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The Double Shift: On the Politics of Work with Jason Read

Tuesday, March 5 2024
doors at 6:30
RSVP with pre-order of The Double Shift ($24.95 plus tax)

“Why do people fight for their exploitation as if it was liberation?”

Join author and professor Jason Read, chair of the University of Southern Maine philosophy department, to celebrate and discuss his new book The Double Shift: Spinoza and Marx on the Politics of Work (Verso, March 12, 2024).

Invoking Better Call Saul, Fight Club, Office Space, and other popular touchstones, Read’s new book explores how Marx and Spinoza can explain our attachment to work, and what we can do about it.

In a world of declining wages, working conditions, and instability, the response for many has been to work harder, increasing hours and finding various ways to hustle in a gig economy. What drives our attachment to work? To paraphrase a question from Spinoza, “Why do people fight for their exploitation as if it was liberation?” 

The Double Shift turns towards the intersection of Marx and Spinoza in order to examine the nature of our affective, ideological, and strategic attachment to work. Through an examination of contemporary capitalism and popular culture it argues that the current moment can be defined as one of “negative solidarity.” The hardship and difficulty of work is seen not as the basis for alienation and calls for its transformation but rather an identification with the difficulties and hardships of work. This distortion of the work ethic leads to a celebration of capitalists as job creators and suspicion towards anyone who is not seen as a “real worker.”

The book is grounded in philosophy, specifically Marx and Spinoza, and is in dialogue with Plato, Smith, Hegel, and Arendt, but, at the same time, in examining contemporary ideologies and ideas about work it discusses motivational meetings at Apple Stores, the culture of Silicon Valley, and films and television from Office Space to Better Call Saul.

The Double Shift argues for a transformation of our collective imagination and attachment to work.

With The Double Shift, Jason Read cuts trenchantly into the knot of entangled alienations that attach us to outdated perceptions of economics, ethics and politics. This impressive synthesis of the reinvention of a Spinozan Marx by current French and Italian theorists joyfully enrolls recent films and TV series into a critical analysis of the “negative solidarity” which fuels the rise of right-wing politics. As late-capitalist societies are eaten away, from the inside, by widely shared but deeply misleading perceptions of work and waged labor, this is indeed a most urgent Read!

Yves Citton; author of Mediarchy and The Ecology of Attention