Lewis Birchon's Reviews > Lost in Work: Escaping Capitalism

Lost in Work by Amelia Horgan
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Lost in Work falls into the same trap as many of these recent rethinking capitalism books: they extensively describe the system they propose to replace without conceiving of what could replace it. As such, Horgan’s account of surveillance capitalism at work, and the encroachment of work into identity, is perhaps the book’s high point, but there are no practical takeaways or alternatives other than joint a union and form a commune.

A particular weakness of the book is to describe everything as ‘violence’. Out-of-hours email and housework are violence, as is systemic injustices that disproportionately affect marginalised individuals. The latter is correctly defined as violence, but if everything is violence, nothing is.

The most significant weakness in Horgan’s polemic (and that’s what this is, no matter how it may be couched in pseudoacademic language) is that many of its arguments are evidenced by junk citations. Data is rarely traced back to its original source, more often just linked to an article on the Guardian, or Vice, or occasionally The Spectator.

This is cherry picking, at best, but the most egregious claims are backed up by no citations. The section on the state of schools in the UK is almost entirely wrong and backed up by no evidence, for entirely obvious reasons. If you read closely, you can almost hear the exasperated editor who tempered a typically wide-ranging assertion (‘While they’re not typical in the UK where their covert use is illegal, they are common practice in the US, where it’s legal to film a care-worker in your home’) with a qualifying footnote (‘in some states, filming in private spaces like bedrooms and bathrooms is not permitted’).

There’s a good book to be written about the creep of work into personal life and identity, and about the workification of leisure, but this isn’t it.
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Reading Progress

December 23, 2021 – Started Reading
December 23, 2021 – Shelved
December 26, 2021 – Finished Reading

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