Book Review: The Problem with Work

The Problem with Work

The Problem with Work: Feminism, Marxism, Antiwork Politics, and Postwork Imaginaries. Kathi Weeks; Durham: Duke University Press, 2011, 304 pp., $23.95 ISBN 978-0-8003-5112-2

Eugene P. Coyle of Eugene P. Coyle & Assoc. recently took the time to review the book in Review of Radical Political EconomicsFrom the review:

“Why do we work so long and so hard?” Professor Weeks opens this important and powerful book with questions about work that are not much addressed in political science or in mainstream economics. And she goes on to note that “. . . the fact that at present one must work to ‘earn aliving’ is taken as part of the natural order rather than a social convention” (3)…

RRPE 2015Weeks has a gift for summarizing political choices as aphorisms. In considering a politics of work as distinct from a politics of class, for example, she concludes “A politics of work, on the other hand, takes aim at an activity rather than an identity, and a central component of daily life rather than an outcome” (18). Later, in supporting her demands as preferable to what she acknowledges as impressive campaigns for a living wage, she says “. . . I am interested in demands that would not only advance concrete reforms of work but would also raise broader questions about the place of work in our lives and spark the imagination of a life no longer subordinate to it – demands that would serve as vectors rather than terminal points” (33). But I am getting ahead of the story.

You can read the full review from Review of Radical Political Economics by clicking here. Like what you read? Click here to sign up for e-alerts and have all the research and reviews like this sent directly to your inbox!

A Cornucopia of Book Reviews!

Looking for holiday gift ideas or just a good read to relax with over the long weekend? We’ve provided you with three insightful book reviews to sink your teeth into.

80140100838090LSaru Jayaraman. Behind the Kitchen Door. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press/ILR Press, 2013. 208 pp. ISBN 978-0-8014-7951-9. $15.95 (Paperback).

Read the review by Janice Fine of Rutgers University, published in the October 2014 issue of ILR Review:

Behind the Kitchen Door is a powerful exposé of the labor practices of the contemporary restaurant industry intended to make the case that the treatment of workers is at least as instrumental to theILR_72ppiRGB_powerpoint goals of the burgeoning sustainable food movement as free-range chickens, grass-fed cows, or organic, locally sourced, non-GMO produce. Written by Saru Jayaraman, co-founder of the Restaurant Opportunities Center of New York (ROC-NY), which is the organization that emerged in the aftermath of the tragic deaths of 73 workers at the iconic Windows on the World restaurant on 9/11, the book is a trove of information about industry structure and employment practices.

9781780323091Órla Ryan. Chocolate Nations: Living and Dying for Cocoa in West Africa. London and New York: Zed Books, 2011. 182 pp. ISBN 978-184813-005-0. $14.95 (Paperback).

Franklin Obeng-Odoom of the University of Technology, Sydney, Australia published his review in Review of Radical Radical Political Economics.

This book is interesting, but strange. It is hard to dismiss, but difficult to call a masterpiece. The RRPE_v46_72ppiRGB_powerpointbook talks about two countries without being comparative, but in a way that helps comparative studies and thinking. This is a book about the raw material that is used to produce the chocolate you have been eating, about the fair trade you have been supporting, and about how the output of smallholder farmers acts as steroids for the economies of entire nations.

9781442208742_p0_v2_s260x420Wallach, Jennifer Jensen. How America Eats: A Social History of U.S. Food and Culture. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc, 2013. 240 pp. ISBN-13: 978-1442232188. $24.95 (paperback list).

13122087Bobrow-Strain, Aaron. White Bread: A Social History of the Store-bought Loaf. Boston, MA: Beacon Press, 2012. 257 pp. ISBN-13: 978-0807044780. $17.00 (paperback list).

Kim K. McKeage of Hamline University wrote a review of both of these books, which appeared in the Journal of Macromarketing.

From the titles, we get a hint that How America Eats: A Social History of U.S. Food and Culture and JMMK_new C1 template.inddWhite Bread: A Social History of the Store-bought Loaf occupy opposite ends of a spectrum. Both are social histories, and both are concerned with food, but one is a wide-ranging history of all things food related, while the other focuses on one item – commercial white bread. How America Eats is a rather impersonal account, while White Bread is embedded in the author’s own experiences and ethos. The differences in perspective, though, provide what turn out to be remarkably similar insights into American food history.

