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

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A deeply-reported examination of why "doing what you love" is a recipe for exploitation, creating a new tyranny of work in which we cheerily acquiesce to doing jobs that take over our lives. You're told that if you "do what you love, you'll never work a day in your life." Whether it's working for "exposure" and "experience," or enduring poor treatment in the name of "b A deeply-reported examination of why "doing what you love" is a recipe for exploitation, creating a new tyranny of work in which we cheerily acquiesce to doing jobs that take over our lives. You're told that if you "do what you love, you'll never work a day in your life." Whether it's working for "exposure" and "experience," or enduring poor treatment in the name of "being part of the family," all employees are pushed to make sacrifices for the privilege of being able to do what we love. In Work Won't Love You Back, Sarah Jaffe, a preeminent voice on labor, inequality, and social movements, examines this "labor of love" myth -- the idea that certain work is not really work, and therefore should be done out of passion instead of pay. Told through the lives and experiences of workers in various industries -- from the unpaid intern, to the overworked nurse, to the nonprofit worker and even the professional athlete -- Jaffe reveals how all of us have been tricked into buying into a new tyranny of work. As Jaffe argues, understanding the trap of the labor of love will empower us to work less and demand what our work is worth. And once freed from those binds, we can finally figure out what actually gives us joy, pleasure, and satisfaction.


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A deeply-reported examination of why "doing what you love" is a recipe for exploitation, creating a new tyranny of work in which we cheerily acquiesce to doing jobs that take over our lives. You're told that if you "do what you love, you'll never work a day in your life." Whether it's working for "exposure" and "experience," or enduring poor treatment in the name of "b A deeply-reported examination of why "doing what you love" is a recipe for exploitation, creating a new tyranny of work in which we cheerily acquiesce to doing jobs that take over our lives. You're told that if you "do what you love, you'll never work a day in your life." Whether it's working for "exposure" and "experience," or enduring poor treatment in the name of "being part of the family," all employees are pushed to make sacrifices for the privilege of being able to do what we love. In Work Won't Love You Back, Sarah Jaffe, a preeminent voice on labor, inequality, and social movements, examines this "labor of love" myth -- the idea that certain work is not really work, and therefore should be done out of passion instead of pay. Told through the lives and experiences of workers in various industries -- from the unpaid intern, to the overworked nurse, to the nonprofit worker and even the professional athlete -- Jaffe reveals how all of us have been tricked into buying into a new tyranny of work. As Jaffe argues, understanding the trap of the labor of love will empower us to work less and demand what our work is worth. And once freed from those binds, we can finally figure out what actually gives us joy, pleasure, and satisfaction.

30 review for Work Won't Love You Back: How Devotion to Our Jobs Keeps Us Exploited, Exhausted, and Alone

  1. 5 out of 5

    Ang

    The first half of this book was absolutely riveting. The second half was...not as riveting. I don't know if it's because the author REALLY had a clear thesis in the first half of the book (and the academia chapter, actually), but lost the thread a bit in the second half or what. That said, this is a good book about the exploitation of all different kinds of labor, and how we got here. Thanks to the publisher and to NetGalley for the ARC! The first half of this book was absolutely riveting. The second half was...not as riveting. I don't know if it's because the author REALLY had a clear thesis in the first half of the book (and the academia chapter, actually), but lost the thread a bit in the second half or what. That said, this is a good book about the exploitation of all different kinds of labor, and how we got here. Thanks to the publisher and to NetGalley for the ARC!

  2. 5 out of 5

    Tintin

    To summarize: work is terrible. Love is too precious to be wasted on work. Neoliberalism is a likely culprit for a lot of our labour-related discontents. Unionizing and a complete overhaul of how work is structured as well as our personal relationships to it are in order. The first half of the book I found to be much stronger than the second half; the first half read like a history of labour interwoven with workers' stories of unionizing, work conditions, and the thinning out of the welfare stat To summarize: work is terrible. Love is too precious to be wasted on work. Neoliberalism is a likely culprit for a lot of our labour-related discontents. Unionizing and a complete overhaul of how work is structured as well as our personal relationships to it are in order. The first half of the book I found to be much stronger than the second half; the first half read like a history of labour interwoven with workers' stories of unionizing, work conditions, and the thinning out of the welfare state. Meanwhile the second half read more like a series of anecdotes and stories about individual experiences regarding the existing contexts of industries driven by "passion." I particularly enjoyed the parts in the first half about discourse around love and work, for example how love tends to be weaponized in union-busting. As the insertion of love and passion into work appears to be recently emergent, Jaffe's insights about the unilateral feminization of labour as a consequence of second wave feminism resulting in the rise of precarious labour is also very convincing and well fleshed out.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Emmett

    *I received a free ARC of this book by NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. Work Won't Love You Back felt like it could have been so much more. While the first half of the book was cohesive and interesting, the second half felt much less so. The book is divided in two parts and I am not sure what happened, but I felt like my interest completely dropped off in the second half. I found it to be incredibly boring, but for the chapter on technology. The segments on art, academia, and sports pu *I received a free ARC of this book by NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. Work Won't Love You Back felt like it could have been so much more. While the first half of the book was cohesive and interesting, the second half felt much less so. The book is divided in two parts and I am not sure what happened, but I felt like my interest completely dropped off in the second half. I found it to be incredibly boring, but for the chapter on technology. The segments on art, academia, and sports put me to sleep. That being said, the first half was great and I found all of the research and personal stories surrounding family work and domestic work to be of particular interest. Jaffe touched on topics from witch hunts to family actors in Japan to white supremacist nationalist groups, but only wrote a few sentences about each. The rest of the chapters followed a formula of Personal Story in Indusry + History of Industry Since Dawn of Time + Little Bit More Personal Story That Doesn't Really Wrap Things Up. The book overall felt too broad and I questioned at the end what the purpose of it being written was. It could basically be summed up as “everyone is miserable working, we should love each other and enjoy our lives… Join a union? I guess.” I felt that giving the same spin on every single industry was just excessive and felt like beating a dead horse. In conclusion, jobs are shit and we are all miserable. 2.5, rounding down to a 2.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Paige McLoughlin

