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Ear to the Ground

Neoliberalism’s Favorite Advice

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Posted on Feb 7, 2014

Wickerfurniture (CC BY 2.0)

The cheap slogan, an alleged encouragement for today’s worker, cruelly ignores the fact that very few of us have the opportunity to make a living doing much of anything that sustains our spirits, Miya Tokumitsu writes at Jacobin.

Tokumitsu says:

There’s little doubt that “do what you love” (DWYL) is now the unofficial work mantra for our time. The problem is that it leads not to salvation, but to the devaluation of actual work, including the very work it pretends to elevate?— and more importantly, the dehumanization of the vast majority of laborers.

Superficially, DWYL is an uplifting piece of advice, urging us to ponder what it is we most enjoy doing and then turn that activity into a wage-generating enterprise. But why should our pleasure be for profit? Who is the audience for this dictum? Who is not?

By keeping us focused on ourselves and our individual happiness, DWYL distracts us from the working conditions of others while validating our own choices and relieving us from obligations to all who labor, whether or not they love it. It is the secret handshake of the privileged and a worldview that disguises its elitism as noble self-betterment. According to this way of thinking, labor is not something one does for compensation, but an act of self-love. If profit doesn’t happen to follow, it is because the worker’s passion and determination were insufficient. Its real achievement is making workers believe their labor serves the self and not the marketplace.

Read more here.

—Posted by Alexander Reed Kelly.

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