The "Do What You Love, Love What You Do" Work Mantra is Bullshit


Fri, Jan 17th, 2014 10:00 by capnasty NEWS

Whenever someone tells me they love their job, I ask them, "would you do your job for free?"

Unsurprisingly, after a brief "I hadn't thought of it that way" pause, everyone answers with a humbled "no". It's nice to think that the work mantra of Do What You Love, Love What You Do (DWYL) applies to all of us, but as Miya Tokumitsu explains on Jacobin Magazine, "it leads not to salvation, but to the devaluation of actual work, including the very work it pretends to elevate —and more importantly, the dehumanization of the vast majority of laborers." This part pretty much nails it:

[…] the most important recent evangelist of the DWYL creed is deceased Apple CEO Steve Jobs.

His graduation speech to the Stanford University class of 2005 provides as good an origin myth as any, especially since Jobs had already been beatified as the patron saint of aestheticized work well before his early death. In the speech, Jobs recounts the creation of Apple, and inserts this reflection:

You’ve got to find what you love. And that is as true for your work as it is for your lovers. Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do.

In these four sentences, the words “you” and “your” appear eight times. This focus on the individual is hardly surprising coming from Jobs, who cultivated a very specific image of himself as a worker: inspired, casual, passionate — all states agreeable with ideal romantic love. Jobs telegraphed the conflation of his besotted worker-self with his company so effectively that his black turtleneck and blue jeans became metonyms for all of Apple and the labor that maintains it.

But by portraying Apple as a labor of his individual love, Jobs elided the labor of untold thousands in Apple’s factories, conveniently hidden from sight on the other side of the planet —the very labor that allowed Jobs to actualize his love.

The violence of this erasure needs to be exposed. While “do what you love” sounds harmless and precious, it is ultimately self-focused to the point of narcissism. […]



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