6 May 2011

Book: Ivor Southwood, Non-Stop Inertia

In this short but sweet scrutiny of labour management structures in Britain published by Zero Books in 2011, Ivor Southwood's semi-autobiographical critique pulls what could have been a standard macroscopic analysis of employment systems, production pressures and precarious work into an intimate, microscopic commentary on the production of a world of precarious workers.

Sometimes diatribe but constantly engrossing,
the text maps an insidious culture of workstyle transience extending into the level of lifestyle organisation. Through the plethora of fascinating analyses on such experiences as the precariousness of temp work, jobseeking as a career, and technologies which insist upon obligatory availability, Southwood compiles these and the production of their corresponding anxieties as evidence in exposing a society's cultish obsession with perpetuating a disconcerting but nonetheless normalised state of "non-stop inertia".

"Beneath the veneer of lifestyle choices, in reality most people cannot afford to accept or reject particular jobs according to their own ethical preferences or pursue outside interests which are not strictly 'goal-oriented'. ... Such preoccupations divert attention away from wider abstract social or political concerns and onto a continual anxious self-surveillance. This constant precariousness and restless mobility, compounded by a dependence upon relentlessly updating market-driven technology and scrolling CGI of digital media, together suggest a sort of cultural stagflation, a population revving up without getting anywhere. The result is a kind of frenetic inactivity: we are caught in a cycle of non-stop inertia." (11)

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