Responses to “In the Name of Love”

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…

Kyle Chayka in Pacific Standard: Should You Really Love Your Job?”

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.

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11 Responses to Responses to “In the Name of Love”

  1. Robert stark says:

    I know more than a few artists (painters) who have lived by their wits for the past 45 years, we as a group are in our late 60’s and 70’s. Most of us eventually had enough sales that we bought places to live. Few of us ever had regular jobs and more than a few have died, some by suicide.

  2. diait says:

    I also found this:

    I’m translating your article for an Italian magazine. Could I ask a few questions, possibly in pvt?

  3. Ally Gobi says:

    Quoted you over at my blog ( and already have a lively discussion forming in the comments.

    In my post I reference four pieces (including yours) that critique this movement, each in a different way. And yet there are still others!

    Thankyou for your work.

  4. jonnybutter says:

    Enjoyed your piece in Jacobin. DWYL is just another rationalization of the modern neoliberal conception of the ‘Invisible Hand’ (different from Smith’s, btw). Capitalism is not only completely inevitable and natural, but as such it is a perfect machine which runs on its own if it has the right inputs (i.e. your ‘passion’).

    In this post you say: “ done out of even the deepest love isn’t always intellect-cultivating or pleasure-refining”. This is true not only in terms of things like child rearing, but in just about all creative activity, which inevitably requires lots of boring, tedious work.

  5. Javier says:

    I just read your work from Spain. I’d like to translate some quotes to Spanish. I’d like to read more of your articles here, please don’t give up the blog!

    • mt says:

      Do not worry…I will post any news of new publications or media appearances on the blog. Please feel free to translate parts of the article—I believe there is a full Spanish translation out there, but of course translation is an art, so you may have a particular way of putting certain lines into Spanish. Thanks for your interest!

  6. Matt says:

    Hi Interesting article. I recently heard a work historian on CBC radio who said the idea of enjoying your work is actually no more than 50 years old. Most people had no choice. Work for most was a means to an end and that was okay. People derived their sense of purpose and meaning by participating in (primarily) the Church, family and community groups, or even the war effort. Our culture is comparatively narcissistic, I guess.

    I think identifying your Strengths and trying to apply them in your work and workplace is a more practical endeavour.

    It can be a releif to accept the work you have to do.

  7. I have yet to get beyond the fact that nearly everyone can’t love their job, period. Because they have no choices at all. Apple used to have that T-shirt 90 Hours a Week and Lovin’ It and I flatly believe half of the people that wore it did it so they wouldnt be laid off and the other half were victims of false consciousness and faddishness. That the tiny remnant of humanity that actually has jobs they can pretend to love or actually love also have issues is almost beside the point. That said, it’s good writing and a good thing to get out there.

  8. Shirley0401 says:

    I’m sure you’ve seen this by now, but didn’t see it mentioned in your post, so thought I’d post here for other stumblers…

  9. salvamaria says:

    It looks like Smart’s blog is offline now, but can be found on the Wayback Machine here:

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