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Interchange – The Strange Life of Work: Kathi Weeks

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Our program today is about the problem of work. In “Life Without Principle” Henry David Thoreau, our great American guide to “getting a life,” wrote of

Those slight labors which afford me a livelihood…are as yet commonly a pleasure to me, and I am not often reminded that they are a necessity. So far I am successful. But I foresee that if my wants should be much increased, the labor required to supply them would become a drudgery. If I should sell both my forenoons and afternoons to society, as most appear to do, I am sure that for me there would be nothing worth left living for…. I wish to suggest that a man may be very industrious, and yet not spend his time well. There is no more fatal blunderer than he who consumes the greater part of his life getting a living.

In The Problem with Work, Kathi Weeks challenges the presupposition that work, or waged labor, is inherently a social and political good. Or in other words, Why accept work as a necessary, even primary, element of our social organization? Weeks argues that in taking work as a given, we have “depoliticized” it, or removed it from the realm of political critique. Weeks proposes a postwork society that would allow people to be productive and creative rather than relentlessly bound to the employment relation.

GUEST
Kathi Weeks teaches in the Women’s Studies Program at Duke University. She studies feminist theory, political theory, the critical study of work, and utopian thought. Her books are The Problem with Work: Feminism, Marxism, Antiwork Politics and Postwork Imaginaries (Duke University Press, 2011) and Constituting Feminist Subjects (Cornell University, 1998).

RELATED
Beyond the Wage System by Kathi Weeks (Dissent)
Life Within and Against Work: Affective Labor, Feminist Critique, and Post-Fordist Politics by Kathi Weeks (ephemera)
A feminist case for Basic Income: An interview with Kathi Weeks
FINLAND: First Results from Pilot Study? Not Exactly (Basic Income Earth Network)
Selling Me, Inc.: Part Three of The Way of Neoliberalism (Ilana Gershon)

MUSIC
“Work Song” by Duke Ellington (“Black, Brown and Beige”)
“Work Song” by The Cannonball Adderley Quintet
“Work Song” by Charles Mingus
“Work Song” by Nat Adderley (ft. Wes Montgomrey)
“Heigh Ho” by The Dave Brubeck Quartet

CREDITS
Producer & Host: Doug Storm
Assistant Producer: Rob Schoon
Board Engineer: Jennifer Brooks
Executive Producer: Joe Crawford

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