    The age of masculine breadwinner factory employees as the main image of the working class is no longer. The working class is more feminine in helping, education, childcare, health, retail, hospitality, precariat gig workers, it is more diverse and fragmented, and except for places like warehouses and a few remaining factory floors has a hard time linking up and coordinating in its own interest. The mindset of the working class is not as contained or compartmentalized as the clock punchers of ea The age of masculine breadwinner factory employees as the main image of the working class is no longer. The working class is more feminine in helping, education, childcare, health, retail, hospitality, precariat gig workers, it is more diverse and fragmented, and except for places like warehouses and a few remaining factory floors has a hard time linking up and coordinating in its own interest. The mindset of the working class is not as contained or compartmentalized as the clock punchers of earlier eras. The service economy while sometimes more interesting the kind of work than factory production taps in things like creativity, networking, emotional labor. Having a passion for your work or loving your job is a new expectation which is a double-edged sword. Being passionate about the job is now expected by employers for even the least remunerative and mundane or tedious or precarious employment since if you don't pay lip service to your passion as a shoe salesman will get you replaced by someone who will. And should you lose employment or not get a highly networked gig "well you obviously didn't love it enough" is your own fault. Employers expect you to get low pay especially if you like what you do. The demands are not compartmentalized and often you take work home. These problems demand flexible gig workers is the endpoint of commodifying your personality and passion and self to a brand on the market to be bought and sold. No guarantees of future employment no set hours and no putting work-life aside even spilling over to online personas and trying to raise families or pay off college debt or find downtime are challenges. Since the working class is so fragmented diverse and often with many isolated workers who can't coordinate with differing needs a laundry list of protections and bargaining measures and offerings are needed for different members of the working class. Coordination and political aka legal solutions are going to be needed and a whole laundry list for this diverse working class. Like overtime, vacation pay, childcare provisions, eliminating college debt and free education, vacation time, working hour limits, disability, and LGBT allowances, provisions to help People of color. It requires a host of things to help a very diverse set of people with diverse needs but to get them coordination is needed across this highly diverse class to get all these goodies. The problems of this are daunting with plenty of opportunities for division and rule for capital to stop it. Diagnosis and pointing towards solutions but winning them is the problem.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Micah

    I'll be discussing this book on January 27 at 8 PM EST with the author Sarah Jaffe and Chicago teacher Kenzo Shibata. You can watch it either live or afterwards here. I'll be discussing this book on January 27 at 8 PM EST with the author Sarah Jaffe and Chicago teacher Kenzo Shibata. You can watch it either live or afterwards here.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Julien

    Work Won't Love You Back is a timely absolutely vital addition to the discussion on late stage capitalism and its discontents. It is a blend of the personal stories of individuals working in the caring and service industries, and a glimpse into the history of those same industries. It breaks down the "how we got there" with labor history, and points the way toward new ways of pushing back against the predominant narratives of work we find ourselves in today, by outlining the stories of those cur Work Won't Love You Back is a timely absolutely vital addition to the discussion on late stage capitalism and its discontents. It is a blend of the personal stories of individuals working in the caring and service industries, and a glimpse into the history of those same industries. It breaks down the "how we got there" with labor history, and points the way toward new ways of pushing back against the predominant narratives of work we find ourselves in today, by outlining the stories of those currently pushing back. It is a much need balm to the dangerous tendency, especially of millennials, to put more of themselves into work than we get out, "doing more with less," as a badge of honor, rather than a mark of the absolute shambles our economy is in. It also questions whether institutions, like NGOs are even able to do the necessary work of change when they are subject to the same forces that cause the problems they are combatting in the first place. If such a large chunk of time is spent on fundraising and playing the game with an eye to said fundraising, is it even possible to do the radical work needed to fundamentally change our society in a way that eliminates poverty, etc.? In a time when everything is being subsumed by capital, and love is no exception, this book is vital. I would recommend this for anyone interested in labor history, criticism of our current capitalisms, and especially anyone in a caring/service industry. It's important that we challenge the assumptions that lead to the exploitation of workers, especially the harnessing and abuse of carers' desires to help people and do good. FTC disclosure: I received this book from the publisher through Netgalley in exchange for an honest review

  7. 5 out of 5

    Joy Matteson

    An intense deep dive into our ideas and ideals about work in a capitalist society. It's frankly rather brutal to read at times, but also deeply important. It's also rather surreal to read about her studies into how work and the pandemic play out in almost real time to underscore the need for a different way of thinking about work that matters. She gives reasonable arguments for a universal basic income and insightful stories of individuals who bear the brunt of the exploitative labor, such as do An intense deep dive into our ideas and ideals about work in a capitalist society. It's frankly rather brutal to read at times, but also deeply important. It's also rather surreal to read about her studies into how work and the pandemic play out in almost real time to underscore the need for a different way of thinking about work that matters. She gives reasonable arguments for a universal basic income and insightful stories of individuals who bear the brunt of the exploitative labor, such as domestic workers and teachers in public schools. I did howl out loud at her quote from the Harvard Business Review about the popular work app "Task Rabbit": basically these apps are the "Internet of 'Stuff Your Mom Won't Do For You Anymore''. (Pretty much, brah.) Overall, this is quite the deep dive into a variety of professions that won't just not love you--they exploit you. Or, more accurately for Jaffe, the capitalistic society that created those professions and meters out the paychecks are actually the ones who exploit us.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Shannon Paige

