Dirty Work: Essential Jobs and the Hidden Toll of Inequality in America

Farrar. Aug. 2021. 320p. ISBN 9780374140182. $28. SOC SCI
In this book, journalist Press (Beautiful Souls; Absolute Convictions) makes a comparison between the way Germans in the 1940s turned a blind eye to the Nazis’ genocidal final solution and the way 21st-century Americans ignore the realities of morally compromised jobs that we ask less privileged people in our society to perform. Press’s book is based on interviews with workers. He speaks with a U.S. prison worker about how the system worked against her when she witnessed abuse and wanted to intervene; talks with “joystick warriors” (people who operate remote drone strikes on foreign cities from the U.S.) about the mental trauma they experience when their work kills civilians; and interviews some of the many immigrants (some undocumented) working at meat processing plants about how cruelty to animals and unsafe conditions on the job can scar workers’ minds and bodies. Press also compares today’s dangerous, poorly paid cobalt-mining jobs to historical coal mining. In a contrasting account, he speaks with a tech worker who left Google when he became aware of questionable surveillance tactics the company was using. Press argues that this worker’s education level and social class gave him choices unavailable to other people working “dirty” jobs.
VERDICT Americans might ignore dirty work, Eyal concludes, but we are all complicit in it. Essential reading for those interested in social justice issues.
Comment Policy:
  • Be respectful, and do not attack the author, people mentioned in the article, or other commenters. Take on the idea, not the messenger.
  • Don't use obscene, profane, or vulgar language.
  • Stay on point. Comments that stray from the topic at hand may be deleted.
  • Comments may be republished in print, online, or other forms of media.
  • If you see something objectionable, please let us know. Once a comment has been flagged, a staff member will investigate.



We are currently offering this content for free. Sign up now to activate your personal profile, where you can save articles for future viewing