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

“Labor Without Love” at The Nation

Alyssa Battistoni wrote a long, thoughtful essay for The Nation about Work Won’t Love You Back, Aaron Benanav’s Automation and the Future of Work, the Great Resignation, and capitalist stagnation. She writes:

Jaffe’s vision of post-work politics is more clearly rooted in her descriptions of how workers are organizing today, and she places more faith in the potential of their agency to remake the world. Utopia is present in her writing too, but it emerges concretely, when people act together in ways that challenge the structures of daily life. These moments of possibility can appear in unexpected places. Although they are often associated with autonomous movements like Occupy Wall Street that explicitly seek to disrupt the rhythms of everyday life, Jaffe points out that they also appear in more “organized” forms of action, like teachers’ strikes. We can even generate such moments when we imagine our lives otherwise: “What would you do with your time if you didn’t have to work?” she likes to ask. Such utopian moments won’t abolish capitalism, Jaffe acknowledges. But the projects that generate them give us a glimpse of alternatives and, most important, create the kinds of bonds among people that can drive struggles forward. Political power can only emerge, partially and unevenly, out of actual experiences and relationships—the kinds of relationships of solidarity and, yes, love, that organizing can create and sustain.

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

Love’s Labor, Lost and Found: Academia, “Quit Lit,” and the Great Resignation, a review at Los Angeles Review of Books

Lukas Moe includes Work Won’t Love You Back in his piece on academic “Quit Lit.” He writes:

Miserable protagonists and narrators are fashionable, but there is no frisson of autofiction in quit lit. What happens instead is slow and wrenching and sad.

For this, Jaffe’s book is a tonic. Jaffe’s style is that of someone who spends time with working people: curious about their particular experiences doing a job, fluent in the historical causes of that job’s depredations of self-worth, but impatient with overly fine distinctions. Work sucks, as we used to say, and we should learn how to say it again. The sectoral logic of the book’s chapters, ranging from home-care nurses to software engineers, insists that collective action is key to the possibility of good enough work. Instead of wringing hands about the death of the academic idyll, for example, what if we focused more on the overlaps between academic and service work, its survival strategies as well as its traps?

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

It’s Not Going to Work Out: a review at Lux

Rithika Ramamurthy reviewed Work Won’t Love You Back and Amelia Horgan’s Lost in Work at Lux. She writes:

Anti-work writing is at its best when it inspires us to fight for a future that we can control and to organize towards that vision in the present. Without this double-pronged strategy, we will be left with short-term solutions and long-term immiseration. Jaffe and Horgan understand this, as they both insist that the only way forward is to organize the overworked sectors that do the difficult work of sustaining society. Their attention to care work in particular, and the feminized quality of the majority of modern work, is precisely what allows them to be clear-eyed about the capitalist tendency to turn even social reproduction into exploitable activity. Horgan’s proposed method of escaping capitalism is a “powerful and reinvigorated trade union movement,” while Jaffe declares that beyond stronger labor laws and workplace improvements, we need a “political understanding that our lives are ours to do with what we will.”

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

11 Excellent Work-Life Balance Books at Bookriot

Work Won’t Love You Back is one of 11 work-life balance books at Bookriot. They write:

Listen. That old “do what you love and you’ll never work a day in your life” saying is baloney. It’s why many of us are feeling burned out and exploited. Your work is not your family. Exposure doesn’t pay the bills. Sarah Jaffe eviscerates the notion of your job being “a labor of love,” or being driven by passion rather than pay. Work Won’t Love You Back is the book we all need in our lives if we want any semblance of a work–life balance.

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

Your Unconditional Devotion To Work Is Killing Your Relationship at HuffPost UK

Faima Bakar at HuffPost UK interviewed me about Work Won’t Love You Back for a piece at HuffPost UK about why work is bad for our love lives, just in time for V-Day.

Jaffe explains that without social solidarity, we feel alone and powerless, which is apt in keeping us working and feeding the capitalist regime.

So what can you do? After all, most people need to work. That answer lies in our collective demand, says Jaffe.

“If you as an individual say ‘I’m not going to answer my boss’s emails on Friday night because I have a date’ or if you’re an Uber driver or a zero-hours contract employee and you just say ‘Friday nights, I’m not going to turn the app on’ well, you’re taking money off the table.

“So it’s not as simple as saying ‘have better personal boundaries’. It’s actually a thing we have to deal with collectively and politically so we have a much better handle on better work life boundaries. If you were in a union and you and your co-workers together, stand up and say we are not going to answer emails after 8pm on a work night or, whatever those boundaries might be, then that collective action can win you better boundaries.

“And that is part of the reason that it’s important to disrupt not only our own devotion to work but those of everyone around us, because it won’t work if we just do it individually.”

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

12 Best Business Books at The Times

The Times of London chose Work Won’t Love You Back as one of its best business books of the year:

Nothing in life is more satisfying than quitting a job that you loathe. Yet a strange expectation has arisen in the opposite direction: that you should adore the nine-to-five. This relationship is entirely one-sided, as anyone who has slogged tirelessly at work only to get the boot can testify. Jaffe’s timely and punchy book explores how we’ve been sold a dud dream: told to find fulfilment and meaning from work, while job security evaporates and working conditions deteriorate.

Check it out.
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Press Work Won't Love You Back

Best Books of 2021 at Powell’s

Powell’s Books chose Work Won’t Love You Back as one of its best nonfiction books of 2021.

Over the past 19+ months, think pieces, op-eds, surveys, analyses, and general hand-wringing about “burnout” have been impossible to avoid. Articles suggesting cures ranging from vacation time and therapy, to bubble baths and “mindfulness” have proliferated wildly as reporters and employers have rushed to counteract the condition credited with causing “The Great Resignation.” But no one has explained how we got here better than Jaffe.

You can check it out there and also buy the book from them!

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Press Work Won't Love You Back

Best Books of 2021 at Amazon

Amazon selected Work Won’t Love You Back as a “Best business and leadership book of 2021.” I feel weird about it, but I’ll take it!

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Press Work Won't Love You Back

21 Books To Gift Every Type Of Person In Your Life at Refinery29

Refinery29 puts Work Won’t Love You Back on its holiday gift list:

In the age of working from home or living at work, this eye-opener is all about empowering us to work less and help us figure out what actually gives us joy and satisfaction in our day-to-day lives.

Check it out.
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Press Work Won't Love You Back

Debunking the Myths of Modern Work at Tribune

Airelle Perrouin reviewed Work Won’t Love You Back alongside Amelia Horgan’s excellent Lost in Work for Tribune magazine. She writes:

People everywhere are challenging the narratives that characterise work as a route out of poverty, or to self-actualisation, because for most, neither holds true: in modern Britain, hard work simply does not guarantee a life of dignity, or safety, or fulfilment. A widely circulated meme captures a shift in attitudes, particularly among the young: ‘Darling I don’t have a dream job, I don’t dream of labour.’ In the current context, this can be read as an indictment of the myths of work as much as work itself: we might dream more of labour, for example, had that dreaming not been made into an act of labour itself – or were the current conditions of labour not so bleak. But how long will this shift last – and how far will it go?

Any solution to existing problems must be on a much larger, more radical scale than anything previously imagined. While Work Won’t Love You Back and Lost in Work provide accessible histories of capitalism and deconstruct the mythos of modern work, they ultimately remain focused on the future: Jaffe and Horgan never lose sight of who and what they’re fighting for – and despite plenty of righteous anger, both books are, ultimately, beacons of hope. As Horgan puts it, ‘We can’t get our lives back without radically changing the very foundation of society.’

Read the whole thing at Tribune