Reading list

Why does the left talk so much about work? Verso Student Reading on Labor and Marxism

Books on work and Marxist theory, from across 50 years of publishing at Verso!

Verso Books21 August 2023

Why does the left talk so much about work? Verso Student Reading on Labor and Marxism

Why is every workplace tyrannical? Why must capitalists constantly intensify their exploitation of labour? And how can workers best fight today to gain power?

The demands of workers continue to be scoffed at, and yet in the past year the labour movement has continued to fight for victories — hot strike summer rolls on!

Given that the basic social relations have not changed since the dawn of capitalism, studying the history of labor's victories in the past might provide clues to how gains can be won in the future.

[book-strip index="1"]

[book-strip index="2"]

See all our recommended Student Reading here

How to Be an Anticapitalist in the Twenty-First Century
Capitalism has transformed the world and increased our productivity, but at the cost of enormous human suffering. Our shared values equality and fairness, democracy and freedom, community and solid...
Prisoners of the American Dream
Prisoners of the American Dream is Mike Davis’s brilliant exegesis of a persistent and major analytical problem for Marxist historians and political economists: Why has the world’s most industriall...
Automation and the Future of Work
Silicon Valley titans, politicians, techno-futurists and social critics have united in arguing that we are living on the cusp of an era of rapid technological automation, heralding the end of work ...
The New Spirit of Capitalism
In this major work, sociologists Luc Boltanski and Eve Chiapello go to the heart of the changes in contemporary capitalism. Via an unprecedented analysis of the latest management texts that have fo...
The Political Writings
Karl Marx was not only the great theorist of capitalism, he was also a superb journalist, politician and historian. For the first time ever, this book brings together all of his essential political...
The Communist Manifesto
In the two decades following the fall of the Berlin Wall, global capitalism became entrenched in its modern, neoliberal form. Its triumph was so complete that the word “capitalism” itself fell out ...
The Knowledge Economy
Adam Smith and Karl Marx recognized that the best way to understand the economy is to study the most advanced practice of production. Today that practice is no longer conventional manufacturing: it...
The Future is Degrowth
Economic growth isn’t working, and it cannot be made to work. Offering a counter-history of how economic growth emerged in the context of colonialism, fossil-fueled industrialization, and capitalis...
Post-Growth Living
The reality of runaway climate change is inextricably linked with the mass consumerist, capitalist society in which we live. And the cult of endless growth, and endless consumption of cheap disposa...
Inventing the Future
Neoliberalism isn’t working. Austerity is forcing millions into poverty and many more into precarious work, while the left remains trapped in stagnant political practices that offer no respite.Inve...
Raising Expectations (and Raising Hell)
In 1995, in the first contested election in the history of the AFL-CIO, John Sweeney won the presidency of the nation’s largest labor federation, promising renewal and resurgence. Today, less than ...
Work Without the Worker
We are told that the future of work will be increasingly automated. Algorithms, processing massive amounts of information at startling speed, will lead us to a new world of effortless labour and a ...
Half-Earth Socialism
‘Building a society that operates within ecological constraints requires an unleashing of our political imaginations, and this book helps us do just that’—Astra Taylor, author of The Age of Insecur...
Work

Work

Andrea Komlosy argues in this important intervention that, when we examine it closely, work changes its meanings according to different historical and regional contexts. Globalizing labour history ...
Peasant-Citizen and Slave
The controversial thesis at the center of this study is that, despite the importance of slavery in Athenian society, the most distinctive characteristic of Athenian democracy was the unprecedented ...
The Wages of Whiteness

The Wages of Whiteness

An enduring history of how race and class came together to mark the course of the antebellum US and our present crisis. Roediger shows that in a nation pledged to independence, but less and less ab...
Proletarian China
In 2021, the Chinese Communist Party celebrated a century of existence. Since the Party’s humble beginnings in the Marxist groups of the Republican era to its current global ambitions, one thing ha...
After Work
Does it ever feel like you have no free time? You come home after work and instead of finding a space of rest and relaxation, you're confronted by a pile of new tasks to complete – cooking, cleanin...
The Rising of the Women

The Rising of the Women

In this landmark study of American labor history, Meredith Tax charts the actions of women in working-class, feminist, and socialist movements between 1880 and 1917 in the USA. Caught between the h...
Value

