Work Want Work

Labour and Desire at the End of Capitalism

Mareile Pfannebecker and J. A. Smith


How the logic of work has crept into everything we do, even as we articulate post-capitalist and post-work possibilities

Work Want Work considers in captivating detail how a logic of work has become integral to everything we do, even as the place of formal work has become increasingly precarious. With reference to sociological data, philosophy, political theory, legislation, the testimonies of workers and an eclectic mix of cultural texts – from Lucian Freud to Google, Anthony Giddens to selfies, Jean-Luc Nancy to Amy Winehouse – Pfannebecker and Smith lay out how the capitalism of globalized technologies has put our time, our subjectivities, our experiences and our desires to work in unprecedented ways.

As every part of life is colonized by work without securing our livelihoods, new questions need to be asked: whether a nostalgia for work can save us, how ideas of work change conceptions of political community, how employment and unemployment alike have become malemployment, and whether the work of our desire online can be disentangled from capitalist exploitation.

The biggest question, at a time when the end of work and a fully automated future are proclaimed by Silicon Valley idealists as well as by social democratic politicians and left-wing theorists, is this: how can we propose a post-work society and culture that we will actually want?

Author Bio

Mareile Pfannebecker is a writer and translator based in Manchester. She has published on Shakespeare, Renaissance travel writing and critical theory.

James A. Smith is the author of Other People’s Politics and Samuel Richardson and the Theory of Tragedy. He is a lecturer in the English department at Royal Holloway, University of London.

Table of Contents

  • Preface: The Putting to Work of Everything We Do
  • 1. Lifework
    • On Not Being a Baker – Nostalgia for Work – What Will We Do in the Post-Work Utopia? – Literary Communism
  • 2. Work Expulsions
    • The End of Unemployment – ‘I Would Prefer Not To’ – Malemployment and Disemployment
  • 3. We Young Girls
    • Histories of the Young Girl – Amy or Peaches? – The Hard Work of Being a Young Girl
  • 4. Three Ways to Want Things After Capitalism
    • The Jetsons Fallacy in Anti-Work Writing – What Does Silicon Valley Want? – Repurpose Your Desire
  • Epilogue: Share Your Limit


'Combining an unprecedented overview of contemporary paradoxes in the politics of anti-work with a fresh and sophisticated argument for a liberatory post-capitalist horizon predicated on sharing limits, Work, Want, Work is a marvellously compact, well-written, informative and thoughtful book.'
Sophie Lewis, author of Full Surrogacy Now: Feminism Against Family

‘A fascinating review of the state of play and work  in contemporary society. Pfannebecker and Smith have produced a little gem of an alternative future; stop "working" and read it!’
Keith Grint, The University of Warwick


Publication Date: 15 March 2020
208 pages

Product ISBNs: Paperback: 9781786997289
Hardback: 9781786997272
eBook ePub: 9781786999962
eBook PDF: 9781786997296
eBook Kindle: 9781786997302

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