How Devotion to Our Jobs Keeps Us Exploited, Exhausted, and Alone

a book by Sarah Jaffe
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Press Work Won't Love You Back

In “Work Won’t Love You Back,” Sarah Jaffe Kills the Dream Job, at Bitch Magazine

Mary Retta at Bitch Media reviewed Work Won’t Love You Back (and I think this might be the best headline I’m gonna get). She writes:

In this way, Sarah Jaffe’s recent book, Work Won’t Love You Back: How Devotion to Our Jobs Keeps Us Exploited, Exhausted, and Alone, released on January 26, is arriving at the perfect time. Told from the perspective of dozens of workers in various industries and fields including retail, education, and technology, Jaffe—the author of 2016’s Necessary Trouble: Americans in Revolt—examines and critiques the “labor of love” ideology that insists if we’re passionate about work, we’re not working at all. Each of the book’s chapters examines a particular professional industry where Jaffe both interviews workers within those fields and analyzes what labor has historically looked like in the field. The work is bookended by an introduction and a conclusion that both examine the themes of labor and love more conceptually, urging the reader to consider whether they really “love” their job or if capitalism has conditioned them to. Though the book has many strengths, Jaffe’s greatest success is her ability to deliver the final blow to the “dream job” narrative that has pervaded mainstream cultural norms for years.

Read the whole thing at Bitch.
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Press Work Won't Love You Back

Service with a Smile at The Progressive

The Progressive ran an excerpt from Work Won’t Love You Back. Here’s a clip:

Ann Marie Reinhart didn’t intend to spend half her life working in retail. It just sort of happened that way.

“I have always worked. I have worked two and three jobs,” she explains in a series of interviews. She had left her position in medical billing right before her first child was born, and hadn’t quite figured out what was next. A few months after her son’s birth, she stopped by a Toys “R” Us store and saw a “Now Hiring” sign. They hired her on the spot for the holidays. That was 1988.

“I had no aspirations of being a permanent cashier or working in retail. It was definitely not on my bucket list,” Reinhart says with a laugh.

Read the whole thing at The Progressive

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Press Work Won't Love You Back

How I Learned to Stop Worrying and (Not) Love My Job at The Progressive

Amy Pedulla reviewed Work Won’t Love You Back for The Progressive. She writes:

Jaffe offers a sweeping historical and sociological study of work, labor, and the emotional toll these things have taken on the development of humankind. She relies on sources as wide-ranging as the ancient Greeks and Angela Davis to talk about various case studies like the underbelly of Walmart, to the unionization efforts of the company Storycorps, to the story of an unpaid intern who worked on director Darren Aronovsky’s film Black Swan, just to name a few. 

The book is also both structurally ambitious, combining essays on very specific industries such as domestic work, teaching, retail, nonprofits, art, academic, tech, sports, and of particular note, interns as it is a narrative feat. In each chapter, Jaffe spends time interviewing sources with memorable struggles in their relative industries.

The most lucid moments in Jaffe’s writing come in the form of her blunt redefinitions of commonplace ideas. There are several of these brilliant sentences throughout the pages: “The labor of love, of short, is a con”; “Charity is a relationship of power”; and “programming, a field currently dominated by young men, was invented by a woman,” to name a few. Her take on how interns are told to work for free on the promise of future employment perhaps hit the hardest: “What really defines the intern, after all, is hope.” 

Read the whole thing at The Progressive.
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Press Work Won't Love You Back

Hate Your Job? We’ve Got The Book For You at Bustle

Greta Rainbow at Bustle interviewed me about Work Won’t Love You Back. She writes:

Work sucks. Whether you’re in a corporate job, a member of the gig economy, or a creative type, all jobs come with their own unique set of drawbacks. But reporter Sarah Jaffe’s new book Work Won’t Love You Back posits the question: does it have to feel this bad? Nearly 75% of workers experience burnout, and women are more likely than men to feel its defining characteristics: mental and physical exhaustion, inefficiency, and cynicism. (And these numbers were from before the pandemic.)

Yet in spite of these harrowing statistics, the trendiest way to keep employees working is the myth that work is the thing we love. That our self-worth can be derived from logging long hours and going above and beyond with our tasks. Or as the cheerful clickbait advice puts it, “do what you love and you’ll never work a day in your life.” And because of this, many of us never stop working, even as our passions and interests are funneled into performing tasks that benefit corporate bottom lines more than our personal growth.

Read the whole thing at Bustle
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Press Work Won't Love You Back

The Rise of One of the First Video Game Workers Unions at Wired

Wired ran an excerpt from Work Won’t Love You Back. Here’s a clip:

VIDEO GAME PROGRAMMERS learn to celebrate “crunch” from the get-go. Like many of his peers, Kevin Agwaze went to a specialized school that taught coding for games, rather than a traditional university. Such schools normalize a brutal workweek, treating high dropout rates as a badge of honor, and instilling the idea that the games industry is a shark tank where only the strong survive. While in his native Germany, he noted, “Uni is free,” the program he attended, a two-year course, costs around €25,000 (about US $29,000). Such programs can cost even more in the United States, where a specialized education might run $100,000.

Read the whole thing at Wired
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Press Work Won't Love You Back

Love, Labor, Lost at The American Prospect

Lauren Kaori Gurley reviewed Work Won’t Love You Back for The American Prospect. She writes:

Jaffe’s solution again is found in collective action, with a joyfully militant moment in the winter of 2019 when tens of thousands of unpaid interns marched in the streets of Quebec to demand a fair wage and formal recognition under the law. Part of the problem with the internship setup is that interns, who are not technically employees, have no formal processes to report sexual harassment or discrimination. These Canadian interns, Jaffe writes, “questioned why certain jobs were well-paid while others were undervalued, and they challenged the rules of behavior that taught young workers, most of them women, to be meek and retiring and always ready to serve.”

