Sarah Jaffe, author, labor journalist, and one of the hosts of Belabored Podcast, joins Laborwave Radio to discuss her new book, Work Won't Love You Back published by Bold Type Books.
You’re told that if you “do what you love, you’ll never work a day in your life.” But as Sarah Jaffe shows, “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.
We discuss the themes of the book, the downsides when punk rock is created by trust fund kids, and what love might look like in a world free of capitalist forms of work.
Get a copy of the book at https://www.boldtypebooks.com/titles/sarah-jaffe/work-wont-love-you-back/9781568589398/
Find more work from Sarah Jaffe at sarahljaffe.com/
Become a Laborwave Radio patron to support this show at patreon.com/laborwave
Leave us a review on Apple Podcasts, it helps our content reach new listeners.
Music from In The Red Records: Thee Oh Sees- Adult Acid Tyvek- Origin of What
Transcript (rough draft)
This is Laborwave Radio
5s Laborwave Radio Laborwave Radio is an independent podcast supported by our patron subscribers. So if you enjoy our show, we encourage you to go to patrion.com, backslash labor wave, and become a patron. You can also support the show and non-monetary ways by giving us ratings and reviews on SoundCloud and Apple podcast. We're joined in this episode with Sarah. Joffey the author of the recent book work. Won't love you back. How devotion to our jobs keeps us exploited, exhausted and alone, published by bold type books. The book came out January 26. You can get a hard copy today and also enter a sweepstakes to possibly win a copy of the book and a tote bag.
45s Laborwave Radio You're told that if you do what you love, you'll never work a day in your life. But as Sarah Joffey shows in her book, doing what you love is a recipe for exploitation, creating a new tyranny of work in which be cheerily acquiesced to doing jobs that take over our lives. We discussed the themes of the book, the downsides when punk rock is created by trust fund kids. And what love might look like in a world free of capitalist forms of work, highly encouraged listeners to get a copy right away. Also check out the work of Sarah Joffey. She's an excellent labor reporter with articles published in the nation descent Jacobin magazine. In these times, honestly, any of the left wing labor press.
1m 26s Laborwave Radio You could probably find articles by Sarah Jaffe and listen to our podcast, which is belabored podcast. With cohost Michelle Chen. We have a series of upcoming episodes, including a cross-collaboration with the one big podcast, the official podcast of the Ypsilanti, IWW, and a series of discussions on Kim. Moody's the rank and file strategy. And our next edition of comrades that more coming up on labor wave and hope you enjoy this episode, Sarah, Joffey welcome to labor wave. Thank you for coming back to the
2m 2s Sarah Jaffe Hello and happy to be back here
2m 5s Laborwave Radio At the time of this recording. We're waiting one more week for your book to officially launch and be published January 26th is the date that I have written down.
2m 14s Sarah Jaffe Yep. That's that's when it should be arriving in people's mailboxes, if they pre-ordered and will be available at bookstores, if such things are open where you live,
2m 23s Laborwave Radio Probably not by the time it comes out, but Oh God. Yeah, I know. So I love the title right off the bat work. Won't love you back. I want to jump right into the, you know, the core argument of the book about the labor of love myth, but I thought really quickly for our listeners, it would be good to just read the back of the book. It provides a succinct summary, so, and work won't love you back. Our guests are Joffey examines. The labor of love myth. The idea that certain work is not really work and therefore should be done at a passion through the lives of workers from the unpaid intern to the upper work teacher, to the tech worker, and even the professional athlete, as Joffey argues, understanding the labor of love chap will empower us to work less and demand what our labor is really worth.
3m 6s Laborwave Radio And once freed from those binds, we can finally figure out what actually gives us joy and satisfaction. So it's an ambitious book.
3m 16s Sarah Jaffe Yeah. I had the idea for this book. Like I like while I was working on the first book and it took me a while to sort of figure out how to write it, you know, cause you're just like, Oh my God, there's the entire world is here. Like I, you know, I literally start the book going back to like the beginning of human history. No big I'm also not a historian. So mistakes are entirely my not having any training in being a historian, but like, yeah, it was, it was inspired obviously by like experiences of my own life and also having been a labor reporter for a while, hearing the same versions of the same story over and over again from workers in really different and distinct fields.
3m 58s Sarah Jaffe So when you start hearing the same thing from like, I remember doing this interview with freelance reality TV producers who were organizing with the writers Guild back in like 2010, who were telling me like broadly similar stuff to what I was hearing from like fast food workers. And so when you start to hear like this narrative, you're like, okay, something's going on here? And I think it's different than the narrative about work that we used to hear. Or we didn't, I haven't been alive that long, but like from like what my mother probably heard when she was growing
4m 30s Laborwave Radio And that is the labor of love myth, that is like the core theme throughout this books. One thing that really struck me is how malleable this myth is depending on what type of job you're doing, what industry you're in. So can you talk just more about like, what is the labor of love myth and how is it so able to kind of adapt itself to its particular needs?