    This book is a compilation of the working lives of homemakers, teachers, retail workers, nonprofit staff, artists, interns, college professors, techies, and professional athletes in developed countries. It's 2021, I'm sure at this point most of us are disillusioned already. But for the people still holding on to the "American Dream" this book will open your eyes while breaking your heart. I give this five stars because it is well written, well researched, and a necessary read for anyone going in This book is a compilation of the working lives of homemakers, teachers, retail workers, nonprofit staff, artists, interns, college professors, techies, and professional athletes in developed countries. It's 2021, I'm sure at this point most of us are disillusioned already. But for the people still holding on to the "American Dream" this book will open your eyes while breaking your heart. I give this five stars because it is well written, well researched, and a necessary read for anyone going into a field of work with the expectation that the selfless love and service they provide will be reciprocated.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Jessica

    Engaging journalistic style writing, with citations! Labor activism + social justice! I didn't entirely read this in order, and it worked out fine. The chapters do kind of build on each other but they also work as stand-alones, so I started with the areas I was most interested in (teaching, higher education) and later moved to chapters that I didn't realize would be so interesting (internships). I've been pushing this onto everyone I know. It's kind of hilarious to me how often the immediate reacti Engaging journalistic style writing, with citations! Labor activism + social justice! I didn't entirely read this in order, and it worked out fine. The chapters do kind of build on each other but they also work as stand-alones, so I started with the areas I was most interested in (teaching, higher education) and later moved to chapters that I didn't realize would be so interesting (internships). I've been pushing this onto everyone I know. It's kind of hilarious to me how often the immediate reaction is "pooh pooh, that's not relevant to me" and then later I find out they're trying to get their own copy!

  10. 5 out of 5

    Annie

    This book is exactly what I'm interested in, although I couldn't finish all of it. The writing is good and I appreciate Jaffe's stance and thorough research, but as it progressed it became somewhat too dense and academic for me and I lost interest. This is more of a reflection on me and my timing with this book rather than the book itself. Jaffe does seem to deliver on the promise of analyzing the myth of loving work and how it results in working class people chasing a labour ideal that simply d This book is exactly what I'm interested in, although I couldn't finish all of it. The writing is good and I appreciate Jaffe's stance and thorough research, but as it progressed it became somewhat too dense and academic for me and I lost interest. This is more of a reflection on me and my timing with this book rather than the book itself. Jaffe does seem to deliver on the promise of analyzing the myth of loving work and how it results in working class people chasing a labour ideal that simply doesn't exist, and the ways in which late capitalism fuels this fallacy. I received an ARC of this novel through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Ryo

    I received a copy of this book for free in a Goodreads giveaway. I'm perhaps the wrong audience for this book, since I'm usually not a nonfiction reader, nor am I an economist or a sociologist, but being in a job where I seem to be surrounded by people who seem to have entered the field based on love or at least mild interest in it, I found the subject of the book interesting. The first half examines how women have historically been expected to take care of their families without being paid for i I received a copy of this book for free in a Goodreads giveaway. I'm perhaps the wrong audience for this book, since I'm usually not a nonfiction reader, nor am I an economist or a sociologist, but being in a job where I seem to be surrounded by people who seem to have entered the field based on love or at least mild interest in it, I found the subject of the book interesting. The first half examines how women have historically been expected to take care of their families without being paid for it, with the assumption that they do it out of love for their family, and so this work shouldn't need to be compensated. And the author goes through other jobs that this mentality has spread to, like teaching and those in the nonprofit sector, where they are often exploited because people are assumed to have taken these jobs out of love, and any attempts at trying to get a better wage or working conditions are seen as greedy. The second half discusses artists and other professions where the "starving artist" myth has created an assumption that people pursue certain endeavors to express their own creativity or talent, and these people are viewed as being fortunate to be able to do this kind of work, leading to long hours and/or low pay. The first half felt more cohesive, as there's sort of a common thread of the attitude toward unpaid domestic work spreading to other service industries. The second half didn't feel quite as cohesive to me. It's hard to really compare interns from every industry, who get their own chapter, to something like computer programmers, who are in another chapter. Especially when the author highlights the fact that many universities have an internship as a required part of the curriculum, it's hard to really see internships as part of the group of jobs where the work is supposed to be an expression of oneself and its own reward. It was difficult for me to see the connection of the "starving artist" to all of the jobs presented in the second half. But overall, this was a very well-researched book (the endnotes take up almost 15% of the page count), and I enjoyed the wealth of human stories and experiences presented in this book.

  12. 5 out of 5

    David Dayen

    I actually blurbed this book so I won't repeat myself except to say that you, reader, should read it. It's a thoughtful perspective on work and love. I actually blurbed this book so I won't repeat myself except to say that you, reader, should read it. It's a thoughtful perspective on work and love.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Patrick

    2.5 stars? Perhaps I went into this book with the wrong expectations: it was far more about the history and systems that have led to the existence of such "exploitative" jobs than it was about how to better navigate that work-life balance for oneself, so from that perspective, it was well-researched and thorough. However, throughout, the economist in me kept thinking that many of the points made could be refuted with a relatively simple labor supply and demand analysis? Finally, to echo what man 2.5 stars? Perhaps I went into this book with the wrong expectations: it was far more about the history and systems that have led to the existence of such "exploitative" jobs than it was about how to better navigate that work-life balance for oneself, so from that perspective, it was well-researched and thorough. However, throughout, the economist in me kept thinking that many of the points made could be refuted with a relatively simple labor supply and demand analysis? Finally, to echo what many other reviewers have said, the two halves felt quite disconnected and the transition between them was abrupt.

