introduction The Problem with Work
Though women do not complain of the power of husbands,
each complains of her own husband, or of the husbands of
her friends. It is the same in all other cases of servitude, at
least in the commencement of the emancipatory movement.
The serfs did not at first complain of the power of their lords,
but only of their tyranny.
One type of work, or one particular job, is contrasted with
another type, experienced or imagined, within the present
world of work; judgments are rarely made about the world
of work as presently organized as against some other way
of organizing it.
Why do we work so long and so hard? The mystery here is not that we are
required to work or that we are expected to devote so much time and
energy to its pursuit, but rather that there is not more active resistance to
this state of a√airs. The problems with work today—my focus will be on
the United States—have to do with both its quantity and its quality and
are not limited to the travails of any one group. Those problems include
the low wages in most sectors of the economy; the unemployment,
underemployment, and precarious employment su√ered by many work-
ers; and the overwork that often characterizes even the most privileged
forms of employment—after all, even the best job is a problem when it
monopolizes so much of life. To be sure, if we were only resigned to such
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