Happy reading!

Book Review: Old China’s New Economy

old_chinas_new_economyOld China’s New Economy. T.K. Bhaumik; India: SAGE. 2009. 294 pp. ISBN: 978-81-7829-862-7

Read the review by Zhun Xu of the Department of Economics, University of Massachusetts Amherst, published in the Review of Radical Political Economics:

An accumulating amount of literature has been devoted to the study of the Chinese economy since its take-off in the early 1980s, but few studies of recent developments are situated in a historical and institutional context. Old China’s New Economy is one of those books that incorporates
a historicRRPE_v45_72ppiRGB_150pixWal view of Chinese development. The author gives a glimpse of Chinese history before 1978, discusses the political economy of the transition of China to a market economy, and outlines the major achievements and challenges so far. The book aims to evaluate market reforms in China and provide a comprehensive understanding of the dramatic transition.

Click here to continue reading the review; follow this link to see the latest issue of the Review of Radical Political Economics and this one to see new articles and book reviews in OnlineFirst.

What Can We Do About the Economy?

In a time of ongoing crisis, with millions in the U.S. facing unemployment or underemployment, it’s time to get radical. A new podcast from the Review of Radical Political Economics (RRPE) looks at the crucial need to create well-being in our society and asks: Can economists move us in the right direction?

Click here to listen to the podcast and here to subscribe on iTunes.

Michael Perelman, Professor of Economics at California State University, Chico, runs the Progressive Economists Network, a moderated listserv intended to foster communication and educate people about what needs to be done. His article, “What Went Wrong: An Idiosyncratic Perspective on the Economy and Economics,” is forthcoming in the December issue of RRPE. Editor David Barkin spoke with Professor Perelman, discussing the urgent matters which should be at the forefront of our thoughts, while also discovering reasons to take heart and take action.

Michael Perelman is a professor of economics at California State University, Chico. He is the author of 19 books. His latest publications are The Invisible Handcuffs of Capitalism: How Market Tyranny Stifles the Economy by Stunting Workers (NY: Monthly Review Press, 2011); The Confiscation of American Prosperity: From Right-wing Extremism and Economic Ideology to the Next Great Depression (NY: Palgrave, 2007); and Railroading Economics: The Creation of the Free Market Mythology (NY: Monthly Review Press, 2006).

David Barkin, doctor in economics from Yale University (1966), is Distinguished Professor of Economics at the Universidad Autónoma Metropolitana, Xochimilco Campus, Mexico City where he has been since 1975. In 1974 he was a founding member of the Ecodevelopment Center, created by the Mexican Science and Technology Council as an independent research organization. He was a recipient of the National Prize in Political Economy in 1979 for his analysis of inflation in Mexico. He was elected to the Mexican Academy of Sciences in 1992 and is an emeritus member of the National Research Council.

To learn more about the Review of Radical Political Economics, please follow this link.

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What is Radical in Neoliberal-Nationalist South Africa?

Patrick Bond, University of KwaZulu-Natal, published “What is Radical in Neoliberal-Nationalist South Africa?” in the September 2011 issue of the Review of Radical Political Economics.

The introduction:

South Africa has rich, robust radical traditions and over the last two decades I have seen these extended, deepened, and widened. In late 2011 at the Durban world climate summit known as the Conference of the Parties 17 (COP17), they will ground a formidable anti-capitalist critique of elite market environmentalism. Some of this confidence comes from defeating racial apartheid, although what we term “class apartheid” soon set in during the presidency of Nelson Mandela.

Across a variety of sectors, this condition generated strong Polanyian double-movement reactions, I argue in this essay. South African bottom-up experiences fighting the dominant governing ideology of neoliberal nationalism confirm the need to delink global corporations from determinations of social welfare, to decommodify basic goods and services, to rebuild public sector capacities, and to ensure that the state is run by a political party with genuine accountability to its poor and working-class constituents, exhibiting the consciousness of environmental, gender, and racial justice.

For more information on this topic:

In August 2011, David Barkin interviewed Patrick Bond about his article. Please click here to listen to this podcast.

If you would like to hear the other podcast on the Review of Radical Political Economics‘ website, please follow this link.

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