  14. 5 out of 5

    KKEC Reads

    Published: January 25, 2021 Bold Type Books I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. Sarah Jaffe is a Type Media Center reporting fellow and an independent journalist covering the politics of power, from the workplace to the streets. Her work has appeared in The New York Times, The Nation, the Guardian, the Washington Post, The New Republic, the Atlantic, and many other publications. She is the co-host, with Michelle Chen, of Dissent magazine’s Belabored podcast, and a colum Published: January 25, 2021 Bold Type Books I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. Sarah Jaffe is a Type Media Center reporting fellow and an independent journalist covering the politics of power, from the workplace to the streets. Her work has appeared in The New York Times, The Nation, the Guardian, the Washington Post, The New Republic, the Atlantic, and many other publications. She is the co-host, with Michelle Chen, of Dissent magazine’s Belabored podcast, and a columnist at The Progressive and New Labor Forum. “We’re supposed to work for the love of it, and how dare we ask questions about the way our work is making other people rich while we struggle to pay rent and barely see our friends.” This book was a lot deeper than I anticipated. When I applied for this book, I thought I was getting a book about how we have an impossible work-life balance and how many of us choose to work over home more than we should. Boy, was I wrong. There is so much information in this book. I had to read it in several sittings, and I read three books during this book. I had to break the facts up and give my brain a break. The facts and statistics in this book are eye-opening and terrifying. The first thing you are going to learn is that Sarah Jaffe is smart. Smart. She is knowledgeable, insightful, and driven. She has done her research. This is not a quick and easy read. This book is heavy. It’s deep. It’s dense. It is filled with facts and personal testimonials, and stories from those who have experienced things. This book is intense and brutally eye-opening. The way work is defined forever been changed for me. I will never find any job simple or basic. And I will forever think of the paths that lead to a specific position. This book breaks things down, by number, by race, by gender, by position in such a way that it made my brain hurt. I had no idea. This book will not only make you infinitely more aware of your privilege, but it will also make you smarter for knowing the journey it took to get to where we are today. This book stats straight up facts regarding how women are treated in the workforce—starting from the beginning. This book breaks down how women of color paved the way and fought for every bit of success they earned. This book is a must-read. We should all be informed. We should know these things, these statistics. We should know how work is truly defined, and we should recognize every aspect of work. This book was dense but so beautifully written. Sarah Jaffe did her homework, and she delivered her findings in such a powerful way. I learned so much from reading this book, and I feel like I am better for it. This book will be on my recommendation list for sure.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Viola