4m 52s Sarah Jaffe When, like I said, I had a hard time trying to think for a long time about how to structure and write this book. And I finally came around to like, okay, one half of this story is rooted in care, work in the work that women have been expected to sort of naturally do since again, like blue to release kind of early, early human history. And the other half is rooted in sort of the way we talk about artists and like the starving artist and this whole narrative of a certain kind of creative work, not being work at all, but being something that you do outside of your real job or for a passion or, you know, if you're starving and living in a Garret and whatever, and like all of our romantic narratives of the tortured genius, I just started watching the Queens gambit last night.
5m 36s Sarah Jaffe So I'm like freshly thinking about Dora geniuses. The way that I wrote the book ends up being like in two parts, part, one is starts with women's unpaid work in the home and moves through paid domestic work, teaching retail work and nonprofit labor and organizing, which I imagine some of your listeners know all about. And then the second half I start with art and then unpaid internships, academia tech, and sports. And so to think, talk about like, what are some industries? And I tried to choose like industries that are growing that are prevalent, that we hear a lot about. And also obviously industries where workers are, are organizing and doing a lot of things.
6m 19s Sarah Jaffe So like teachers are in a lot of ways, sort of the ultimate labors of love, but also like, you know, in the U S at least, and also starting to be in the UK, like teachers are really the forefront of the labor movement and really changing the way we think and talk about organizing. And so in order to do this, to sort of pick again in a variety of types of work that demonstrate different, but similar ways this narrative grew and expanded, and then you can sort of in those chapters, see the ways it can apply to different kinds of work as well. I hope you can. And like, there are other things, things that I didn't put in there, I really wanted to have a nurse's chapter. And we sort of decided that the nurse's chapter and the teacher's chapter would cover a lot of the same points.
7m 3s Sarah Jaffe So I ended up writing a feature story on nurses for the nation instead, that sort of covers a lot of the ground that a chapter in the book would have it. That should be coming up fairly soon. I hope I have to do at it's out of this week. You're busy. Yeah. No spare time would have spare time. Yeah. And so to think about like what we see when these narratives migrate from different kinds of work to different kinds of work. So what is it about retail work that takes its narrative from women's unpaid work in the home? And, you know, I mean, I, I just, every time I do these interviews, I just end up recommending like 12 other books. So the first one I'm going to do, won't be the last is Bethany Morton's book to serve God and Walmart, which is just one of the best labor histories I've ever read.
7m 49s Sarah Jaffe And I read a lot of labor history and she details the way that, like the Walton family, when, you know, Sam Walton started his first five and dime store, what happened was they were in a part of the country in the Ozarks where most people had been farmers where the people that he was hiring to work in these first stores were sort of farm Housewives who had never done wage labor before. And their moms hadn't done wage labor and their grandmas. Hadn't done wage labor, and nobody, you know, going back however long had done wage labor. And so they didn't really expect a lot in terms of wages. The family farm probably paid most of the bills and they were picking up some money on the side maybe, or at least that's the image that allows them to pay very little, but they got very good at paying lip service to these women and their sort of Christian story.
8m 40s Sarah Jaffe And so this thing that allowed the Walton company, I was just reading the other day that the Walton family got like $25 billion billion with a B dollars richer during the pandemic. And that's, you know, $25 billion richer. They already had 200 and something million dollars that is all based on this ethic that these women brought to the wage labor workforce from what they had done at home and in their church and in their community for free, because they actually cared about people. And so, you know, in a very real way, like Walmart and a lot of the retail stores that have sprung up in its image or tried to emulate it in order to not go out of business, it's entire fortune is built on women, caring about other people.
9m 28s Laborwave Radio Well, and you do a really good job at representing this kind of sexist trope around care work that basically poses that women are intrinsically and just innately caring individuals. Right? So because they're caring individuals, this isn't actually work for them. This is just what they would be doing in any society.
9m 49s Sarah Jaffe And that is, I mean, a right. It's sexist it among other things sort of implies that men are not caring, which allows, you know, frankly, men to get away with murder. But it also implies that, like that caring, isn't a skill that like emotional labor, you know, Arlie, Russell Hochschild, his definition of emotional labor. I really stressed it. Like it's about producing emotions in someone else. That's what emotional labor is actually about. So again, those women at Walmart are there, they are producing good feelings about Walmart by giving you good service. So then you're like, Oh, the lady at Walmart was so sweet. I'll go back there because you know, I feel good about this.
