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Press Work Won't Love You Back

What Does It Even Mean To Be ‘Burnt Out’ These Days? at Refinery29

I spoke with Daisy Schofield for Refinery29 for a story on the ubiquity of “burnout” and what gets missed in those discussions. She writes:

People may also be more likely to say they are experiencing burnout because the term can be worn as a badge of honour. As Sarah Jaffe, author of Work Won’t Love You Back, writes: “We’re supposed to value ‘busy’ and ‘productive’, and capital has always valued these things. Bosses want us to work as much as and as hard as we possibly can. The expectation that we’ve internalised this as employees, rather than as bosses, is a relatively new thing.”Sarah says this idea that we should prize productivity above all else marks a shift away from the industrial model – such as work in the coal mines – where employment was seen as more adversarial. In today’s hustle culture, “being super busy is somehow a sign that we have status, when usually, it’s just a sign that we don’t get paid enough.” The term ‘burnout’, Sarah argues, has become inextricably bound up with this idea that we should love our jobs. As she puts it: “Burnout becomes the space between being told that you should love your job and the reality that your job still sucks.”Do we need a new language to talk about burnout, or one that more explicitly deglorifies overwork, such as ‘toxic productivity‘? Sarah is unconvinced. “Literally, productivity is killing us, as individuals and the planet. So there’s sort of no ‘non-toxic’ productivity,” she says. While terms such as burnout have become “vacated of meaning … their origins were really powerful,” Sarah notes. “I think it’s useful to drill down into where terms [like burnout] come from, because often, it tells us a lot about what’s actuallygoing on and what we’re actually dealing with.” 

Read the whole thing at Refinery29
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Press Work Won't Love You Back

Work (Even the Creative Kind) Won’t Love You Back at Hyperallergic

Eliza Levinson wrote about Work Won’t Love You Back and the art world over at Hyperallergic. Unsurprisingly I loved it. She writes:

In a chapter called, “My Studio Is The World: Art,” Jaffe investigates how art intersects with capitalism. She touches on art’s value both monetarily and spiritually, as well as unionizing efforts in the US and Mexico that have made artmaking more accessible across races and classes since the 1920s. 

Reading “My Studio Is The World: Art” laid bare some of my more internalized beliefs about art, work, and the art world. Fundamentally, I struggled with the implicit comparison of the plight of those of us in the art world to some of the other workers the book describes — domestic care workers and teachers; people who, as the pandemic revealed, were already being forced into precarity both financially and physically. Weren’t we choosing this path, not undertaking it because we had to? Who would an artist, the paragon of a bossless worker, even appeal to for recognition? 

As Jaffe describes, this tension is familiar within the discourse of art workers’ rights. The longstanding belief that artmaking comes from motives outside of capitalism — love, or even “genius” — continues to fuel a sense among artists, art institutions, art schools, and the state that what we do is not work, nor are we workers. 

Read the whole thing at Hyperallergic