    888 - 8 hours work, 8 hours leisure, 8 hours sleep. first won for workers in 1856 by stone workers who walked off sites after 8 hours in Melbourne Australia. See https://www.8hourday.org.au/ 1886 Chicago USA strike for 8 hour day by migrant workers. THE VICTORIAN WORKING WEEK: A BRIEF HISTORY 48-hour week 1856: Building tradesmen win the eighthour day (six-day week) in Melbourne. 1873: The Victorian government grants women factory workers the eight-hour day. 1874: Victorian government contracts make th 888 - 8 hours work, 8 hours leisure, 8 hours sleep. first won for workers in 1856 by stone workers who walked off sites after 8 hours in Melbourne Australia. See https://www.8hourday.org.au/ 1886 Chicago USA strike for 8 hour day by migrant workers. THE VICTORIAN WORKING WEEK: A BRIEF HISTORY 48-hour week 1856: Building tradesmen win the eighthour day (six-day week) in Melbourne. 1873: The Victorian government grants women factory workers the eight-hour day. 1874: Victorian government contracts make the legal working day eight hours. 44-hour week 1920: The 44-hour week awarded to timber workers and engineers. 1939: The 44-hour week applied to all industries. 40-hour week 1948: Introduction of the five-day, 40-hour week for all workers. 38-hour week 1981: Metal industry gains 38-hour week, which then become the national standard. 36-hour week 2003: Adoption of rostered days off creates 36-hour week for the building industry. https://www.smh.com.au/business/small... +++++++++++++ Whatever happened to the 8 hour day ? - Anne Feeney. https://www.abc.net.au/news/2021-01-0... Former Huawei employee speaks out on Shenzhen's '996' culture as Chinese city enforces paid leave By Bang Xiao A wideshot of a man standing on his balcony at home. Zeng Meng says Huawei employees were asked to sign a contract stating they accept working overtime voluntarily.(Supplied) For five years, former Huawei employee Zeng Meng embraced China's infamous "996" culture of working from 9:00am to 9:00pm, six days a week. Key points: Shenzhen becomes the first Chinese city to mandate that workers in "special industries" take paid leave Those industries will now also be required to pay overtime or give extra annual leave days But experts fear the new policy may not change the overwork culture in the tech hub Mr Zeng, a power engineer, was employed by the Chinese telecoms giant as a product manager in Shenzhen in 2012, after working for several other major technology companies in the south-eastern city widely regarded as China's Silicon Valley. The job quickly "took over" his personal life — he had no time for his family, leisure or even sleep. He said he lost interest in everything except work. Mr Zeng's situation was not uncommon. The 996 culture is prevalent in Shenzhen, where China's technology and innovation hub is separated by just a river from Hong Kong. "I had no time for recreation. Basically all I did was keep working mindlessly," Mr Zeng, who left the company more than three years ago, told the ABC. "Often, we were still in meetings until 11:00pm." However, Shenzhen yesterday became the first Chinese city to mandate that workers in "special industries" take paid leave, so that those "with a heavy mental and physical workload can avoid excessive burnout," according to regulations approved in October. Chinese employees who have worked up to 10 years with the same company are usually entitled to five days of annual leave, although they also have 11 days of paid public holiday leave. Under the new mandate, workers in the unspecified industries will be eligible for extra annual leave if they regularly work longer hours or need to be paid overtime for the occasional long days. The regulation was drafted in the same month Chinese President Xi Jinping called for the city to create another "miracle" in a speech marking the 40th anniversary of the city's transformation — from a fishing village to China's first special economic zone. The topic has prompted heated debate on social media, with many employees of China's top tech companies expressing mixed views on how the new regulations could impact their long and stressful working hours. '996 working, ICU waiting' A close-up of Alibaba Group co-founder and executive chairman Jack Ma's face. Jack Ma, co-founder of Alibaba Group, once said working 12 hours a day for the company was a "blessing". (Reuters: Valery Sharifulin/TASS) The 996 work culture was first majorly called out in 2019 by some Chinese programmers who regularly worked overtime and up to 72 hours a week in Shenzhen's technology hub. The term "996" went viral after it was backed by tech giant bosses including Alibaba co-founder Jack Ma, which led to widespread discussions on the impact of the work culture on employees' health and personal lives. "996 working, ICU waiting" was one phrase that gained popularity online. Mr Zeng said every Huawei employee was asked to sign a contract known as a "struggle agreement", stating they "accept overtime work voluntarily without claiming overtime pay, and forgo paid annual leave". The ABC has seen a copy of the struggle agreement, which has also been widely published by Chinese media. "The agreement has become a beautiful term for endless exploitation, saying you have to have a fighting spirit," he said. "You signed it because everyone else had. "If you don't do it, you can't survive in the company." A man standing near a window at home Mr Zeng is now living in his hometown Chongqing, while waiting for the result of his lawsuit with Huawei. (Supplied) As more companies in Shenzhen replicated Huawei's agreement, Mr Zeng said it led to benefits for companies at the expense of people's personal lives. "You can feel it when you talk to colleagues. It is common that everyone feels their mood has become more irritable," Mr Zeng said. "Imagine you have been endlessly pushed to hurry up and you have to do the same to others, everyone is so overwhelmed." 'Marriage KPI' Alibaba founder Jack Ma encourages couples to have sex six times in six days — as well as work 12-hour days, six days a week — in order to "work happily and live seriously". Jimmy Jin, a former employee at a technology company in Shenzhen, told the ABC many people did not want to challenge the system because they believed their sacrifices would be rewarded with better opportunities. "Work has penetrated into every layer of my life," said Ms Jin, who is in her late 20s. "I had nothing to do except work. That's why I spent extra time working from home after leaving the office. "I had to see a psychologist and take medications to solve issues [related to] my mood." Why the new policy may not change the overwork culture General cityscape of Shenzhen, including the 100-floor tower Kingkey. The 996 culture breached many labour laws in China, including the law on extending working hours, experts say.(Reuters: Bobby Yip) Aiden Chau, a researcher from Hong Kong–based China Labour Bulletin, which tracks labour movements in China, told the ABC that Shenzhen had always been a testing ground for capitalistic ideas in China, but it was too early to say if the new policy could solve the overwork issue. Mr Chau said the new regulation did not specify what those "special industries" were, so it might not apply for everyone in the city. "For now, it's difficult to say whether the 996 working hours are related to this proposal," Mr Chau said. "[The regulation provides] … a lot of room to manoeuvre." Mr Chau said the 996 culture breached many labour laws in China, including the law on extending working hours, the law on overtime payment and the law on penalties when breaking these laws. But due to the economic benefits generated by the system, Beijing chose to turn a blind eye to it, he said. "The minimum working hours under 996 is 72 hours. The standard working hours in China is 40 hours," he said. "So basically Chinese tech workers are working an extra half-year for the boss under 996." The 996 culture has become a systemic issue A man using computer at home Mr Zeng says some people work 996 because they believe they have to in order to stay at the company.(Supplied) Mr Zeng does not believe the overwork problem can be solved either. He used his personal experience to explain his rationale, including how China's media censorship has helped to cover up issues in companies like Huawei. More than three years ago, Mr Zeng's contract was terminated by Huawei weeks before he would become eligible to be a permanent employee. His overtime, annual leave and year-end bonus were not paid in the severance package he received, so he decided to sue Huawei. Court documents viewed by the ABC showed the court ruled Huawei had to pay Mr Zeng 15,000 yuan ($3,000) for some of his overtime. Huawei unsuccessfully appealed against the verdict. Eighteen months later, Mr Zeng said he was surrounded by two Chinese police officers from Shenzhen while he was on holiday in Thailand, having dinner with his father. He was wanted on suspicion of violating trade secrets, and was then extradited to China and arrested for 90 days, without being able to have a lawyer. Mr Zeng said he refused to bow to pressures from the police, and his charge changed from violating trade secrets to fraud, before he was released on bail in March 2019. He tried to seek help from media outlets in China to tell his story, but he was told many times it was not possible to publish "a negative story" about Huawei. Mr Zeng is now living in his hometown Chongqing, while waiting for the result of his lawsuit with Huawei. He said many people in Shenzhen believe the 996 culture has become a systematic issue violating workers' rights, but the "rocket-high prices of properties" and "peer pressure" in the city left them without a choice. "The irony is, in Huawei, some colleagues had been asking to make the 996 work schedule mandatory," he said. "It would be a blessing if we could go home at 9:00pm, which we rarely could." (The ABC has approached Huawei and the Shenzhen Government for comment.)

