Nice Work If You Can Get It: Life and Labor in Precarious Times

Hardcover (Print)
Used and New from Other Sellers
Used and New from Other Sellers
from $8.87
Usually ships in 1-2 business days
(Save 88%)
Other sellers (Hardcover)
  • All (7) from $8.87   
  • New (3) from $61.58   
  • Used (4) from $8.87   


2009 Choice Outstanding Academic Title

Is job insecurity the new norm? With fewer and fewer people working in steady, long-term positions for one employer, has the dream of a secure job with full benefits and a decent salary become just that—a dream?

In Nice Work If You Can Get It, Andrew Ross surveys the new topography of the global workplace and finds an emerging pattern of labor instability and uneven development on a massive scale. Combining detailed case studies with lucid analysis and graphic prose, he looks at what the new landscape of contingent employment means for workers across national, class, and racial lines—from the emerging “creative class” of high-wage professionals to the multitudes of temporary, migrant, or low-wage workers. Developing the idea of “precarious livelihoods” to describe this new world of work and life, Ross explores what it means in developed nations—comparing the creative industry policies of the United States, United Kingdom, and European Union, as well as developing countries—by examining the quickfire transformation of China’s labor market. He also responds to the challenge of sustainability, assessing the promise of “green jobs” through restorative alliances between labor advocates and environmentalists.

Ross argues that regardless of one’s views on labor rights, globalization, and quality of life, this new precarious and “indefinite life,&” and the pitfalls and opportunities that accompany it is likely here to stay and must be addressed in a systematic way. A more equitable kind of knowledge society emerges in these pages—less skewed toward flexploitation and the speculative beneficiaries of intellectual property, and more in tune with ideals and practices that are fair, just, and renewable.

Read More Show Less

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Though Ross favors ironic twists on cliches like Nice Work If You Can Get It, he might also have titled the book Working Absurd. And though he would probably resist the high handed aspect of the public intellectual, he has fleshed out the precarious and inequitable terms of contemporary labor, meeting people where they are."

-The Chronicle Review

“This excellent and, in places, brilliant book should be read by anyone interested in a timely and astute analysis of the malaise of life and work in neoliberal postmodern society. . . . Highly recommended.”

“According to Ross, job insecurity became commonplace long before the current financial debacle. As economies shifted from industry to information, the benefits and securities of the Keynesian era quietly gave way to a workforce of temps, freelancers, adjuncts, and migrants. Ross finds that city fathers are more interested in Olympic bids and stadium projects than in sustainable employment, while corporations spend more on ‘social responsibility’ public-relations campaigns than on addressing worker complaints, and activists are too focussed on narrow concerns to find common cause with natural allies.”
-The New Yorker

“Illuminating. . . . Who knows what will be on the table when the damage of the global crisis is told? At the very least, one may hope for a return to security, sensible financial regulation, and a renewed interest in economic equity. Other worlds are possible, and with luck thinkers like Ross can point the way to imagining them more fully.”

“With admirable timing, [Ross] examines a global workplace infrastructure that’s as shaky as the economy would indicate. . . . Though far from uplifting, this is a bold, pointed look at reality as it is, a far more valuable commodity.”
-Publishers Weekly, Starred Review

“Economic liberalization, [Ross] demonstrates, has opened up a frenetic global traffic in jobs and migrants, uprooting people in a manner both useful and troubling to the managers of capital. In short, more people are available to exploit, but they are also harder to control. . . . A thorough and thoughtful study of global professional insecurity.”
-The Times Literary Supplement

Nice Work If You Can Get It, insists that the combination of transnational capitalism and globalization has eliminated stability and security from the lives of working people.”-The New Leader

"Nice Work provides insight into a sea change in labor markets and work lives that has occurred over the past forty years. It is an intelligent work that raises thought-provoking questions about contingent labor."-Steven T. Sheehan,Enterprise and Society

“What is compelling about Ross’s analysis of precarity is recognition that the ‘movement’ of these part-time workers is loaded with a host of internal contradictions. The concept of precarity has been deployed by academics and organized labor to describe the ‘condition of social and economic insecurity associated with post-Fordist employment and neoliberal governance (p. 34). […] As Ross asks: ‘Even if this concept is theoretically plausible, does it make sense to imagine cross-class coalitions of the precarious capable of developing a unity of consciousness and action on an international scale?’ (p. 6). Indeed, this remains a pertinent question considering the debates emerging as a result of the international Occupy phenomenon.”-Critical Sociology

Publishers Weekly
Starred Review.

