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OFF-KILTER with Rebecca Vallas

Feb 3, 2023

Continuing Off-Kilter’s ongoing series of conversations with leaders across the economic justice movement delving into why, in the famous words of Audre Lorde, self-care is indeed political warfare—and the role radical self-care plays in their own lives to sustain them in this work—this week’s episode zooms out to take a look at the “labor of love” ideology underpinning the notion that social justice advocates must “suffer for the cause.” To do that, Rebecca sat down with longtime labor reporter Sarah Jaffe, whose latest book Work Won’t Love You Back surveys a host of structural factors that have conspired to create burnout culture and what Rebecca has come to call “work sickness” in America’s nonprofit sector—which doesn’t overlap perfectly with the social justice movement but which plays an outsized role in employing people who feel called to devote their lives to a particular social justice cause. They had a far-ranging conversation about the origins of America’s “labor of love” ideology; the history of the nonprofit sector and the culture of martyrdom that’s become so deeply embedded in movement work; how “work sickness” has come to be its own cross-class pandemic amidst late-stage capitalism; and why radical self-care requires redefining our relationship to work. 

For more:

  • Read Work Won’t Love You Back (the whole thing is worth reading, but chapter 5 focuses on the nonprofit sector)
  • Follow Sarah on Twitter @sarahljaffe