Lost in Work: Escaping Capitalism by Amelia Horgan

Lost in Work is a highly accessible look at the history of work, the current situation, and how we might escape what capitalism has told us is the only way to live. Horgan explores what work is, how it has a history of harm, and what we might push for in the future to make ‘work’ much less damaging than it currently is.

I’d heard a lot of hype around this book (from Twitter at least) and it lived up to the hype, being strangely gripping for a book about work that I was mostly reading around working from home (reading it whilst tired from work felt very fitting). The chapters are short and combine real world examples and theoretical points with analysis of sources like Marx, Britney Spears, and My Year of Rest and Relaxation. I particularly liked this blending of material and the way they were all used to elicit points about work, about power relations, and who benefits from work.

Another thing I liked about the book was the fact that the conclusion didn’t try to give a single answer for what needs to happen to ‘fix’ work or change it (or, as Horgan says, ‘denaturalise’ work, making visible the fact that it is not natural and unchanging, but has resulted from historical conditions and power relations), but offers up some of the potential suggestions and considers how a combined and collective approach may be more effective. It’s a good balance between the shrug emoji (or, as the book critiques, just blaming capitalism and acting like there’s nothing to be done) and suggesting that there is one straightforward way forward.

As well as a really interesting book engaging with theory and pop culture as it relates to work, Lost in Work is also a great opportunity to reflect on your own thoughts around work and what they’ve been influenced by, and also wider ideas about things like productivity. Maybe that’s just ironic as I’m choosing to review a book for fun, but still. A thoughtful book with a well-judged tone.