  16. 4 out of 5

    Craig Millar

    A lot of Marxist nonsense from s bitter woman. And, like Marx, very poorly researched. 'In all labour there is profit' and 'the hand of the diligent shall prosper'. is all you need to know about work, the work ethic, and success. A lot of Marxist nonsense from s bitter woman. And, like Marx, very poorly researched. 'In all labour there is profit' and 'the hand of the diligent shall prosper'. is all you need to know about work, the work ethic, and success.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Tony

    The formula and methods for Jaffe's book become clear in the first couple of chapters. Interview a protagonist, a worker scorned by the terrors of their work, highlight some of the worst instances of workplace struggle (be it a random encounter with a stranger or the systemic disregard by the institution at large) - shift gears to put their struggle in historical context of the labor movements within that chapter's industry - and then return to the original protagonist to discuss how they found The formula and methods for Jaffe's book become clear in the first couple of chapters. Interview a protagonist, a worker scorned by the terrors of their work, highlight some of the worst instances of workplace struggle (be it a random encounter with a stranger or the systemic disregard by the institution at large) - shift gears to put their struggle in historical context of the labor movements within that chapter's industry - and then return to the original protagonist to discuss how they found their relief in organizing, strategizing, unionizing within their industry. It's a lot of work to write a book that details the history of labor movements in ten different industries and to tie it to a broad theme that capitalists are exploiting our labor by preying on our passion to work. I love this idea and I think the book is very strong when it focuses its thesis on this point. I liked the rhythm of the book on a broad scale, but within each chapter I found tugged and pulled through history by rapid fire citations of sources as wide ranging as Marx to the Atlantic. The tendency to pull a quote from seemingly any publication that supported the overarching thesis resisted cohesiveness in thought. You take the sources and pull quotes in sort of passively, until you hit a chapter you know intimately (like Art in my case) and you realize how shallow the revelations are. For the sake of brevity nothing is given its due. I didn't detect a strong voice throughout and as a result of how stretched thin the book felt I found myself on autopilot as I moved through each chapter. I was very relieved to find the personal in the author's conclusion though and some of its observations will stay with me for a very long time. Sarah Jaffe is clearly an excellent writer with a wealth of knowledge at her disposal and the book is worth the read as an overview of labor struggles in a few industries.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Miki

    "Work Won't Love You Back" is a well-researched text that reviews fields of work in which workers tend to be underpaid and expected to love their work (clients, patients, students, fans, etc...). Jaffer reviews work through a Marxist lens and argues that the current trends in employment-especially in larger corporations-are both unsustainable and unhealthy to people and to the environment. I enjoyed Jaffe's text. Her premise is catchy. More than that, her main argument is one that many people can "Work Won't Love You Back" is a well-researched text that reviews fields of work in which workers tend to be underpaid and expected to love their work (clients, patients, students, fans, etc...). Jaffer reviews work through a Marxist lens and argues that the current trends in employment-especially in larger corporations-are both unsustainable and unhealthy to people and to the environment. I enjoyed Jaffe's text. Her premise is catchy. More than that, her main argument is one that many people can relate to...One that I can relate to as well. At times, I do feel that the text is a bit more academic. For example, if people don't know about Marxism, then readers may want to, if nothing else, quickly read up on it/on Marx. That being said, I really enjoyed how Jaffe interspersed people's stories in each chapter. It gave a clearer picture of the ways in which people have been treated by employers, challenges in laws favouring corporations over employees (and vice versa), and how people are coming together to fight for things such as better wages, workplace safety and better conditions for clients/patients/students/etc... Overall, I think that the idea that people are meant to love their jobs and love working is a lie that we've been fed in order to spend a lot of money on an education that no longer has the same returns. As an BIPOC female in my late 30s, I've had questions about my English language speaking, reading and writing capabilities, whether I'm married, why I haven't been able to get a job in Canada, etc...I haven't been able to get a job in Canada that paid enough to pay my OSAP (Ontario Student Loan) and bank student loan back each month. At 34, I was on the verge of filing for bankruptcy even though my debt was less than $25,000 (including my student loans). My advice: a job is a way to earn an income, so study in a field that will make you money. If I could go back and do it all again, I'd go to college and become an electrician. Many thanks to NetGalley and Bold Type Books for the ARC of this nonfiction title.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Arnab

    This is an intense, passionate and well-researched book. Unfortunately, the cover blurb, as well as the subtitle, are misleading in the extreme; this, I am sorry to say, is not a book about "How Devotion to Our Jobs Keeps Us Exploited, Exhausted and Alone", much less about how these grievous conditions can be ameliorated. What this book really is, is a historical deep-dive into the struggles of Western progressives to form unions, fight for fair pay, and better working conditions across the boar This is an intense, passionate and well-researched book. Unfortunately, the cover blurb, as well as the subtitle, are misleading in the extreme; this, I am sorry to say, is not a book about "How Devotion to Our Jobs Keeps Us Exploited, Exhausted and Alone", much less about how these grievous conditions can be ameliorated. What this book really is, is a historical deep-dive into the struggles of Western progressives to form unions, fight for fair pay, and better working conditions across the board. The author is undoubtedly a progressive herself, and her passionate arguments against capitalist exploitation and alienation shows through in every page. Given that perspective, I think either she, or the publishers, would have done well to subtitle the book "The Struggles of the Western Left to Fight for Labor Rights" instead. This book would have been better served by the change, as it belongs more naturally to the history shelves of bookshops and bookshelves, instead of self-help, which the title and subtitle misleadingly directs readers to. Recommended to those interested in the history of Western progressive labor unions. Not recommended to those looking for answers to their problems with work, or how to improve their lives at work.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Karen Adkins

