I Wanna Be Literated #219

I Wanna Be Literated #219

Tuesday, 24 January 2023

The Problem with Work: Feminism, Marxism, Antiwork Politics, and Postwork Imaginaries
by Kathi Weeks

The struggle of the proletariat against Capitalism is hard and real. So is the struggle against this book. I should know better than to commit to a book with such an enchanting title, because the subject matter sounds interesting and relevant. However, the reality is that The Problem with Work is damn-near unreadable for the entirety of its 230 pages.

I’ve had a long academic career and completely understand the idea that, when speaking to peers, one must use language that the fewest amount of people can understand. The Problem With Work reads like a PhD thesis, so it becomes evident right from the start, that the reader is going to have to put in a lot of work to finish this book, because it’s loaded with run-on sentence and jargon. Weeks simply refused sentence structures that would make her book more accessible and that is the main reason it’s so unenjoyable. Unless, of course, sentences like “Thus we find in a body of management literature and practice that spans the Fordist and post-Fordist periods an expressed need to locate and preserve some kind of balance between work and family – a relationship many feminists, on the contrary, struggled to expose as a product of normative exposition rather than natural proclivity and a site of flagrant contradiction rather than mere imbalance” float your boat.

Everything else is miniscule by comparison, but let’s lay them out here. First of all, there are no original ideas in this book. When making a point, Weeks chooses on one or two extraneous sources, several decades old, when she makes her argument. She does not have her own data to share. Why she chooses these sources is anyone’s guess because there is nothing that implies these sources are the ultimate authority on the subject. There are also no examples when she’s trying to make a point. She just states things as matter-of-fact or barely expands on them. Weeks also spends dozens of pages telling you what she’s going to tell you before she tells you. When you’re dying finish a book, that’s really frustrating. The final chapter of the book is both the best and worst. It’s the worst because it’s 40 pages of Weeks defending “Utopianism” as a viable avenue for making choices in the present (a laughably Marxist urge since only orthodox Marxist consider “utopia” to be a condemnation and a dirty word) by ONLY quoting Nietzsche and Bloch (why them specifically? again, no idea), and the best because it’s a waste of time and you can completely skip it.

The Problem With Work is one of those books where the author sets out to boycott their own work. There’s very little useful information here for the reader once they’ve put in the time and effort to wrestle with the text. I’m glad her committee liked it and gave her a degree, though. Sometimes you have to do what you have to do to graduate.

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