Is the work ethic an ideological tool used to blame the poor for their plight or a progressive value that can uplift workers and rebuke the idle rich? In Hijacked, Elizabeth Anderson argues that, though recently found more often in reactionary garb, the work ethic originally promoted workers’ dignity and well-being. By the nineteenth century, however, a punitive version of the work ethic had developed to justify brutal anti-worker policies. Anderson’s book analyzes this intellectual and political evolution, as well as the pro-worker liberal and socialist political philosophy that eventually led to the brief emergence of social democracy in the twentieth century. A neoliberal backlash has since weakened or destroyed social-democratic institutions, but Anderson contends that a recovery of the progressive work ethic can help us resist and rebuild.

How Neoliberalism Turned the Work Ethic Against Workers and How Workers Can Take it Back
Elizabeth Anderson
Cambridge University Press
$29.95 | 384 pp.


In Mourning a Breast, Xi Xi approaches her breast-cancer diagnosis and subsequent mastectomy with grief and humor. In essays recalling uncomfortable conversations with doctors and devastating ones with her family and friends, her focus remains on the queerness of mutilating her body to become healthy. The breast is a biological fact of fatty tissue and peanut-sized tumors, but it is also Xi Xi’s entryway into body literacy. She chooses to embrace both realities of the body in order to move toward loving and laughing at herself, regardless of how her chest looks.

Mourning a Breast
Xi Xi
Translated by Jennifer Feeley
New York Review of Books
$18.95 | 320 pp.


What imbues death with significance? Kaveh Akbar’s debut novel Martyr! follows Cyrus Shams, a poet whose life is marked by tragedy—addiction, familial loss, and racism as an Iranian immigrant in Indiana. His journey intertwines with that of Orkideh, a terminally ill artist who spends her final days as a human art exhibit in Brooklyn. Through poignant prose, Akbar explores the nexus of art, mortality, and the human experience, meditating on the limitations of language to capture life’s essence. Ultimately, Akbar invites us to reflect on what it means to live authentically in the face of mortality. “We live until we die,” he asserts, urging us to embrace our humanity before the inevitable end.

A Novel 
Kaveh Akbar
$28 | 352 pp.

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Published in the May 2024 issue: View Contents
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