With admirable timing, this volume examines a global workplace infrastructure that's as shaky as the economy would indicate. Taking a hard line against exploitation of workers in a variety of roles worldwide, Ross looks closely at workers on the verge, and those putting them there. In the chapter "China's Next Cultural Revolution?", he warns that "Beijing's rulers have nothing to worry about" so long as "the creative sector behaves like other industries... They can be groomed and promoted... to absorb foreign investment and foreign ideas, to exploit low production costs...." He tackles the Western world with the same nonplussed tone, as when discussing corporate PR tactics to deny ties to labor abuses by promoting social good, naming names like Nike, Reebok and the Gap. He also hits higher education, where much of the workplace is shaped, noting that it's "all too easy to conclude that the global university, as it takes shape, will emulate some of the conduct of multinational corporations." Rejecting the widely influential, free marketeer notion of a worldwide "playing field," Ross leaves no room for easy answers (or an "alternative, and equally snappy, image" to answer Thomas Friedman's or Richard Florida's). Though far from uplifting, this is a bold, pointed look at reality as it is, a far more valuable commodity.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Read More Show Less

Product Details

Meet the Author

Andrew Ross is Professor of American Studies in the Department of Social and Cultural Analysis at New York University. He is the author and editor of numerous books, including No-Collar, Fast Boat to China, No Respect, Strange Weather, and, from NYU Press, Anti-Americanism and Real Love.

Read More Show Less

Table of Contents

I Creative Workers and Rent-Seeking
1 The Mercurial Career of Creative Industries Policymaking in the United Kingdom, the European Union, and the United States
2 China’s Next Cultural Revolution?
3 The Olympic Goose That Lays the Golden Egg
II Sustainability and the Ground Staff
4 Teamsters, Turtles, and Tainted Toys
5 Learning from San Ysidro
III Instruments of Knowledge Capitalism
6 The Copyfight over Intellectual Property
7 The Rise of the Global University
Conclusion: Maps and Charters
About the Author

Read More Show Less

Customer Reviews

Be the first to write a review
( 0 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star


4 Star


3 Star


2 Star


1 Star


Your Rating:

Your Name: Create a Pen Name or

Barnes & Review Rules

Our reader reviews allow you to share your comments on titles you liked, or didn't, with others. By submitting an online review, you are representing to Barnes & that all information contained in your review is original and accurate in all respects, and that the submission of such content by you and the posting of such content by Barnes & does not and will not violate the rights of any third party. Please follow the rules below to help ensure that your review can be posted.

Reviews by Our Customers Under the Age of 13

We highly value and respect everyone's opinion concerning the titles we offer. However, we cannot allow persons under the age of 13 to have accounts at or to post customer reviews. Please see our Terms of Use for more details.

What to exclude from your review:

Please do not write about reviews, commentary, or information posted on the product page. If you see any errors in the information on the product page, please send us an email.

Reviews should not contain any of the following:

  • - HTML tags, profanity, obscenities, vulgarities, or comments that defame anyone
  • - Time-sensitive information such as tour dates, signings, lectures, etc.
  • - Single-word reviews. Other people will read your review to discover why you liked or didn't like the title. Be descriptive.
  • - Comments focusing on the author or that may ruin the ending for others
  • - Phone numbers, addresses, URLs
  • - Pricing and availability information or alternative ordering information
  • - Advertisements or commercial solicitation


  • - By submitting a review, you grant to Barnes & and its sublicensees the royalty-free, perpetual, irrevocable right and license to use the review in accordance with the Barnes & Terms of Use.
  • - Barnes & reserves the right not to post any review -- particularly those that do not follow the terms and conditions of these Rules. Barnes & also reserves the right to remove any review at any time without notice.
  • - See Terms of Use for other conditions and disclaimers.
Search for Products You'd Like to Recommend

Recommend other products that relate to your review. Just search for them below and share!

Create a Pen Name

Your Pen Name is your unique identity on It will appear on the reviews you write and other website activities. Your Pen Name cannot be edited, changed or deleted once submitted.

Your Pen Name can be any combination of alphanumeric characters (plus - and _), and must be at least two characters long.

Continue Anonymously

    If you find inappropriate content, please report it to Barnes & Noble
    Why is this product inappropriate?
    Comments (optional)