cover image The Amateur: The Pleasures of Doing What You Love

The Amateur: The Pleasures of Doing What You Love

Andy Merrifield. Verso, $24.95 (224p) ISBN 978-1-78663-106-0

This treatise against commercialism, professionalism, and paid work partakes of the grand tradition of political literary criticism. Merrifield (Magical Marxism) finds the drudgery of today’s world was predicted and portrayed in the words of Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Franz Kafka, Laurence Sterne, and even the Grimm brothers. He also charges society with failing to heed the well-meaning directives of such great thinkers as Hannah Arendt, Rachel Carson, Karl Marx, and Plato. These true “amateurs” and their fictional doppelgangers, claims Merrifield, retained a quality of irreverence and joy needed to avoid “bourgeois values and professional pretensions.” With the help of these hallowed names, the author paints a vividly dystopian vision of higher education, city planning, the political system, big data, and numerous other modern phenomena. The beauty of this book is in its delightfully derisive phrases: “The political doors between the public and private don’t just revolve; they spin like washing machines.” Who cares if the conceit of “amateur” vs. “professional” feels forced, or that the solutions—community land trusts as community builders, a new Greek agora—seem fantastical? The book is a satisfying celebration of the “great romantic dream... a society that breaks free of the vicious circle of undefined productivity.” (May)