10m 30s Sarah Jaffe Even if you don't think about it, that consciously the good feelings that are produced in you, maybe it's not Walmart, it's probably not Walmart these days, but like the indie record store you might go to, or the neighborhood bookstore where I hope you will buy my book, that kind of thing, it relies on you feeling good about it. And that's this sort of nebulous thing that you can't, that's hard to quantify. And therefore it's really easy to undervalue and that kind of thing. So I was just writing an article about the idea that like an effect is a source of surplus value, which is something that I heard British media scholar, Marcus Gilroy. Waris I had an interview recently and yeah, like think about the way Facebook generates data, sort of like button click by like button click.
11m 19s Sarah Jaffe And we can think about those as like micro units of labor, right? Like Amazon has sort of with the mechanical Turk, it's broken down jobs already into micro tasks that people get a couple of pennies for doing maybe, but that is sort of an, an admission. If we think about it in that way, that like everything we're doing on all of these sites, you know, I have my Gmail window open and somewhere in one of these 8 million tabs is probably some social media site or other, and all of those are, are only able to generate money if we use them, if we continue to click on them and click on the ads and, and interact with them and give them more information. And so that is in a certain way, unpaid work we're doing right.
12m 3s Sarah Jaffe We're producing something for these companies. We are producing value for these companies. It's just been disguised as something that's fun. And like, that's also the logic that these workplaces rely on. If they try to make your job fun. If they're gamification, right. Was one of these big buzz words a few years ago. I don't hear as much about gamification now, but it's still going on. I bet some of your listeners have worked in an Amazon warehouse and like the, the games on the, the picker games and stuff like that, or like Uber has tried to game-ify work for Uber. The idea that like, if we can make it fun, therefore it's not working. Therefore we don't have to pay you as much because you're being paid in something else.
12m 43s Sarah Jaffe You're getting some nebulous sort of feeling reward instead of, you know, the real reward we need, because we can't pay the rent.
12m 50s Laborwave Radio I'm just thinking about my own experiences in some of these types of work that you write about, actually I count it for different industries
12m 58s Sarah Jaffe Or different jobs that you've had. And just that one rant that I did. Yeah.
13m 1s Laborwave Radio Well, no, in the book specifically, the chapters that there's, I've worked in four of those industries, retail is one of them. Non-profits academia kind of teaching that one is a little bit more of a loose fit. Well, that's probably me just internalizing the idea that it wasn't real work, but there's also a lot of external enforcement mechanisms for performing this type of emotional labor. You're talking about when I was bartending and working in retail, the management team was desperate about curating really positive Yelp reviews. And I remember one time I was like on the chopping block because somebody got really mad at me specifically. I, I, when I was bartending and wrote a terrible review by name, so what, what other kinds of mechanisms exist that impose this type of order on workers like that insist that they need to love their job and that reinforce it?
13m 56s Sarah Jaffe Yeah. So it's interesting because there are some researchers who have done a really good job. Here's why I recommend more books of looking at the management literature and like the development of this narrative in management literature. I tried to do mine from the point of view of, of workers and sort of the material conditions that changed for workers to see these things spread. But like Kathy weeks wrote an article, not that long ago for the Verso blog, something along the lines of the romance of work, where she looked at the management literature, Jamie McCallum's recent book worked over, he looks at the management literature and a book that I, you know, stole a framework from Luc Boltanski in Egypt pillows, the new spirit of capitalism, which was written in the late nineties. But that looks again at the way that as we change from an industrial economy to the sort of post-industrial economy we have in the U S and Western Europe, some other places, and what sort of motivations have changed and how those have spread.
14m 55s Sarah Jaffe And again, they're looking largely at management literature. So reading what people are being taught in MBA programs and garbage like that,
15m 6s 2 To see what has changed,
15m 8s Sarah Jaffe Changed about the way that people are being taught to sort of motivate their workforce. And so, like, this is, this is sort of very explicit in a lot of places that we're being told that we should find fulfillment on the job. And that was different from what you were told, if you went to work and GM's Lordstown factory as a member of the UAW in 1966, when Lordstown opened, right, you were not particularly expected to like it. You were just supposed to do it anyway. Sort of like what my dad told me about doing my math homework when I was a kid, I hate it don't care. You have to do it. That was, that was sort of the story though, right? It's like, you do it, you got to do it. Why do you have to do it? Because you will make money?
15m 49s Sarah Jaffe Like that was also the narrative that my dad told me about math homework, right? If you get good grades and you get into a good school, and then you get a good job, and then when you turn 40, you'll be a communist labor journalist.
15m 60s 2 He didn't like that.
