Skip to main content



Bruce Pietrykowski

ISBN: 978-1-509-53083-0 May 2019 Polity 180 Pages


Much of our life involves working, preparing for work, searching for work, or thinking and worrying about work. Whether paid or unpaid, free or coerced, full-time, part-time, or zero-hours, work defines us and helps shape our behavior both on and off the job. 

In this accessible book, leading labor economist Bruce Pietrykowski offers a highly engaging exploration of the history and contemporary organization of work under capitalism. His clear presentation of the theoretical debates is illustrated by real-world examples from across the globe and a skillful account of alternatives that point toward a post-capitalist future. Employing a progressive, worker-centered vision that goes beyond mainstream economics, he examines themes ranging from inequality, care work, and the gig economy to technological change and a universal basic income. His analysis emphasizes power, conflict, solidarity, and cooperation, interpreted through the lenses of class, race, gender, and place. 

This comprehensive and highly readable book will be of interest to students of economics, sociology, labor studies, and politics seeking to learn more about work and workers in the global economy, as well as interested general readers.

“This bright, readable, and radical overview of labor economics points a smart finger at the work that goes on behind and beyond capitalist employment.”
Nancy Folbre, University of Massachusetts

“This book provides a lucid and readable introduction to the political economy of work for students and non-economists. Drawing on Marxist, feminist, and Post-Keynesian schools of thought, and a wealth of historical examples, Pietrykowski provides a toolkit to break the intellectual fetters of mainstream economics. Starting with the question of what is special about labor, Pietrykowski's discussion covers labor-market inequality, work in the household, employer behavior, worker ownership, technological change, and much more.”
Ian Greer, Cornell University