Willing Slaves: How the Overwork Culture is Ruling Our Lives Paperback – 6 Jun 2005
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‘Brilliantly thorough and thoroughly brilliant attack on the contemporary work ethic.’ Guardian
‘Excellent.’ Suzanne Moore, Mail on Sunday
‘Highly readable and informative. ’ TLS
From the Publisher
The British now work the longest hours in Europe. British workers are also under more pressure: job intensification affects every shopfloor, office, classroom and hospital, as a cult of efficiency has driven a missionary magnetism of fighter deadlines and more exacting targets in the most exploitative and manipulative work culture developed since the industrial revolution.
What do we get in return for this hard work? Stagnant wages, job insecurity, stress, exhaustion; the British workforce has not been so powerless for over a century. In the last decade, inequality has grown more sharply in Britain than at any time since the Edwardian era; the fat cats pay is now 25 times that of the average worker.
Willing Slaves exposes the paradox that, though were all being exploited, its work that has come to give our lives meaning: religion, political causes, family life have become secondary. This book reveals how this astonishing fraud has been perpetrated, how millions of workers know they face burnout but believe there is no alternative. Bunting tells us what we have to do to take our lives back and what will happen if we dont.See all Product description
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Top customer reviews
The book provokes both thought and outrage in equal measure. By far its greatest strength for me was that it gives the lie to the CBI mantra that we need to enslave workers to remain 'competitive'.
WHAT WOULD'VE MADE IT BETTER - I think Ms Bunting doesn't go far enough. Possibly there is a need to introduce the subject in the 'personalising' way she has in order to make it relatable to readers. However, I would've liked to see a wider and more powerful critique of the fundamental underpinnings of our current society (wealth; acquisition; capital; sterotypical masculinity) that drives the many to be subtly subjugated for the few. I'm not sure the 48hr working week opt-out is the biggest enemy.
I would take issue with the previous reviewer who denigrates the UK public sector worker as cossetted (etc etc usual tired sterotypes). He has obvious zero experience of that which he speaks of. A cursory search of any major news site (BBC; Ananova etc ) will demonstrate both the lower comparative salaries and the major job cuts that the public sector have had to endure recently. The introduction of the so-called 'superior' private sector culture has only led to major pay increases for senior Whitehall mandarins, not Joe and Jill average.
If you've ever wondered whether it was really meant to be this way, this book will at once reassure you that it's not, and kick-start you into making the required changes to get your life back.
It is not a 'self-help' / 'personal growth' book - there are enough of those. And, as the author brilliantly asserts, this focus on personal responsibility for achieving 'work / life balance' etc. is all part of the problem - cultural change, she argues, requires collective action (time to join the union!)
If you find yourself habitually slumped on the sofa on a Sunday night, after a weekend's recovery from a knackering week at work; if you've watched in silent despair as the hobbies you used to love are sacrificed; if you find yourself unable to sleep because your mind is buzzing with an overflowing 'to do' list, order this book without delay. You won't regret it.
The book offers a range of anecdotes, official reports etc, showing that England is largely alone among the developed states in promoting --mostly unpaid-- extra hours of work, to combat very poor productivity and management. Yes. The only society which comes close is the USA, but from this reviewer's experience, employers in the US take their pounds of flesh another way, i.e. by giving very short holidays. On a daily basis, most Americans do not seem to do these pointlessly long hours (most of the office tower lights in Manhattan are off by 7 pm at latest, mostly by 6 pm).
It is a disgrace, as the book says, that the Blair government in the UK is still demanding the right for "the UK" (i.e. employers in the UK, often American-owned transnationals) to "allow" employees to opt-out of the 48 hours Euro maximum. What century is this? Why are white Northern European countries trying to compete with China and India? Europe should put forward its own societal model, if necessary by imposition.
The result, again well shown in the book: a collapsing society composed of stressed employees (especially the managers and professionals), fearful of losing their jobs, who pay for government waste (Millenium Dome, fake "human rights" activities, Olympic bids, foreign wars) and a vast underclass of "chavscum" etc who live parasitically off the crumbs from the table via social security. Marital breakdown, children cynical and criminalized by their teens are all part of the same story, along with the end of any leisured social life (cf. binge drinking on Friday and Saturday nights, unbelievably vulgar hen parties, mass drunkenness etc to wipe out for a few hours the futility of their existences).
A recommended book. True enough to make one into an anarchist or revolutionary. Maybe that might be a good thing. This situation in the UK cannot continue.
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