16m 1s Sarah Jaffe But the way that, you know, you were motivated to go take a crappy job. I mean, first of all, you know, because like Capitol enclosed the commons, and there was no way for you to make a living except for becoming a wage labor. And then, you know, wage labor requires you to work in order to eat. And then, you know, I spend a lot of time in the first chapter because I think this is really important on the history of the poor laws and the poor law tradition and how that's shaped like American welfare reform, for example, and get another book recommendation, Francis Fox pivot and Richard cloud's book disciplining. The poor is all about this tradition in this history. And of course, Fran and Richard were welfare rights organizers.
16m 45s Sarah Jaffe And they really dug into this history in order to think about the way that these laws were disciplining, working class women who were receiving welfare payments and thinking about what is work, what isn't work, how, you know, essentially the narrative of welfare reform and that bill Clinton eventually gave us with the help of new Gingrich and company. That narrative is in a lot of ways like, Oh, these women will find meaning if they have wage labor, you know, they sort of ripped off this argument from feminism also, which was screwed up like second wave feminism has a lot to answer for on this front because, you know, okay, women need to work.
17m 31s Sarah Jaffe Suddenly women need to work, or rather suddenly like black women have always been expected to work. And when it became possible for black women to actually access welfare, which had been accessible for many, many years for white women, suddenly the idea that like black women weren't working was horrifying. Where does that come from?
17m 50s Sarah Jaffe The history of slavery? You know, there, there are, there are these really sort of culturally specific narratives that also are global and international. Certainly, you know, most of Europe also has narratives based in slavery because they were the ones responsible for it. And they become common sense in the sort of ground Shan sense of common sense, which is to say something that's probably wrong, but that we, we sort of believe at some level, or at least we act as if we believe it. And that's different from, you know, what grounds she called GoodCents, which is actually being right and understanding the way the world works. Yeah. And so, you know, the labor of love has in that way become common sense in all of these different ways, through all of these different materials, sort of disciplining forces from the poor laws to the management literature of the 1990s to welfare reform, to, you know, whatever garbage they're trying to pass through Congress right now,
18m 51s Laborwave Radio Something I want our listeners to know about your book is that it's set up in a really interesting way in that it provides a very sweeping historical summary of the development of work under capitalism. It's really thick. You said earlier, you're not a historian, but you're, you don't have to say that because I think you can trick people into believing. So it's there
19m 11s Sarah Jaffe Give me an honorary PhD,
19m 15s Laborwave Radio But you, you enter into each of these chapters through the lived experience of particular people that do the work. And I was just curious if you'd be willing to talk about how did you find, or how did you decide who to choose to represent these types of work, as well as like, you know, maybe share some of the stories of the people that you talked to on the book?
19m 35s Sarah Jaffe Oh my God. So I'm kind of in love with all of them. They're the best and yeah. And some of this credit for this goes to my wonderful and amazing editor, Katie O'Donnell, who was like, we should focus on one worker to embed these chapters in and really go deep with one worker so that people can actually sort of feel what it's like to do this work rather than have a couple of stories and draw them together. Like I did in my first book, it's like really go deep with one person. And I think it works out pretty well, even though, you know, it's impossible to sort of tell the breadth of stories of this industry through one person. It is possible to give a sense of what it feels like to be someone who does that work.
20m 17s Sarah Jaffe And I, I wanted them all to be people who are organizing, not just, you know, this is somebody who works at this job and here are the sad things that have happened to them because they work in this job, but here's how they're actually trying to change it because of course, you know, Mark's right. So the point is to change it. The point is not just to interpret it. So I found a lot of them through reporting that I was doing on organizing, right? Like the Los Angeles teachers' strike. I went to LA to cover the teacher's strike, which was exactly two years ago. I was in LA on a picket line. I actually looked it up in my picture. You know, Google photos giving me a whatever.
20m 57s Sarah Jaffe Here are your memories. And two years ago, two years ago, I was in the rain, outside the home of one of the members of the LA unified school districts, school board members with a bunch of people protesting. I was wearing a poncho that somebody gave me because I did not pack for Los Angeles thinking it was gonna rain for four days straight. It did. And I met Rose. I met a ton of teachers and many of whom would have been amazing characters, but I sort of asked some people who would be the person I should talk to. And Amy Shure from ACE, which is the Alliance of Californians for community empowerment, which is one of the many community organizations that was working alongside the teacher's union.
21m 38s Sarah Jaffe She suggested Rossa. And she was like, you have to meet Rosa Jimenez. She's amazing. And I did meet Rosa and she was amazing. And a picket line and pouring down rain outside of the RFK community school campus, which is in Korea town, actually, not that far from the actual UCLA building. And she sort of had this experience of teaching that spanned the sort of crisis times, right. She was hired for, she got one year in of teaching and then was laid off after the 2008 financial crisis. So she got involved with a bunch of young teachers who were organizing around that and around the layoffs. Then she teaches at this community school, which is sort of an example of the thing that the UCLA and many other teachers are, are talking about building as schools that really include the demands of parents in the community and the students that try to teach like relevant curriculum to the students that they have that teach in multiple languages.
