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The Problem with Work: Feminism, Marxism, Antiwork Politics, and Postwork Imaginaries (John Hope Franklin Center Book)by Kathi Weeks
Synopses & Reviews
In The Problem with Work, Kathi Weeks boldly challenges the presupposition that work, or waged labor, is inherently a social and political good. While progressive political movements, including the Marxist and feminist movements, have fought for equal pay, better work conditions, and the recognition of unpaid work as a valued form of labor, even they have tended to accept work as a naturalized or inevitable activity. Weeks argues that in taking work as a given, we have “depoliticized” it, or removed it from the realm of political critique. Employment is now largely privatized, and work-based activism in the United States has atrophied. We have accepted waged work as the primary mechanism for income distribution, as an ethical obligation, and as a means of defining ourselves and others as social and political subjects. Taking up Marxist and feminist critiques, Weeks proposes a postwork society that would allow people to be productive and creative rather than relentlessly bound to the employment relation. Work, she contends, is a legitimate, even crucial, subject for political theory.
Theoretical critique of work as the dominant discourse for understanding political, social, and economic justice.
The Problem with Work develops a Marxist feminist critique of the structures and ethics of work, as well as a perspective for imagining a life no longer subordinated to them.
Once, work was inextricably linked to survival and self-preservation: the farmer ploughed his land so that his family could eat. In contrast, today work has slowly morphed into a painful and meaningless ritual for many, colonizing almost every part of our day, endless and inescapable.
In The Mythology of Work, Peter Fleming examines how neoliberal society uses the ritual of work—and the threat of its denial—to maintain the late capitalist class order. Work becomes a universal reference point, devoid of any moral or political worth, transforming our society into a factory that never sleeps. Blending critical theory with recent accounts of job-related suicides, office-induced paranoia, fear of relaxation, managerial sadism, and cynical corporate social responsibility campaigns, Fleming paints a bleak picture of a society in which economic and emotional disasters greatly outweigh any professed benefits.
About the Author
Kathi Weeks is Associate Professor of Women’s Studies at Duke University. She is the author of Constituting Feminist Subjects and a co-editor of The Jameson Reader.
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