Overtime (was Re: happy autoworkers)

Yoshie Furuhashi furuhashi.1 at osu.edu
Fri Jul 10 23:49:11 PDT 1998

Carrol wrote:
>"[N]o, people who work 80 hours a week have no life," but they can sure
>become resentful (whether their 80 hours earns them $100,000 or nearer
>$10,000 a year) of anyone who is paraded before them as not being
>"responsible." This pervasive overwork (at varying rates of compensation)
>must be one of the material bases of succumbing to contempt/hatred/etc of
>unruly teenagers, teenage mothers, convicts living in luxury (!),
>pedophiles, arrogant women, blacks, drug dealers, immigrants, everyone who
>can be prsented as not responsible as they are. I'm not praising sexual
>abuse of children -- too many of my friends in DMDSG were damaged by it,
>but I am noting that it is interesting that it is when hours of work are
>increasing while for most income is just holding its own so many new
>horrors ("individual" criminals) are discovered each month.

I agree. Overwork breeds ressentiment, and ressentiment (when it doesn't get transformed into class anger and militancy) gets misdirected against those whose positions in society make them look like 'unproductive' or 'irresponsible' (in ideology).

An awful thing is that this ideological ressentiment against the 'unproductive' + 'irresponsible' makes it easy for neoliberals to abolish or undermine the public sector (especially means-tested public assistance), which in turn intensifies labor discipline because social + psychological costs of unemployment for workers are much higher in the absence of social welfare programs, so workers continue to endure overwork.

'Work ethic' becomes (or has always been) a racialized, gendered, and sexualized ideology in this context, and it increases suffering for both the dominant and the subordinated groups of the working class, only in different ways. Beyond the fact that it serves the bourgeoisie, 'work ethic' divides workers.


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