A theoretical investigation into the culture of precarious work, digital consumption and personal flexibility, calling for a counter-discourse of resistance.
In our culture of short term work, mobile communications and rolling media it seems we are always on the move; but are we really getting anywhere? Non-Stop Inertia argues that this appearance of restless activity conceals and indeed maintains a deep paralysis of thought and action, and that rather than being unquestionable or inevitable, the environment of personal flexibility and perpetual crisis which we now inhabit is ideologically constructed.
Illustrating its arguments with actual examples and using theory to make connections and unlock meanings, the book shows how in our constant anxious pursuit of work and leisure we are running on the spot against a scrolling CGI backdrop. As performative labourers, full time jobseekers, social networkers and consumer citizens we are so preoccupied by the business of being ourselves that our real identities are forgotten and our dreams of resistance buried. This text rejects the positive script of the virtual state and suggests that in order to instigate genuine change we must refuse to go with the flow.
REVIEWS & ENDORSEMENTS
- Given the oft daunting task of wading through post-autonomist and political economic theory (e.g. The New Spirit of Capitalism) Southwood’s book is a welcome jump off point and a real success for Zer0 books. It delivers an accessible, challenging and altogether human analysis of labour conditions in the Global North and is an important contribution to a discussion much needed within the Left at large. ~ Ben Lear, http://res0nance.wordpress.com
Ivor Southwood has experienced that nightmare personally and has chronicled his postgraduate serial-temping limbo in Non-Stop Inertia, an attempt to theorize the usefulness of unemployment to the existing order and the social ramifications of the omnipresent threat of joblessness. During the recession, some Pollyannas went so far as to deny the very possibility that the young and educated can really be unemployed — remember "funemployment”? Southwood offers a stark corrective to that view, detailing the series of demoralizing encounters he has with human-resources departments and callous temp-agency functionaries who make his irrelevance palpable. Without the routines of regular work, he becomes plagued with self-doubt and feels ordinary human hopefulness slip away from him.
Southwood ably delineates the concept of 'precarity' in Non-Stop Inertia’s succinct and accessible theoretical chapters. ~ Rob Horning, The New Inquiry
This analysis of such a pervasive and important phenomenon serves not only the unemployed or fearful public sector workers, but everyone who works too many hours, too few, or simply feels insecure. ~ The Oxonian Review
An incisive and intelligently paced critique. . ~ Emmet O'Cuana , www.abookadaytillicanstay.wordpress.com
Ivor Southwood has incisively tapped into the emotional landscape of the always-available, always-looking-for-work world of precarious labour – and passionately found a way to navigate around and beyond the incessant stupefaction. Writing, from the inside, about the monotonous unpredictability of intermittent work, the privatisation of welfare and its often absurdly punishing routines, an intimately managed emotional labour that is as exhausting as it is pointless, and covering theories of the spread of contingent work in an accessible way, Southwood has accomplished something extraordinary. Non-Stop Inertia registers the tragedy and the farce, elicits anger and laughter and finally shows that while it might not always be possible to withdraw one's labour by going on strike, it might be necessary to withhold the emotional connection that is demanded in the exchange. Non-Stop Inertia's witty riposte in short is to behave as the robot that we are expected to be, as a way beyond being treated as if one is. A beautiful book. ~ Angela Mitropoulos, Queen Mary, University of London, author of Precari-Us?