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

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

What’s Love Got to Do With It? On Sarah Jaffe’s Work Won’t Love You Back at Unemployed Negativity

Jason Read at Unemployed Negativity wrote a lovely post about Work Won’t Love You Back. It’s really good–I encourage you to read the whole thing. He writes:

There is a dialectic of sorts between bullshit jobs and hope labor. The more the general labor situation seems plagued by demanding and demeaning jobs the more people are driven to find something with passion and purpose. This is an escape from work on the terrain of work itself, an escape from the cubicle to the coffeeshop or, worse yet, the corporate co-working space. On the opposite side of this dialectic, those stuck in jobs that are not perceived as difficult or demanding have no sympathy for those who work doing something perceived as fun, rewarding, or meaningful. Case in point the hostility shown towards teachers. As Jaffe has said in an interview, unless you are a coal miner there is supposedly no reason for forming a union. This conflict  undermines any solidarity across the affective divide. I imagine a book on the difficulties of teachers, artists, and athletes will be met with derision by many–“what do they have to complain about?” or “If they wanted more money they should have gone into a more lucrative career.” For this reason alone Jaffe should be celebrated for writing this book. It is hard enough to criticize work in our society, hardy still when it is a matter of criticizing jobs that people love.

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

Keeping It in the Family: On Sarah Jaffe’s “Work Won’t Love You Back” at LA Review of Books

Maggie Levantovskaya reviewed Work Won’t Love You Back at the Los Angeles Review of Books and it’s so lovely, I’m crying over here.

She writes:

While the rhetoric of work-as-love generally operates against workers, it can also be strategically reclaimed for organizing purposes, as can be seen in her case study of public school teachers. As Jaffe explains, they’re “the ultimate laborers of love.” They’re also less likely to switch careers for better compensation, which only fuels the narrative that sacrifice is a necessary part of teaching and that discussions of material needs only sully the profession. When it comes to public conversations about teaching and pay, the either/or fallacy is strong, under the auspices that teachers are either “in it for the money” or for the love of the students. This ethos is perhaps best embodied in a now notorious meme: “Teachers don’t teach for the income. Teachers teach for the outcome.” Jaffe, whose focus on struggle is always about both hardship and resistance, dedicates ample space to demonstrating that, starting with the 2012 Chicago teacher strikes, unions flipped the narrative by appealing to teachers’ ties to local communities and their roles as caretakers. When unions used the slogan “Our working conditions are our students’ learning conditions” in strikes across the US, they suggested that taking material care of teachers was indispensable to educating and caring for students. When in 2019, the Los Angeles teachers’ strike resulted in a new contract, they got the district to not only give them a six percent raise but also to “lower class sizes, put a nurse in every school, reduce standardized testing by 50 percent, hire more counselors, invest in more green space on campus, [and] cut back on random searches.” It’s difficult to imagine such a victory without both the power of collective bargaining and the sway of teachers’ image as laborers of love.

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

Why Work Doesn’t Work, at PopMatters

Airelle Perrouin reviewed Work Won’t Love You Back for PopMatters! She writes:

This could have been essential reading at any time in the last 40 years, but released in January 2021,at the start of a year filled with economic and pandemic fear and uncertainty, Work Won’t Love You Back offers an important, timely reminder of the meaning of work. Jaffe highlights the critical connection between the terms we use to describe work, and the conditions we are willing to accept for ourselves and others. The crisis surrounding the people who work for companies like Amazon and Target is only one of the latest manifestations of the humanitarian failures of late capitalism. In another example of the dangers of capitalist exploitation, Jaffe refers to the tragic accident at Rana Plaza, a garment factory in Bangladesh that killed 1,132 people, and injured 2,500 more, when it collapsed in 2013.

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

Work won’t love you back, so why are we still trying to find fulfilment in our 9–5? at Marie Claire UK

I was featured in Marie Claire UK in a really lovely article by Kate McCusker. She writes:

A sacred (and conveniently shareable) phrase of the peppy influencer: “Do something you love, and you’ll never work a day in your life.”

To that, labour journalist and author of Work Won’t Love You Back, Sarah Jaffe, has something to say. In fact, she has several things to say, and says them over the course of 279 (375 if you count notes, acknowledgements and index) perfectly paced pages. Jaffe’s question is simple: why are we so devoted to our jobs, when they yield very little in return? But her argument is nuanced, carefully researched and devastatingly convincing as to why we should all stop trying to find fulfilment in the daily grind.

Read the whole thing at Marie Claire UK

Press Work Won't Love You Back

Why You Don’t Feel as Fulfilled From Your Job as You Think You Should at Time

­­Eliana Dockterman interviewed me about Work Won’t Love You Back for Time magazine. Here’s a clip:

Work Won’t Love You Back is a provocative title for book coming out at a time when many Americans are logging extra hours during the pandemic. But author Sarah Jaffe, whose book hits shelves on Jan. 26, argues that the “love your work” mantra is a myth of capitalism.

For most of human history workers clocked into their jobs knowing that “work sucked.” But in the 1970s, just when manufacturing began to die and labor movements began to lose ground, bosses started handing down aphorisms like, “Do what you love and you’ll never work a day in your life.” Service people were told to plaster a smile onto their faces. Unpaid internships proliferated. And when women entered the workforce en masse looking for a paycheck, they were offered less money than their male peers. After all, their bosses argued, they should be grateful for the non-monetary rewards. “Even as the old story–that housework, and particularly motherhood, was inherently satisfying­­–hung on, the new myth, of work-as-liberation, grew up around it,” she writes. That pay gap has persisted.

In her book, Jaffe, a longtime labor journalist, says large corporations specifically conjured this fable in order to pay workers less and give them fewer benefits. The capitalist system, she says, depends on you believing that deception.

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

Work Won’t Love You Back: why it’s time to ditch the ‘labour of love’ approach at Stylist

I spoke to Lauren Geall at Stylist magazine about Work Won’t Love You Back. She wrote:

Essentially, at a time where we’re giving more and more of ourselves to our jobs, we’re getting less back.

This is a problem which Sarah Jaffe aptly highlights in her new book Work Won’t Love You Back: How Devotion To Our Jobs Keeps Us Exploited, Exhausted and Alone. According to Jaffe, the ‘labour of love’ myth that society has come to subscribe to is directly correlated to the problems so many workers are now facing.

“It’s exhausting, isn’t it?” Jaffe tells Stylist. “We’re told this story that our jobs will be exciting and fulfilling and we should be grateful to have them – but at the same time, they’re also making us nuts. How does that square up?”

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

Against Loving Your Job at In These Times

In These Times ran an excerpt from Work Won’t Love You Back‘s conclusion. Here’s a clip:

Work itself no longer works. Wages have stagnated for most working people since Reagan and Thatcher’s time. A college degree no longer guarantees a middle-class job. The pandemic exposed the failures of the U.S. healthcare system and the brutality of ​“essential” work for those who had no choice but to keep going to their jobs despite the heightened danger.

A society where we must work the majority of our waking hours will never deliver us happiness, even if we are the lucky few who have jobs in which we do gain some joy. As feminist activist and scholar Silvia Federici wrote, ​“Nothing so effectively stifles our lives as the transformation into work of the activities and relations that satisfy our desires.”

Read the whole thing at In These Times.
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.
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

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.