22m 36s Sarah Jaffe And that try to be more than just a school, but a place where the community actually feels safe and welcomed and involved. And she's an activist. She organizes with the students in a group called students deserve, like she just was on all of these levels, this super, incredibly engaged organizing machine. And then we're sitting in the hallway of the building on the fourth day of the strike because every room in the UTL building is occupied with meetings and strategy and all this stuff is happening. So Rosa and I sit down in the hallway, I had this whole conversation and at the end of it, I asked her, I was like, what has it been like for you being out on strike this week? And she's just like, she's like, I realized that it's okay, that this is for me.
23m 20s Sarah Jaffe And we both sort of started crying cause I was just like, Oh my God, that, that, yes, you like the teachers unions have done such a good job of turning the labor of love narrative around to be part of their organizing, that they can still sort of get lost in that sometimes because it does, it is really important to them to say like our demands, our working conditions are our students' learning. Our demands
23m 46s Sarah Jaffe Will make this better for the entire school district for the entire city of Los Angeles. But also she's like, I am a single mom and this is hard for me and it's okay that I need a raise that I'm in this expensive city. That's getting more expensive every day. And like, it's okay to make demands for me too. So that's one, not that I have favorites because they're all incredible. Kevin, who's a video game programmer that is part of the first or one of the first video game workers unions in the UK at games workers, UK, which is part of, IWG be independent workers of great Britain. I met Kevin and a bunch of other workers at an organizing meeting that I went to, a friend of mine had put me in touch with some of the folks that organize with them and he just had this great story.
24m 35s Sarah Jaffe And also it was just really funny. So like I was trying to decide which of those workers that I wanted to go a little bit deeper with and like looking back over my transcription from the first interview, I was like, Oh my God. And he's really funny. And also, you know, talked about being like a person of color in this industry that is just like absolutely overwhelmingly dominated by white guys and that being an important motivator for his organizing, not just, and we're seeing this again with like the Google union. It's not even primarily in a lot of those cases about wages, it's about respect and it's about hours. It's about like putting a maximum cap on the amount of hours you can be expected to work when you're, you know, they call it crunch when you're crunching to get the game out on time.
25m 23s Sarah Jaffe And this is, you know, just a notorious thing across the industry and across programming in general. But video games in particular is just really, really bad. And I thought video games, I mean a, there was an actual union of video games, programmers, which was great. And then games seemed like the, the sort of perfect labor of love, part of the tech industry, whatever the hell we mean by the tech industry. It's a weird thing to say, isn't all industry about tech, but it was, it's very specific, right? You love video games. So you go to a special school. And most of the people that I talked to had gone to a special school and Kevin was saying, right, he's from Germany. He could have gone to university for free in Germany, but instead he went to this special school for games programming that charged 25,000 euros, I think, a year.
26m 13s Sarah Jaffe So, you know, right from the jump they're like, Oh, but you really want to do this because you love video games. And then at some point, you know, he starts laughing and he's like, I don't even play video games anymore. Yeah. So that's just a couple, I mean, I, there are 10 people in it. I, I stories on how I met them all. It can probably take up the remainder of your podcast
26m 30s 4 Now for a brief musical break. And a reminder that labor wave radio is an independent podcast sustained by subscribers on our Patrion. So we encourage you to become a subscriber email@example.com, backslash
26m 44s Laborwave Radio Labor wave. Here's a clip of music from Tyvec off their album origin of what, from in the red records.
28m 3s Laborwave Radio I love the stories too. And I do love the kind of agency that's represented in the stories. It makes me think of another thing that strikes me about your book is that at least in how I read it, it is dripping and indignation like throughout there is all of what informs the book to me seems to be a very consistent indignation over how capitalism has wrecked our ability to actually do things that we love. Right. And that could be work. And maybe to ask you more personal questions, but you seem to really straddle that experience a lot.
28m 35s Sarah Jaffe Yeah. I mean the first words in the book, right. Or I love my work, you know, it's it's and I partly did that because I knew the first thing that people were going to say who got like indignant about this book. And you know, some of them have said this to me, like, well, what do you want people to do? Like just do jobs they hate. And I'm like, no, like I much prefer being a journalist to waiting tables, which I did for quite a long time. Absolutely. Like, I don't think you should just decide. I don't think the answer is like, just decide to do work that you hate, because I just don't think the answer is about your feelings. I think the answer is about power and power is something that you can have an unlimited degree as an individual, right? Like I am a person who has now written two books that does give me like some name recognition, which does translate into some individual level bargaining.