As a journalist myself, I can thank my union, the Writers Guild of America, East, and the organizing of my colleagues who came before me for most of the good things about my job—my annual salary increases, my editorial freedom, my six-week severance package if I get laid off, and my relatively inexpensive health and dental insurance.

Should this “labor of love” myth be put to an end? Jaffe says it’s complicated. As long as humans live under capitalism, ordinary people don’t have much of a choice but to continue spending the majority of our waking hours at work to sustain our lives. Workers across the board—interns, public-school teachers, even Google engineers—should take every opportunity they have to organize and demand less time at work and more free time for pleasure, relaxation, and personal growth with friends, family, lovers, and neighbors. As Jaffe writes, “Work will never love us back. But other people will.”

Read the whole thing at the Prospect
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Press Work Won't Love You Back

Why you should ditch ‘follow your passion’ careers advice, at the Financial Times

I was surprised–and very pleased–to be featured in the Financial Times. The excellent Emma Jacobs interviewed me and wrote this lovely piece about my book. She writes:

The book serves as a timely reminder of the importance of re-evaluating that relationship. “The global pandemic made the brutality of the workplace more visible,” the author tells me over the phone from Brooklyn, New York. Ms Jaffe, who is a freelance journalist specialising in work, points out that the past year of job losses, anxiety about redundancy, and excessive workloads has demonstrated to workers the truth: their job does not love them.  Work is under scrutiny. The economic fallout of the pandemic has made a great many people desperate for paid work, disillusioned with their jobs or burnt out — and sometimes all three. It has illuminated the stark differences between those who can work from the safety of their homes and those who cannot, including shop workers, carers and medical professionals, who have to put themselves in potentially hazardous situations, often for meagre pay. The idea of self-sacrifice, and that you should put your clients, your patients or your students before yourself, Ms Jaffe says, “gets laid on very thick [with] teachers or nurses”.

Read the whole thing at the FT
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Press Work Won't Love You Back

All work and low pay: are we too devoted to our jobs? At the Observer

Tim Adams at the Observer has a really lovely piece on my book that includes an interview we did discussing it. He writes:

Sarah Jaffe’s book Work Won’t Love You Back is an extremely timely analysis of how we arrived at these brutal inequalities and of some of the ways in which a deliberately atomised workforce is beginning to organise to challenge them. Through a series of detailed case studies of modern “labourers of love” – the unpaid intern, the overburdened teacher, the 24/7 domestic help, the NGO employee, the fixed-term academic, the discarded Toys R Us worker, the working single mother – Jaffe, a New York-based journalist, examines two of the most damaging philosophies of our times. The first is the idea that we need to get used to a “disrupted” world in which job security and regular hours and living wages are necessarily a thing of the past, quaint, pre-internet relics such as affordable housing and three TV channels; the second, perversely, that work is supposed, more than ever, to bring us pleasure, meaning, fulfilment, that we should be grateful for it and happy in it and if we are not, we are simply not trying hard enough or being “smart” enough. (Or, as she writes: “How dare we ask questions about the way our work is making other people rich while we struggle to pay our rent and see our friends.”)

Read the whole thing at The Observer
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Press Work Won't Love You Back

Sarah Jaffe, Author of Work Won’t Love You Back, on Labor and Exploitation at Teen Vogue

The wonderful Kim Kelly interviewed me about Work Won’t Love You Back for Teen Vogue! We talked about exploitation, Wages for Housework, organizing at Google and Amazon, and much much more. She writes:

Wry, passionate, and at times heartrending, Work Won’t Love You Back finds Jaffe breaking bread with artists, interns, domestic workers, video game designers, academics, and many others who have seen their labor systematically devalued, dismissed, and disregarded due to the nature of what they produce and factors beyond their control, like gender, race, and identity. Jaffe explores the “labor of love” myth, which is familiar to starving artists of the past and today’s content creators, and reminds us that none of this is immovable; change is always possible. As Jaffe writes, despite the strict theoretical connection between labor and capital, in practice, that relationship status is often… complicated. “Labor, after all, is us,” she says. “Messy, desiring, hungry, lonely, angry, frustrated human beings.” 

Read the whole thing at Teen Vogue.
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Press Work Won't Love You Back

You Don’t Have to Love Your Job at The New Republic

Jonathan Malesic reviewed Work Won’t Love You Back at The New Republic and it’s just lovely. I want to excerpt the whole thing here but I will not! Instead, here’s a snippet:

Both care and creativity supposedly stand outside the capitalist drive to extract profit from labor. That’s why the labor-of-love myth is so effective in aiding it. Convince people that they are doing something they love, and how can they demand better working conditions? A former Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains employee tells Jaffe that the organization fought a fledgling union by claiming that management and labor were all “family.” And who would threaten to strike against family? Whereas other writers, confronting this rhetoric, have urged us to stop loving our jobs, Jaffe shows how workers can turn the love of work into a tool they can leverage against their bosses.

….

The love ethos, then, is a double-edged sword. As Marx and Engels claimed in The Communist Manifesto, the very skills that make someone a productive employee also make them a formidable opponent of management. When Woolworth’s employees struck in 1937 in Detroit, Jaffe writes, the saleswomen “knew that the same charm that had gotten them hired in the first place would play well with reporters, and they performed for the cameras that turned up as well as for one another.” This is true, too, for the professional-managerial class, highly educated workers who have lost considerable autonomy and security since the 1970s. This proletarianization of large numbers of professionals, Jaffe observes, “makes them dangerous even as it strips away their power.”

Read the whole thing at The New Republic