    The title is compelling, the concept is one I've intuitively believed for years now (working in one of the professions where "vocation" gets tossed around as an excuse for labor standard cuts and absence of respectful treatment). But the execution of this was a bit uneven, and I think ultimately it would have been compelling as a long-form article instead of a book. Jaffe marches through chapters about different sectors of the economy, but because some are more distantly connected to her theme ( The title is compelling, the concept is one I've intuitively believed for years now (working in one of the professions where "vocation" gets tossed around as an excuse for labor standard cuts and absence of respectful treatment). But the execution of this was a bit uneven, and I think ultimately it would have been compelling as a long-form article instead of a book. Jaffe marches through chapters about different sectors of the economy, but because some are more distantly connected to her theme (retail is not really a sector where people are urged to stay out of love for mission), the ultimate theme is a critique of neoliberalism. Which I do not think is wrong! But makes the chapters end up replicating one another--see neoliberal efficiencies here punishing workers for the benefit of hedge funds! It happens here too. The chapters that are really tightly connected to the theme (nonprofits, childcare, K-12 education, academia, art world, interns) are generally stronger. Jaffe can really write, and when she isolates the kind of hypocrisy that upper-middle-class liberals can inflict (say, Planned Parenthood's vigorous battle against poorly-paid workers unionizing), the prose is stinging and purposive. The conclusion meditates on work and love in ways that seemed a bit associative.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Dominique Ballard

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. I don't know if it's because the author REALLY had a clear thesis in the first half of the book (and the academia chapter, actually), but lost the thread a bit in the second half or what. That said, this is a good book about the exploitation of all different kinds of labor, and how we got here. The first half examines how women have historically been expected to take care of their families without being paid for it, with the assumption that they do it out of love for their family, and so this wor I don't know if it's because the author REALLY had a clear thesis in the first half of the book (and the academia chapter, actually), but lost the thread a bit in the second half or what. That said, this is a good book about the exploitation of all different kinds of labor, and how we got here. The first half examines how women have historically been expected to take care of their families without being paid for it, with the assumption that they do it out of love for their family, and so this work shouldn't need to be compensated. And the author goes through other jobs that this mentality has spread to, like teaching and those in the nonprofit sector, where they are often exploited because people are assumed to have taken these jobs out of love, and any attempts at trying to get a better wage or working conditions are seen as greedy. The second half discusses artists and other professions where the "starving artist" myth has created an assumption that people pursue certain endeavors to express their own creativity or talent, and these people are viewed as being fortunate to be able to do this kind of work, leading to long hours and/or low pay.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Miguel

    This had a particularly strong start in a general discussion about the vast majority of jobs on offer in the West these days, and throughout was a good look at some specific predicaments that many modern-day workers find themselves in. As Jaffe states at one point, there are so many permutations of less than desirable work situations that she can’t possible cover them, and that was certainly true as I didn’t see my particular brand of unpleasantness on display here. However, for the gig worker, This had a particularly strong start in a general discussion about the vast majority of jobs on offer in the West these days, and throughout was a good look at some specific predicaments that many modern-day workers find themselves in. As Jaffe states at one point, there are so many permutations of less than desirable work situations that she can’t possible cover them, and that was certainly true as I didn’t see my particular brand of unpleasantness on display here. However, for the gig worker, freelancer, retail, domestic worker and others she does provide both a very personal (looking at individual subjects) and overview of inefficiencies, disadvantages and difficulties of modern day employment. She calls out that so much of the focus on the ‘knowledge’ economy with its corresponding high salaries is but a small share of the working world and the vast majority of others are left with roles that are theoretically more rewarding but fail to pay the bills financially or emotionally. She points out the need for more organization of workers to resemble what many Europeans already take for granted but for Americans is just accepted as the way things are for their working life.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Chanele McFarlane

    *I received a free ARC of this book by Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. I was really intrigued by the premise of this book. As soon as I saw the title, I immediately wanted to read it, especially when we're living in a time when the pandemic has forced us to reflect on our relationship with work. The first bit was really interesting and I was quite intrigued. The book is incredibly well-researched and Sarah Jaffe is a good writer. However, I soon found that it became too dense and I los *I received a free ARC of this book by Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. I was really intrigued by the premise of this book. As soon as I saw the title, I immediately wanted to read it, especially when we're living in a time when the pandemic has forced us to reflect on our relationship with work. The first bit was really interesting and I was quite intrigued. The book is incredibly well-researched and Sarah Jaffe is a good writer. However, I soon found that it became too dense and I lost interest. I understand that she wanted to provide a thorough deep dive into the history of work to clearly pinpoint where we went wrong, but personally, I found it a bit much. I also have to say that I was expecting a bit more. Yes, we know work is horrible but I think I was expecting that there would be more of a focus on possible solutions. This book reminded me a lot of Can't Even by Anne Helen Peterson - which I also liked but had the same feedback - I wish there was more provided in terms of what we can do to fix things.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Candice Crutchfield

    “Capitalist society has transformed work into love, and love, conversely, into work.” Though these words appear toward the conclusion of the book, they are a great summary of chapters, highlighting the experiences of laborers in a number of industries including but not limited to: academics, retail, nonprofits, and even interns. Contrary to a number of reviews, I found the organization and flow of the book helpful in understanding and taking deep dives into real-life stories. Both halves come to “Capitalist society has transformed work into love, and love, conversely, into work.” Though these words appear toward the conclusion of the book, they are a great summary of chapters, highlighting the experiences of laborers in a number of industries including but not limited to: academics, retail, nonprofits, and even interns. Contrary to a number of reviews, I found the organization and flow of the book helpful in understanding and taking deep dives into real-life stories. Both halves come together to create a well researched book with interviews from folks across the spectrum of cultures, gender identity, and social class (more so than other books). What I loved most was the transition from discussing people’s labor experiences to the concept of love and the future of working while being held within the tight grip of capitalism. Maybe it’s because my personal research interests align with Jaffe or because I found myself highlighting and underlining nonstop as I worked through the chapters, but regardless, this to me, feels like an essential and timely read.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Nikki

