The Perfect Book for Labor Day

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“Work. Capitalism. Economics. Resistance.” is a strikingly original book. For a start, it’s written by CrimeThinc. ex-Workers’ Collective. Secondly, its introduction (which is not called an introduction; actually, it’s not called anything) claims: “this book isn’t just an attempt to describe reality but also a tool with which to change it … What qualifies us to write this? Some of us used to be students or pizza deliverers or dishwashers; others still are construction workers or graphic designers or civic-minded criminals. But all of us have lived under capitalism since we were born, and that makes us experts on it.”

After this opening salvo, the book presents something that looks like a poem:

At this moment, an employee in a grocery store is setting out genetically engineered produce rather than tending her garden;

A dishwasher is sweating over a steaming sink while unwashed dishes stack up in his kitchen;

A line cook is taking orders from strangers instead of cooking at a neighborhood barbecue;

An advertising agent is composing jingles for laundry detergent rather than playing music with his friends;

A woman is watching wealthier people’s children at a daycare program rather than spending time with her own …

The book then uses pithy essays and nifty artwork – line drawings, photos, woodcuts, comic-book panels – to drive through its message: the world of work is unequal, unfair, unethical, and unnecessary. Under the subheadings “What It Is” (the it means work), “Where We Are” and “How It Works”, the book takes a closer look at the whole capitalist enterprise. Some of the best mini-essays are the ones on bosses, factory workers, migrant labor, unemployment and homelessness, consumption, and gentrification, but all are worth reading.

Even if you aren’t interested in overthrowing global capitalism, this book will make you question everything. The next time you find yourself staring out of an office window or stuck in a work-bound traffic jam or reading a mindless report, you may just think to yourself, “Is this how I wish to spend my days? And does it have to be like this?” Happy Labor Day.

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