For many years, capitalism fought an ideological battle around its legitimation that was staunchly rightwing in nature. Criticism was the reserve for those on the left who were worried about the alienating and disenfranchising effects of large enterprise, market society and class inequalities. Corporate ideology on the other hand, aimed to justify the sanctity of markets by pairing the business world in glowing colours (as the creator of jobs, wealth, social goods). However, since the 1990s a strange mutation has occurred. What Tom Wolfe dubbed ‘radical chic’ in his classic 1970s New Yorker article, (lambasting the trend of privileged elites holding tea-parties with radical militants to revive their waning artistic kudos) has now been mainstreamed in the imagery of corporate life. When it comes the mainlining life into the dead man working, it is not only non-work try has been harnessed to deepen the edifice of employment, but crucially anti-work. It seems that subversion-in a harmless and defanged form-is a real seller.
Carl Cederström and Peter Fleming, Dead Man Working
Cederström and Fleming, like a present day Virgil, bravely venture into an underworld full of shades whose entire lives have been put to work, who throw themselves heart and soul into the job, and who are constantly implored by management gurus to “be themselves,” “feel free,” and “have fun” in the office. This fascinating and dark little book is an excellent and disturbing introduction to what increasingly large realms of the world of work have become.
Michael Hardt, Empire, Multitude and Commonwealth.
What has work done to us? Cederström and Fleming’s brilliant dark and witty book tells us the truth. Working in our sleep? Dressing up as infants? Deprivation tank addiction? Fitness centrers? Suicide? Email? If you didn’t already know what work has made you become then this book might have a devastating effect on your life. Read it!
Simon Critchley, Hans Jonas Professor, New School for Social Research
David Winters’s review