Karen and Kel talk to Professor Erin Cech (Sociology, U of Michigan), the author of the forthcoming book, The Problem with Passion (U California Press, 2021), about why our national obsession with “following your passion” actually intensifies inequality. Erin explains how passion leads to “choice-washing,” in which unequal outcomes are justified by claiming they were freely chosen, even while those without privilege and resources struggle to get access to “passion”-driven work. She shows how the passion principle came hand in hand with the erosion of worker rights–if there is no more stable work, we may as well do “what we love” and do only the work that “fulfills us” and “expresses our deepest self.” The passion principle permeates academia, of course, and fuels all manner of exploitation, especially around the issue of adjuncting. If you’re “passionate” about your subject, surely that will carry you through any trials and tribulations… and if you object, then surely you just aren’t passionate enough? And so adjuncts are told/tell themselves that if they’re still in academia, they’re still fulfilling their passion and therefore well-compensated… no matter how little they’re paid and how much they’re exploited. Which, as Erin Cech notes, launches a vicious circle, as overwork forecloses the time needed to critique the passion economy and find meaningful alternatives.
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