POLITICAL SCIENCE

Worked Over: How Round-the-Clock Work Is Killing the American Dream

Basic. Sept. 2020. 272p. ISBN 9781541618343. $28. POL SCI
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Sociologist McCallum’s latest work (after Global Unions, Local Power) stands out among a spate of recent books about the dismal conditions of workers by offering a unifying focus on employees’ loss of control over their jobs. The author specifically deals with the tension between employers’ increasing demand for productivity and workers’ need to maintain (or regain) control over their own time. McCallum’s book is rich with examples of middle- and working-class responses to job-related time pressures. A few cases seem quirky (1973 astronaut in-space strike or a strippers’ union protest), but even those fit well with his theme that workers without control over their time will, too often tragically, buckle under the conditions or, through remarkable effort, resist. The author traces the rise of modern time control to the early 20th-century managerial revolution that increasingly employed surveillance and technology to demand worker efficiency. Mid-20th-century labor movement focused on wages and benefits rather reclaiming time. Fragmented organized labor and emphasis on individual satisfaction through intensive work dominated the late 20th century. A well-focused chapter on changes in the welfare system reveals the role of government in demanding workers’ time.
VERDICT Subtly drawing on classic Marxian theory that capitalism steals laborers’ lives as well as their work, McCallum’s book will find a welcome audience among those concerned about global working conditions.

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