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Work Won't Love You Back – How Devotion to Our Jobs Keeps Us Exploited, Exhausted and Alone

Work Won't Love You Back
Sarah Jaffe
C Hurst & Co Publishers Ltd, 2021
Level: beginner
Perspective: Other
Topic: Labour & Care, Other
page count: 296 pages
ISBN: 9781787384644


Whether it's working for free in exchange for 'experience', enduring poor treatment in the name of being 'part of the family', or clocking serious overtime for a good cause, more and more of us are pushed to make sacrifices for the privilege of being able to do work we enjoy. Work Won't Love You Back examines how we all bought into this 'labour of love' myth: the idea that certain work is not really work, and should be done for the sake of passion rather than pay. Through the lives and experiences of various workers-from the unpaid intern and the overworked teacher, to the nonprofit employee, the domestic worker and even the professional athlete-this compelling book reveals how we've all been tricked into a new tyranny of work. Sarah Jaffe argues that understanding the labour of love trap will empower us to work less and demand what our work is worth. Once freed, we can finally figure out what actually gives us joy, pleasure and satisfaction.

Book summary

Sarah Jaffe’s examination of the “labour of love” myth, which posits certain types of work as performed for passion instead of pay, is more relevant than ever amidst expanding narratives of ‘friendly’, ‘progressive’ workplaces. She uncovers this seemingly benign myth of ‘doing what you love’ as creating an environment of exploitation, whereby attempts to secure better working conditions, higher pay or fewer hours are dismissed as greedy. In her analysis, Jaffe is thorough, moving from ‘How did we get here?’ to ‘Where can we go?’ within each case study. By exploring the histories of various industries – education, care, voluntary and non-profit sectors, amongst others – Jappe provides context for the emergence and naturalisation of such rhetoric. She then uses the personal accounts of individuals working within these industries to illustrate how workers are resisting, outlining the ways in which wider society can, too, reject this subtle yet exploitative trap. Reminiscent of Boltanski and Chiapello’s ‘The New Spirit of Capitalism’, as well as David Graeber’s ‘Bullshit Jobs’, Jaffe contributes to the literature on modern capitalist exploitation with a thoughtful, humorous, sometimes brutal, always touching account, from a diverse set of professions, which proves necessary reading for anyone who thinks they love their job.

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