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What’s the Point of Non-Essential Work? at Jezebel

Jezebel’s Marie Solis interviewed me for this excellent piece about work, and how it sucks, and how this was the year we all started to think about that.

Jezebel’s Marie Solis interviewed me for this excellent piece about work, and how it sucks, and how this was the year we all started to think about that. She writes:

Sarah Jaffe refers to this idea as “workplace realism,” in her new book Work Won’t Love You Back. Riffing on Mark Fisher’s theory of capitalist realism, Jaffe reminds the reader: We may work from home, work odd hours, have meetings over Zoom rather than in person, but on the macro level the idea that we should work no matter what has remained stubbornly intact. But, as Jaffe reminded me, the history of the labor movement in the U.S. is founded on fights for fewer hours and more time to spend as we wish. The struggle for the eight-hour workday we now consider standard (in theory if not in practice) might also have begun as a single seed of consciousness, a realization that spending the majority of our time at work is not natural.

Individual epiphanies about work—that one would rather do much less of it, or that one should at least be able to do it on one’s own terms—can become the foundation of collective movements. During the pandemic, workers have organized for better work conditions, gone on rent strike to demand that housing be recognized as a human right. The government has demonstrated that it has the ability to deposit $1,200 into the bank accounts of (most) Americans if there is the political will—fertile ground for agitating for a universal basic income. These are practical measures to materially improve people’s lives as well as important exercises in imagination: It is possible to alter the way we work.

“The crisis can make it much more obvious to us the ways work sucks but we still have to change it,” Jaffe said. “The realizations that people are coming to, the reckonings people are having with work, those are happening everywhere. What we do with them then is the next question.”

Read more at Jezebel

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