29m 24s Sarah Jaffe Right. That I have that I didn't have, you know, 12 years ago when I was just finishing journalism school. That's definitely a thing you can have. I don't want to say that that's like impossible to have, but you have much more bargaining power as an industry, as you know, freelance journalists organizing alongside staff journalists who are organizing one of the great things about a lot of the journalists who have organized as unions of staff writers, is that they've put concern for freelancers into some of their contracts, which is great. Thank you all. I love you, but that like all of us have to understand that this is an industry. And again, like I could definitely have had a chapter about journalism in this book.
30m 4s Sarah Jaffe I didn't want to write about myself.
30m 6s Sarah Jaffe I read about myself a little bit in the introduction and a little bit in the conclusion, but that's kind of it. But journalism is an industry that was built on sort of the partisan press where, you know, you would have had back in the day when they wrote the constitution to give postal subsidies to the press. Essentially, this was really important to these guys who had just fought a revolution. A lot of whom had been publishers of, you know, partisan broadsheets and things. That's how they, you know, organized a revolution, not to romanticize them. A lot of them were slave owning monsters, but like this was something that was built into the post office, which is in the constitution, which is not true in most other, I hate the term advanced democracies.
30m 53s Sarah Jaffe I don't know what the hell we should use instead, because that just implies a lot of things. But nevertheless, this is something that goes way back. And so subsidies for the press go way back, which is to say that the journalism industry in this country has always been publicly funded. It's just usually been funded through tax breaks. Then you get in the little more than a hundred years ago, or so you get the idea of the objective newspaper, which is essentially just to sell more. So it's not because objective reporting is like scientific something, something, some enlightenment Wang about how, you know, it's the search for truth. It's just literally so that you don't piss off one half of your readership it's to have a bigger audience than the partisan press could.
31m 36s Sarah Jaffe So the New York times sells more copies in Jacobin or than the weekly standard because there's theoretically a bigger audience for non-partisan news. And then it's, it's, you know, op-ed pages are supposedly balanced, but New York times aside, you know, every town would have a newspaper and that newspaper would have staff reporters. And that would be a job that didn't require you to have gone to Yale and worked five unpaid internships to get you, you know, probably went to the local state school and you've got a job and you were a journalist and you were a journalist in your community. And as that model has died and been consolidated and all of these other things that we could talk about forever, there is, you know, ongoing fights among journalists unions at sort of legacy papers that still exist that they're trying to kill in places like Pittsburgh and Toledo right now, those die.
32m 28s Sarah Jaffe And instead what happens is like, people like me who, you know, I'm not from New York. I ended up here because that was where you could get a journalism job. And I had to go to grad school and take two unpaid internships or one unpaid internship in one very low paid internship that has since become better paid because the interns organized with the nation magazine. Thank you. That wasn't the way you got into journalism all that long ago, or at least it wasn't the way you got into most journalism, but now it's become this prestige thing. The pay is shit, and you have to live in the most expensive city in the world, or one of the most expensive cities in the world.
33m 8s Sarah Jaffe And you have to sort of jump through all of these hoops to prove that you're prestigious enough to do this thing. That is a public service. And that, again, not to romanticize the American constitution, which is in large part, a racist piece of garbage. We have recognized since the beginning of this country, that this is an important part of having a functioning society, but now it's as the labor of love, it becomes something that we can sort of do without, because it's something that you should do out of high mindedness and blah, blah, blah. And that just means like rich jerks get to do it. And why has labor coverage suffered? I don't know, because none of the people who are doing prestigious journalism have ever worked a day in their lives, no journalism is work, but you know what I need like, yeah, not that many people at Yale had to wait tables to get through Yale, fewer have actually done that after graduation.
34m 3s Sarah Jaffe When you actually sort of realize like I did, this might be my life, this degree that I got might actually not do any of the things that, you know, my dad said it would, sorry, dad, it might actually just be true that I'm a waitress. So what do I do about that?
34m 21s Laborwave Radio It reminds me of when I was a younger person and willing to make an ass of myself and play punk rock music
34m 28s Sarah Jaffe Of ourselves on a podcast. Right. Yeah. It's totally different in different ways.
34m 35s Laborwave Radio Yeah. I just wanted to share this because it's just what you're saying is very similar to how I could never figure out, like, why is it that I'm making pizza, you know, working like these menial jobs and like I'm barely scraping by I, as I'm playing music and all these other people are just coasting. They seem to be totally fine playing in dive bars and like living, living the life. They're all fucking rich kids.
