The Refusal of Work: Precarity, Scarcity, Affect
This seminar, led by Maurizia Boscagli, UC Santa Barbara, studied the nexus of work and happiness today, at a time when work has changed into new forms (immaterial, cognitive, affective), and has become scarce. If the contemporary precarity and scarcity of work are the reasons for the most widespread psychopathy of post-Fordism and depression, what does the refusal of work (from Jules Lafargue’s celebration of laziness to Italian Autonomism’s experiences with a life against the routine of productive and leisure time during the 1970s) promise? Can the “aesthetic” quality of this life against work, which echoes both the aristocratic distance of the dandy and the opposition of the political agitator (the Surrealists, the Situationists) become the means to new social relations, to new economic forms, to a new understanding of happiness? Can the refusal of work illuminate in new ways the work we do in the humanities in today’s academy?

Students in the seminar engaged in weekly discussions of readings and films that touched on neoliberalism, immaterial work, feminist viewpoints on precarious labor, and student debt, among many others. In addition to the seminar, students participated in a two-day conference entitled “Commoning Precarity: No Work, Refusal, Autonomy” that included graduate student presentations and invited speakers such as Kathie Weeks (Duke University) and Douglas Kellner (UCLA).

English 236  The Refusal of Work: Precarity, Scarcity, Affect

Winter 2013

Maurizia Boscagli

Full Syllabus and reading list (The Refusal of Work)

Required Texts

David Harvey, A Brief History of Neoliberalism

Franco Berardi, The Soul at Work

Lauren Berlant, Cruel Optimism

Maurizio Lazzarato, The Making of the Indebted Man

David Graeber, Revolutions in Reverse

A reader with the rest of the readings will be available at Grafikart, Isla Vista

Screenings:

Ken Loach, Riff Raff, (1991)

Derrick Borte, The Joneses, (2009)

Guido Chiesa, Lavorare con lentezza, (2004)

Pierre and Jean-Luc Dardenne, La Promesse,  (1996)

Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne, Rosetta, (1999)

Stephen Frears, Dirty Pretty Things, (2002)

Leila Kilani, On the Edge, (2012)

Guido Chiesa, Lavorare con lentezza, (Work Slowly, 2004)

Fernando Leon de Aranoa, Amador, (2010)

Ken Loach, It’s A Free World, (2007) 

Lucy Walker and Karen Harley, Waste Land, (2010)

Poster for UCSB's Commoning Precarity Conference

Poster for UCSB’s Commoning Precarity Conference