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Willing Slaves: How the Overwork Culture is Ruling Our Lives Paperback – 21 Jun 2004
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‘A brilliantly thorough and thoroughly brilliant attack on the contemporary work ethic' Guardian
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. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.See all Product description
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.
The best part of the book is that it describes what appears to happening on an all-too-often basis.
However, it does not fully explain why employees behave like they do.
In other words, what it does is look at the symptoms of our so-called modern work ethic and not so much focusing on what forces are shaping the self.
We need to know more about how powerful groups influence behaviour, sustain their influence over time, and absolve themselves of the aftermath from overwork.
This I feel cannot be explained through reference to secondary resources or personal accounts.
In short, this book is provocative to the point where I would expect the book to be mentioned for some time yet as we ponder over effects of work on our non-work lives. But, the momentum needs to be continued or taken up by someone who can better explain the forces that shape behaviour in the workplace and outside the workplace.
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.