35m 0s Sarah Jaffe Yeah. And what happens to a world though when like our punk rock is made by rich kids? Yeah. You know, there's just like fascinating. I also don't have a chapter on musicians in this book and spoiler alert. I really want to write one. And I had this idea that I wanted to go on tour with like one of the kinds of bands of which there are most of them that sort of make a living, but they only make a living at the level of like constantly touring, never being home. And that being the way that you can be a full-time musician is you're basically killing yourself. But yeah, but like what, right. What is punk rock when it's made by rich people? You know, no offense to arcade fire, but like, it's not like arcade fire, but like it's not the same thing as people who are living in squats, you know, back when you could live in a squat on the Bowery and be, you know, Patty Smith or, you know, be the sex pistols and go to art school for free in the UK and, and make art.
35m 60s Sarah Jaffe Right. I think that there's wonderful period of publicly subsidized arts education for the pearls produced this wonderful thing that they have systematically tried to destroy ever since like Margaret batcher, like was like no more of you because that mattered because like music and pop culture can be wonderful places for learning about the world. We live in politics, right. And people would call, you know, hip hop, like, you know, news radio for the ghetto. There's a reason that they've tried to destroy arts funding. And it's not just because it's conservatives are assholes and they don't want to fund anything, which is also true. But there are various specific things that they basically don't think working-class people should have.
36m 43s Sarah Jaffe I am fascinated and obsessed with the period of the first new deal. Maybe we get a green, new deal at some point, who knows, because one of the things that they funded that, you know, the, the FTRs administration funded was an arts project. And I knew about that beforehand. Right? Most people sort of vaguely know about that, but you know, I read books about it in researching this book and learned about like, not just the fact that they paid already well-known and emerging artists to make art and paint murals on the sides of housing projects, as well as in, you know, public offices and museums, but they also paid for community art centers. So people could do art so that you had not just, again, I'm not just like a class of people who are artists who got to make art, but actually anybody got to make art, which has amazing, right?
37m 31s Sarah Jaffe Hello, Joe Biden here. You want to have a new deal type of thing. This would be great. Of course, I don't have any faith that Joe Biden will do any of this, but this was a thing that, you know, there was a period in time where people actually were able to make art based funded by the government in their community. And of course, a lot of this comes out of demands of, of organized art workers who were, a lot of them were communists. They were literally in the communist parties, John Reed clubs, and they formed what became the artist union. And they demanded government funding. They said, we are also workers who are also out of work and you also need to create work for us.
38m 15s Sarah Jaffe This was when that, and the destruction of Europe's art centers during world war two was what moved sort of the center of the art world to the U S we had funded it. And we, New York wasn't wrecked by Hitler's bombs. The way that, you know, Paris and London had been,
38m 33s 5 I wanted to move us in conclusion to
38m 36s Laborwave Radio The final chapter of your book that I think in some ways is maybe the most ambitious in that it's trying to identify ways that work actually can be fulfilling and we can actually discover real love, but clearly that's not under capitalism. It's a bit more of a opportunity to be utopian in the book. And I appreciate that. And like, it's very clear and you say it explicitly in the final chapter that don't buy into this myth that you can discover love through your work, right? Like work won't love you back. What do you think it could look like? Like what types of work might be done in a world where we actually have access to love and we don't have to live under wages.
39m 17s Sarah Jaffe I mean, I think the thing that I wanted to do in that chapter was like, I didn't want to do what, like my buddy Joshua Clover calls, 10 chapters of marks, one chapter of canes and what, you know, Malcolm Harris called Bobbitt solutions and his wonderful book kids these days where like, they expect you to sort of diagnose the problem in this big sprawling historical fashion, and then like have a list of five policy solutions at the end. And I knew people were going to be best about that, but I don't care. Sure. There are a bunch of policy solutions that are being talked about right now. That'd be amazing, like the four day work week and basic income and all of this shit and like hell during the pandemic, we've even seen some of them enacted, right. We have gotten and are in the process of getting more basic income Jackson government from the Trump administration for God's sake.
40m 3s Sarah Jaffe So great. Yes. There are all sorts of policy solutions we can talk about. But what I actually wanted to think about is like, okay, what do we do if we don't work? Because that's what people ask all the time, right? Oh, people need work for fulfillment. Well, I don't know, man, if I had some free time, I'd probably do a lot of things that now are work, but don't have to be right. Knitting that I'm doing right here. While we're talking. I took this up as a hobby basically to make myself spend less time scrolling through Twitter on my phone. But it's been particularly during the pandemic, like really relaxing for me, especially in the early days where I like couldn't concentrate enough to read, I would just knit, but it is a job for people, right?
40m 44s Sarah Jaffe Like the sweater that I'm wearing here was, you know, knitted on a machine somewhere by somebody who got paid for it. So, you know, there, there's this line of what is working, what does not work that's blurred and, and crossed and changed all the time. You know, I'm a writer, that's what I do for a living. If I didn't have to work as many hours in a week for a living, I might have written a novel by now or two or three or five. And that would, you know, on some level, yes, it would still be work. It would still be like focused, disciplined activity, but it would actually be something that I was able to choose and really decide whether I enjoyed it and how I wanted to do it.
