I’ve been amazed at the depth of response to my Jacobin article, “In the Name of Love,” a refutation of that old banality, “do what you love.” It’s wonderful to see that the conversation about attitudes towards work, namely the pressure to love it, has continued around the internet–on Twitter, in Facebook threads, personal blogs, and even whole articles written about DWYL culture. Below, I’ve posted some of my personal favorites, and I’ve even included a dissenter!
Tasha Golden, in the Ploughshares blog: “The Ploughshares Round-Down: Why ‘Do What You Love’ is Bad Advice” (making a great point below):
Let’s be honest, though: even in love-driven professions, we rarely measure success by the quality of life that results from happily humming along. Instead, we measure it according to publishing deals, tenure, sales, raving reviews.
Neville Morley in The Sphinx Blog: “Antiquity and Modernity,’ C’est moi”
Even if this experience becomes in reality ever more burdensome, and we become conscious of how far it’s actually affecting our happiness and health, we continue to drive ourselves on to breaking point and beyond, partly because of the sense that “this is a job I ought to be loving” and hence failure (in performance and in enjoyment of it) can only be a consequence of personal flaws…
These slogans suggest that passion should be directly connected to paid labor, that you can’t possibly be pursuing your dream if you’re not getting paid for it. Conflating creative passion and capital, however, can be hazardous, as the economic situation of the arts in the United States in particular suggests.
Andrew Smart offers a contrarian view on his blog, The Art and Science of Doing Nothing, “Doing What You Love Does Not Devalue Work or Workers”
It is true that the mantra DWYL in its current form deflects the revolutionary potential of the proletariat, which Tokumitsu mentions only in passing. She comes close to making the true revolutionary argument; but she misses going all the way with how DWYL could be stolen from the spoiled, ignorant and elite post-graduate children of the 1% and spread among the working masses.
Smart says later that my argument assumes that we should “keep the current system of wage-slavery intact as it is.” This prospect of wage-free work-for-love requires that for every task that needs doing, there must be a worker willing to do it out of sheer pleasure at the precise moment it needs to be done. I doubt very much that this could ever the case, barring a change in human nature (and physiology). I do agree that the desperate need to keep earning (often barely or not even enough to cover expenses) is highly oppressive, and yet I’m not convinced going full-DWYL is a practical solution.
I’d also add that work done out of even the deepest love isn’t always intellect-cultivating or pleasure-refining, as he claims, channeling Wilhelm von Humboldt. Many a person who’s tried to soothe a colicky baby at 4am can testify to this. Smart cites Humboldt heavily but excuses him for failing to consider female labor. However, if we’re going to talk about work-for-love, I think it’s wise to look at the very people who are already considered to be doing just that.
All the same, a big thank you to Smart for taking time to respond and for giving me something to think about.
Finally, Leah Libresco posted an excellent response, “Don’t Love Your Job. Love People.” over at American Conservative (yes, a Jacobin article was praised in American Conservative):
Employers can only sell us the aspirations they have in stock.
Have you come across any particularly thought-provoking responses to “In the Name of Love”? If so, I’d be much obliged if you shared them with me.