In The Problem with Work, Kathi Weeks boldly challenges the presupposition that work, or waged labor, is inherently a social and political good. While progressive political movements, including the Marxist and feminist movements, have fought for equal pay, better work conditions, and the recognition of unpaid work as a valued form of labor, even they have tended to accept work as a naturalized or inevitable activity. Weeks argues that in taking work as a given, we have “depoliticized” it, or removed it from the realm of political critique. Employment is now largely privatized, and work-based activism in the United States has atrophied. We have accepted waged work as the primary mechanism for income distribution, as an ethical obligation, and as a means of defining ourselves and others as social and political subjects. Taking up Marxist and feminist critiques, Weeks proposes a postwork society that would allow people to be productive and creative rather than relentlessly bound to the employment relation. Work, she contends, is a legitimate, even crucial, subject for political theory.
Comment (from this Blueprint): This text serves as an excellent introduction and comprehensive overview of contemporary philosophical critiques of work, as one of the central texts in the literature on anti-capitalist and post-capitalist critiques of work. Although a sociologist by profession, many of the author's questions and arguments are, at their core, philosophical. Therefore, she serves as a good starting point for any broad examination of existing systems and structures of work, and for encouraging creative discussion about alternate visions.