You’re told that if you “do what you love, you’ll never work a day in your life.” Whether it’s working for “exposure” and “experience,” or enduring poor treatment in the name of “being part of the family,” all employees are pushed to make sacrifices for the privilege of being able to do what we love. But Sarah Jaffe, a preeminent voice on labor, inequality, and social movements tells us that work won’t love us back, and advocates for the liberating power of recognizing that.
In conversation with professor Kathi Weeks, and with support from her book Work Won’t Love You Back: How Devotion to Our Jobs Keeps Us Exploited, Exhausted, and Alone, she examines the “labor of love” myth–the idea that some work is not really work, and should be done out of passion rather than pay. In a deeply-reported examination of this culture, told through the lives and experiences of workers in various industries, Jaffe reveals her belief that we have all been tricked into buying into a new tyranny of work. From the unpaid intern, to the overworked teacher, to the nonprofit worker, and even the professional athlete, she makes the case that the labor of love myth is a recipe for exploitation. In a conversation that is more imperative than ever as the lines between home and work blur to an indistinguishable degree, she asserts that understanding this dynamic will empower us to work less and to demand what our work is worth. And once freed from those binds, we can find out what actually gives us joy, pleasure, and satisfaction.
Sarah Jaffe is a Type Media Center fellow and an independent journalist covering labor, economic justice, social movements, politics, gender, and pop culture. She is the author of Necessary Trouble: Americans in Revolt. Her work has appeared in the New York Times, the Nation, the Guardian, the Washington Post, the Atlantic, and many others. She is the co-host, with Michelle Chen, of Dissent magazine’s Belabored podcast, as well as a columnist at the New Republic and New Labor Forum.
Kathi Weeks is Associate Professor of Women’s Studies at Duke University. She is the author of The Problem with Work: Feminism, Marxism, Antiwork Politics, and Postwork Imaginaries and Constituting Feminist Subjects, and a co-editor of The Jameson Reader.