out of poverty, or to self-actualisation, because for most, neither holds true: in modern Britain, hard work simply does not guarantee a life of dignity, or safety, or fulfilment. A widely circulated meme captures a shift in attitudes, particularly among the young: ‘Darling I don’t have a dream job, I don’t dream of labour.’ In the current context, this can be read as an indictment of the myths of work as much as work itself: we might dream more of labour, for example, had that dreaming not been made into an act of labour itself – or were the current conditions of labour not so bleak. But how long will this shift last – and how far will it go?

Any solution to existing problems must be on a much larger, more radical scale than anything previously imagined. While Work Won’t Love You Back and Lost in Work provide accessible histories of capitalism and deconstruct the mythos of modern work, they ultimately remain focused on the future: Jaffe and Horgan never lose sight of who and what they’re fighting for – and despite plenty of righteous anger, both books are, ultimately, beacons of hope. As Horgan puts it, ‘We can’t get our lives back without radically changing the very foundation of society.’

Read the whole thing at Tribune
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What Does It Even Mean To Be ‘Burnt Out’ These Days? at Refinery29

I spoke with Daisy Schofield for Refinery29 for a story on the ubiquity of “burnout” and what gets missed in those discussions. She writes:

People may also be more likely to say they are experiencing burnout because the term can be worn as a badge of honour. As Sarah Jaffe, author of Work Won’t Love You Back, writes: “We’re supposed to value ‘busy’ and ‘productive’, and capital has always valued these things. Bosses want us to work as much as and as hard as we possibly can. The expectation that we’ve internalised this as employees, rather than as bosses, is a relatively new thing.”Sarah says this idea that we should prize productivity above all else marks a shift away from the industrial model – such as work in the coal mines – where employment was seen as more adversarial. In today’s hustle culture, “being super busy is somehow a sign that we have status, when usually, it’s just a sign that we don’t get paid enough.” The term ‘burnout’, Sarah argues, has become inextricably bound up with this idea that we should love our jobs. As she puts it: “Burnout becomes the space between being told that you should love your job and the reality that your job still sucks.”Do we need a new language to talk about burnout, or one that more explicitly deglorifies overwork, such as ‘toxic productivity‘? Sarah is unconvinced. “Literally, productivity is killing us, as individuals and the planet. So there’s sort of no ‘non-toxic’ productivity,” she says. While terms such as burnout have become “vacated of meaning … their origins were really powerful,” Sarah notes. “I think it’s useful to drill down into where terms [like burnout] come from, because often, it tells us a lot about what’s actuallygoing on and what we’re actually dealing with.” 

Read the whole thing at Refinery29
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Work (Even the Creative Kind) Won’t Love You Back at Hyperallergic

Eliza Levinson wrote about Work Won’t Love You Back and the art world over at Hyperallergic. Unsurprisingly I loved it. She writes:

In a chapter called, “My Studio Is The World: Art,” Jaffe investigates how art intersects with capitalism. She touches on art’s value both monetarily and spiritually, as well as unionizing efforts in the US and Mexico that have made artmaking more accessible across races and classes since the 1920s. 

Reading “My Studio Is The World: Art” laid bare some of my more internalized beliefs about art, work, and the art world. Fundamentally, I struggled with the implicit comparison of the plight of those of us in the art world to some of the other workers the book describes — domestic care workers and teachers; people who, as the pandemic revealed, were already being forced into precarity both financially and physically. Weren’t we choosing this path, not undertaking it because we had to? Who would an artist, the paragon of a bossless worker, even appeal to for recognition? 

As Jaffe describes, this tension is familiar within the discourse of art workers’ rights. The longstanding belief that artmaking comes from motives outside of capitalism — love, or even “genius” — continues to fuel a sense among artists, art institutions, art schools, and the state that what we do is not work, nor are we workers. 

Read the whole thing at Hyperallergic
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Why Are We Expected to Love Our Jobs? at Yes Magazine

Alex Gallo-Brown at Yes Magazine reviewed Work Won’t Love You Back! An excerpt:

 I don’t quite remember when the relationship between us began to change. It might have been when I showed up to work one gray morning and there were hardly any customers at all. Rather than pay me my hourly wage of $7.75 to stand behind an empty counter, he told me to “bop around for a little while” and come back when there were more customers. When I received a paycheck that paid me for several hours less than the hours I had actually worked, he explained, “You weren’t working hard enough.” Another time, he quoted me one hourly wage but paid me a lesser rate. These are classic examples of wage theft, but at the time the only thing I understood was that if I wanted to keep working in the pizza booth, I had to play by his rules. 

I worked that job for another five summers. In some strange way, I loved working in the pizza booth. But the pizza booth (to riff on the title of labor journalist Sarah Jaffe’s new book) did not love me back. My boss was not my friend, and he certainly wasn’t my family. He was merely a person who held power over me, and his primary allegiance was to his bottom line. As I moved on to other food service jobs—alongside stints as a caregiver for people with disabilities, political canvasser, adjunct community college instructor, and nonprofit administrator, among many other gigs—it was a lesson that I would learn again and again. Work was a way to make one’s living, pointedly not a place to find happiness or develop one’s sense of identity, although it could sometimes be fun or even rewarding.

Read the rest at Yes Magazine
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‘The future sucks’: why the work you love won’t love you back at OpenDemocracy

I spoke with Natalia Savalyeva at OpenDemocracy about Work Won’t Love You Back, and quoted comrade Patrick Blanchfield on “the future sucks.” She writes:

Twenty years into the 21st century, most people in the west want to have a job that they love. And, vice versa, we expect that this love – our inspiration, devotion and care – will provide us with deep fulfillment, even satisfaction with who we are as individuals and how we lead our lives.

Yet very often the opposite happens: the “love what you do” principle supports the exploitation and devaluation of labour, as well as cutting back on social protection and welfare guarantees. You can love your work, but as US labour journalist Sarah Jaffe reminds us in her new book, it won’t love you back.

In Work Won’t Love You Back: How Devotion to Our Jobs Keeps Us Exploited, Exhausted and Alone, Jaffe draws on her deep experience reporting on workplace organising in the US to explore why love is not a necessary component of our jobs, how the whole idea of the “labour of love” brought us to the edge of global crises, and how we can change it for the better – by fighting for our rights as workers, and changing how our societies are organised socially, politically and economically.

Read the whole thing at OpenDemocracy