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

a book by Sarah Jaffe


“Work Won’t Love You Back brilliantly chronicles the transformation of work into a labor of love, demonstrating how this seemingly benign narrative is wreaking havoc on our lives, communities and planet. By pulling apart the myth that work is love, Jaffe shows us that we can reimagine futures built on care, rather than exploitation. A tremendous contribution.”

Naomi Klein, author of On Fire: The Burning Case for a Green New Deal

“Sarah Jaffe’s Work Won’t Love You Back stages a much-needed intervention into a bad relation:  our employment. The scope of Jaffe’s wonderful book is stunning, covering the gamut of our modern economy, from the field to what’s left of the factory, from the home to the Amazon distribution center and university.  Jaffe’s analysis of how capitalism learned to use affective sentiment to organize labor relations is nuanced and profound.  Neoliberalism, it turns out, is a vast gaslighting project, manipulating emotions, promising not better wages but self-fulfillment in exchange for ever greater rates of value extraction. That project is collapsing, and you’ll find no better guide to help sift through the wreckage than this book. Fusing critical theory and on-the-ground reporting, Jaffe reminds us that capitalism can’t love us back.  But, if we force it, it can provide the material conditions that will help us love each other.”

Greg Grandin, C. Vann Woodward Professor of History, Yale University

“As she swaggers through history, theory and journalism in her newest book, Sarah Jaffe has written a dazzling takedown of the myth of working for love, and a call to arms for workers to invest their love and solidarity not in their jobs but in each other. This is a big book, in terms of intellectual scope, ambition and impact.”

Molly Crabapple, artist and author of Drawing Blood and coauthor of Brothers of the Gun 

“Sarah Jaffe gives us engrossing stories of how ordinary people in familiar jobs navigate the precarious and all-consuming conditions of work and fight back against them.  How did we come to this?  Through sharp analyses of the recent history and social contours of each occupation, Jaffe helps us understand the contemporary landscape and provides tools to contest how we are put to work.  The result is a marvelously lucid, thoroughly readable, and wonderfully engaging book.”

Kathi Weeks, author of The Problem with Work: Feminism, Marxism, Antiwork Politics, and Postwork Imaginaries

“Work Won’t Love You Back is a tremendous achievement.  Jaffe’s committed, on-the-ground engagement, historical range, and ferocious gathering of revolutionary thought combines to create something genuine and profound.  I cannot think of another book that ranges so widely, and yet so attentively, through the variegated landscape of our current condition, and the conflicts and struggles that have composed it.  Without hyperbole, this book is a gift to its reader, and to a possible future. To put it in Marxish: Jaffe has achieved a prismatic and elusive goal, combining a generality of historical scope, the particularity of relation between different moments and movements, and the aching specificity of what it means to endure capitalism and dream of something better, more connected, more alive.”

Jordy Rosenberg, author of Confessions of the Fox

“In Work Won’t Love You Back, our finest labor journalist raises her game. Sarah Jaffe charts a path through the most painful realities of working class life in the 21st century, taking readers on an eye-opening journey through a remarkably varied number of industries. It’s an indispensable addition to labor journalism, labor history, and much more broadly, our understanding of what resistance looks like – and could look like – in these difficult times. It’s part Barbara Ehrenreich, part Studs Terkel, and all Sarah Jaffe, one of the most unique voices writing today. Remember, ‘the problem is not you, it’s work itself.’”

Dave Zirin, author of A People’s History of Sports in the United States

“Sarah Jaffe’s months in the library have built the kind of analysis that you’d find in an institute of advanced study. Her years as a labor reporter have let her see frontlines where others have failed to look. And a lifetime of elegant writing has produced a prose style that pulls you through a book of rare importance. You’ll find it on the picket-lines of sports, non-profits, art, retail, teaching, domestic work, gaming and the academy. And once you’ve finished it, you’ll find it close to your heart, too.”

Raj Patel, author of Stuffed and Starved: The Hidden Battle for the World Food System

“Sarah Jaffe is asking, and helping to answer, fundamental questions at the exact right time. Read this book to help clarify the demands list for a far better society. Jaffe’s decades of shrewd and discerning journalism helped her produce this excellent book. It is a multiplex in still life; a stunning critique of capitalism, a collective conversation on the meaning of life and work, and a definite contribution to the we-won’t-settle-for-less demands of the future society everyone deserves.”

Jane McAlevey, author of A Collective Bargain: Unions, Organizing, and the Fight for Democracy

“Sassy and big-hearted, learned and astute, this chronicle of late capitalism warns against the expropriation of bodies, minds, and spirits when we confuse work with love. Through vivid portraits of service and creative workers—including home aids, interns, teachers, gamers, adjuncts and athletes—Sarah Jaffe more than indicts jobs that promise pleasure. She shows ordinary people fighting back for recognition, rights, and living wages. A stunning achievement!”

Eileen Boris, Hull Professor of Feminist Studies, University of California, Santa Barbara

“Many of us write books to make people think. Sarah Jaffe writes books to make you act. I can honestly say that Work Won’t Love You Back has caused me to rethink my entire relationship to how I work and live. Read it and it will change you too.”

David Dayen, author of Chain of Title and Monopolized