Value

This influential collection of essays focuses on the elusive concept of “value,” and aims to answer the question “Why is Marx’s theory of value so important?” Aboo Aumeeruddy and Ramon Tortajada ...
Red State Revolt
Thirteen months after Trump allegedly captured the allegiance of “the white working class,” a strike wave—the first in over four decades—rocked the United States. Inspired by the wildcat victory in...
Willing Slaves of Capital

Willing Slaves of Capital

Why do people work for other people? This seemingly naïve question is more difficult to answer than one might at first imagine, and it lies at the heart of Lordon's Willing Slaves of Capital. To ...
Claiming the City
Winner of the International Labor History Association (ILHA) 2023 Book of the Year Award for labor historyFor more than a century, municipal socialism has fired the imaginations of workers fighting...
Women's Work, Men's Property

Women's Work, Men's Property

“To some a book on the origins of sexual inequality is absurd. Male dominance seems to them a universal, if not inevitable, phenomenon that has been with us since the dawn of our species. The essay...
Critique of Economic Reason
André Gorz’s earlier books—from Ecology as Politics to Farewell to the Working Class and Paths to Paradise—have informed and inspired the most radical currents in Green movements in Europe and Amer...
The Death and Life of American Labor
Union membership in the United States has fallen below 11 percent, the lowest rate since before the New Deal. Labor activist and scholar of the American labor movement Stanley Aronowitz argues that...
Workers and Capital
Workers and Capital is universally recognised as the most important work produced by operaismo, a current of political thought emerging in the 1960s that revolutionised the institutional and extra-...
A Companion To Marx's Capital
In recent years, we have witnessed a surge of interest in Marx’s work in the effort to understand the origins of our current predicament. For nearly forty years, David Harvey has written and lectur...
Revolting Prostitutes
How the law harms sex workers - and what they want insteadDo you have to endorse prostitution in order to support sex worker rights? Should clients be criminalized, and can the police deliver justi...
Envisioning Real Utopias
Rising inequality of income and power, along with recent convulsions in the finance sector, have made the search for alternatives to unbridled capitalism more urgent than ever. Yet few are attempti...
A Companion To Marx's Capital
In recent years, we have witnessed a surge of interest in Marx’s work in the effort to understand the origins of our current predicament. For nearly forty years, David Harvey has written and lectur...
How to Be an Anticapitalist in the Twenty-First Century
Capitalism has transformed the world and increased our productivity, but at the cost of enormous human suffering. Our shared values equality and fairness, democracy and freedom, community and solid...
Envisioning Real Utopias
Rising inequality of income and power, along with recent convulsions in the finance sector, have made the search for alternatives to unbridled capitalism more urgent than ever. Yet few are attempti...
Prisoners of the American Dream
Prisoners of the American Dream is Mike Davis’s brilliant exegesis of a persistent and major analytical problem for Marxist historians and political economists: Why has the world’s most industriall...
Workers in a Lean World
In this comprehensive study of current labour relations worldwide, Kim Moody surveys both sides of the picket lines. He provides a measured assessment of multinational managements’ strategies to do...
Democracy Against Capitalism
Historian and political thinker Ellen Meiksins Wood argues that theories of “postmodern” fragmentation, “difference”, and contingency can barely accommodate the idea of capitalism, let alone subjec...
The Death and Life of American Labor
Union membership in the United States has fallen below 11 percent, the lowest rate since before the New Deal. Labor activist and scholar of the American labor movement Stanley Aronowitz argues that...
Raising Expectations (and Raising Hell)
In 1995, in the first contested election in the history of the AFL-CIO, John Sweeney won the presidency of the nation’s largest labor federation, promising renewal and resurgence. Today, less than ...
Automation and the Future of Work
Silicon Valley titans, politicians, techno-futurists and social critics have united in arguing that we are living on the cusp of an era of rapid technological automation, heralding the end of work ...
The New Spirit of Capitalism
In this major work, sociologists Luc Boltanski and Eve Chiapello go to the heart of the changes in contemporary capitalism. Via an unprecedented analysis of the latest management texts that have fo...
Fully Automated Luxury Communism
Fully Automated Luxury Communism promises a radically new left future for everyone. New technologies will liberate us from work, providing the opportunity to build a society beyond both capitalism ...

Filed under: student-reading, versoreadinglists