cover image Overtime: Why We Need a Shorter Working Week

Overtime: Why We Need a Shorter Working Week

Kyle Lewis and Will Stronge. Verso, $14.95 trade paper (160p) ISBN 978-1-78873-868-2

In this brisk and persuasive polemic, Lewis and Stronge, researchers at the U.K. think tank Autonomy, make the case for a four-day work week, without a loss in average pay for workers. They blame stagnant wages, unpaid overtime, and precarious employment on neoliberal efforts to “smash the power of collective workers,” and cite Karl Marx to explain how the enclosure of the commons in the 15th and 16th centuries gave rise to wage labor, setting the conditions wherein employers can push workers “to their physical limits” and impose strict expectations and codes of conduct. They also consider how a shorter work week would benefit women (who are often saddled with the brunt of unpaid labor at home) and the environment (by reducing workers’ carbon footprints). Noting that trade unions and progressive politicians in Europe and the U.S. have backed a four-day work week, and that the Covid-19 pandemic has raised awareness of the need for workplace reforms, the authors advocate for a grassroots social movement to unite behind the cause, though their analysis of the political and economic forces that stand in the way is somewhat underdeveloped. Still, this is a lucid call for harnessing the power of collective action to strike a better work-life balance. [em](Sept.) [/em]