41m 26s Sarah Jaffe And, you know, thinking about this community art centers, like, it didn't matter if what you did in the community arts center, it was like trash, right? Like I,
41m 34s Sarah Jaffe I, I once was on a panel about the, we call it in defensive, bad art with art critic, Ben Davis and artist, Molly Crabapple. And I was saying that, you know, on some level, like the test of whether your society actually cares about these things was like, do people get to make bad art? In other words, can it be something that isn't necessarily a saleable commodity, but something that we just do for the fun of it, like, you know, my, the sweater that I'm admitting, isn't going to be the greatest thing in the world. It's not, I'm working from a pattern. It's not like anything, all that exciting, but I like doing it. Nobody's ever gonna, you know, hire me to be a networker designer likely, but I enjoy doing it.
42m 14s Sarah Jaffe And, you know, I wrote the check after also about what the thing, the other thing that, that loving your job job does is it sort of turns all this affection onto work that we could otherwise spend on other people. Like, again, I'm interested in this dichotomy that sort of comes out of neo-liberalism, but also comes out of sort of second wave of feminism that getting a job was sort of pose in a dichotomy to like being in a crappy marriage, basically being a housewife. Okay. But like what, what would the world need to look like? So like marriage has weren't crappy anymore.
42m 55s Sarah Jaffe And also like, you know, for most people who, who got most of the women who moved into the wage workforce in the seventies and eighties, didn't go into wonderful, fulfilling careers. They went into low wage work that was in most cases, very similar to the work they had already been doing unpaid in them. So what would it look like to actually both like, think about, you know, what kind of role will we need that our relationships aren't crap. And that it means that like the family, as the sort of privatized economic unit, can't be the shock absorber for all the garbage that capitalism throws at us. We have to actually have all, we need to survive in order for it to not be sort of necessary to end up in these really heteronormative couple of units that like, I'm even matter about this after, you know, nine months of panic, nine, 11 months of pandemic, because for people who went through lockdown as part of a couple, you're sort of forced back into this couple of unit where you might've had a vibrant, exciting social life and lots of other people now you're basically only allowed to see your partner and maybe your kids, if you have, if you are single, you've just been cooped up alone for a long time.
44m 13s Sarah Jaffe Both of those conditions actually are awful. And like the pandemic is, you know, on some level we can't escape that, but we could have escaped it going on for this long. If our governments had given a crap about how we survive. I argue that in order to think about like how human relationships could be better, we also need free time from work. And we also need our basic needs met. That is sort of an old feminist argument, right? That women who are economically dependent on men can never be free. It's just that I don't think the answer to that is therefore get a job. I think the answer to that is what kind of society would actually create freedom for everyone.
44m 53s Sarah Jaffe And in order to do that, like the combat river collective argued, you have to look at the people who are the most exploited, what would it take? They wrote for black women to be free because if black women, black queer women, like most of the writers of the Combahee river collective statement, if black queer women were free, then everybody else would have to be free because the things that would actually make them free would actually make things better for all of us, which is why, again, always forever and ever, and ever read more about the welfare rights movement, because they were amazing. And again, a movement of black women who didn't want to be in, in many cases, a traditional family, and they wanted the support and the recognition and the care, and sort of honor given to the work they were already doing of raising their children and being present in their communities.
45m 40s Sarah Jaffe They wanted that to be valued and they didn't want to sort of be forced into crappy relationships with men in order to have a limit. I kind of just think all of the answers are found in the welfare rights movement. Yeah. If we think about those demands really, and they, again, they did make a lot of concrete policy demands, everything from like the welfare people do not get to come in and look through my underwear drawer or try to determine if I'm having sex to give us a basic income. And they did demand that. And we almost got it under Richard Nixon and then it all fell apart. And instead, you know, well, we know what happened to Nixon. This idea that we get fulfillment on the job tells us that if we're not fulfilled by the job, there is something wrong with us.
46m 25s Sarah Jaffe And that the number one thing I want people to take away from this book is like, there is absolutely nothing wrong with you. If your job is unfulfilling, your job is actually designed to be incredibly unfulfilling and to exploit the crap out of you and make somebody else a lot of money. And the best way to change that even in the short term is literally still connecting with other people. It's just that in the workplace, we call that a union,
46m 48s Laborwave Radio The bogus card work. Won't love you back. How devotion to our jobs keeps us exploited, exhausted and alone. It's published by both type books, Sarah Jaffe. I really appreciate you talking to us. I've really liked your book a lot. And I encourage our listeners to go get a copy as soon as possible. Thank you
47m 4s Sarah Jaffe Always good to talk to you.
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