    Work Won't Love You Back: How Devotion to Our Jobs Keeps Us Exploited, Exhausted, and Alone by Sarah Jaffe Publisher: Perseus Books, PublicAffairs, Bold Type Books Genre: Multicultural Interest Release Date: January 26, 2021 Work Won't Love You Back by Sarah Jaffe is the book I wish I had found in the early 2000's when I embarked on a 16 year sentence with a job I hated but felt I couldn't leave. I finally left that job in early 2019 and have almost worked through the emotional baggage from the pre Work Won't Love You Back: How Devotion to Our Jobs Keeps Us Exploited, Exhausted, and Alone by Sarah Jaffe Publisher: Perseus Books, PublicAffairs, Bold Type Books Genre: Multicultural Interest Release Date: January 26, 2021 Work Won't Love You Back by Sarah Jaffe is the book I wish I had found in the early 2000's when I embarked on a 16 year sentence with a job I hated but felt I couldn't leave. I finally left that job in early 2019 and have almost worked through the emotional baggage from the previous job. I found this book to be well written and easy to read. There is so much information in here. It was an interesting take on work and love. I'm so grateful to Sarah Jaffe, Bold Type Books, and NetGalley for providing me with a free copy of this ARC ebook in exchange for my honest review.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Nicole Sweetnam

    This book was more cerebral than I thought it would be. It was quite interesting, though at times I felt there were too many themes being thrown at me... feminism, racism, classism, collectivism, capitalism and socialism. They are all important but it felt confusing and overwhelming at times. I think I wanted an answer to the question - now that I know work won’t love you back, what do I do? I think we all want a simple answer to that very complex question. It was at the end of the book where I This book was more cerebral than I thought it would be. It was quite interesting, though at times I felt there were too many themes being thrown at me... feminism, racism, classism, collectivism, capitalism and socialism. They are all important but it felt confusing and overwhelming at times. I think I wanted an answer to the question - now that I know work won’t love you back, what do I do? I think we all want a simple answer to that very complex question. It was at the end of the book where I realized that the answer is simply another question - what would you do if you didn’t have to work? Now that is something to think about and the stories shared in this book help to put a big picture to what many must feel is a very personal issue.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Sarah

    I feel like I'm relatively well-read on inequities in education and labour, but this book has pivoted the way I think about gendered work and 'loving' what you do. As Jaffe points out repeatedly throughout the book, work that is expected to be performed out of love - taking care of the family, elite sports, care work, teaching, etc - has continued to be undervalued throughout the course of history, and the people who perform that work - often women - are paid less while they are expected to do m I feel like I'm relatively well-read on inequities in education and labour, but this book has pivoted the way I think about gendered work and 'loving' what you do. As Jaffe points out repeatedly throughout the book, work that is expected to be performed out of love - taking care of the family, elite sports, care work, teaching, etc - has continued to be undervalued throughout the course of history, and the people who perform that work - often women - are paid less while they are expected to do more, harder, faster, because they 'love' the work or those they care for. It was an education I didn't know I needed.

  28. 4 out of 5

    W M

    The first two chapters are dynamite. The chapters unmask everyday contradictions while showing ways towards a world with more reciprocated love. The teachers' chapter has excellent sources in the footnotes. The computers' chapter showed how a profession that was initially feminine was transferred into the masculine sphere. I am a little surprised that there was not a chapter on sustainable agriculture. There have been several articles stating that the new starving artist is the organic farmer. I The first two chapters are dynamite. The chapters unmask everyday contradictions while showing ways towards a world with more reciprocated love. The teachers' chapter has excellent sources in the footnotes. The computers' chapter showed how a profession that was initially feminine was transferred into the masculine sphere. I am a little surprised that there was not a chapter on sustainable agriculture. There have been several articles stating that the new starving artist is the organic farmer. I wonder what insights Jaffe could shed onto the issues of sustainable agriculture. Some chapters touch upon interesting ideas that hang in the air a bit. Gotta keep organizing

  29. 4 out of 5

    Dan Gibson

    Well, if you read the subtitle of this book and think (like I did) that it's a more sociological look at the nature of modern work and how to rethink your perspective on labor, you might be disappointed. However, it's a well-researched book that's more about the historic indifference of employers and the occasional successes of organized labor in fighting back. I maybe think the book could use a little more editing - understandably, there's a lot to cover, but it gets a little exhausting - but i Well, if you read the subtitle of this book and think (like I did) that it's a more sociological look at the nature of modern work and how to rethink your perspective on labor, you might be disappointed. However, it's a well-researched book that's more about the historic indifference of employers and the occasional successes of organized labor in fighting back. I maybe think the book could use a little more editing - understandably, there's a lot to cover, but it gets a little exhausting - but it was a worthwhile read, just maybe not what I wanted (that could be my fault, however).

  30. 4 out of 5

    Jennifer Schultz

    Read if you: Want a thoughtful exploration of modern workplace issues, as illustrated by profiles from a variety of workers, from a nanny to a professional athlete. Librarians/booksellers; Purchase if there is interest in contemporary work issues; this references COVID-19 issues, so it is quite contemporary. Many thanks to Perseus Books/PublicAffairs and NetGalley for a digital review copy in exchange for an honest review.

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