In Dirty Work, Eyal Press offers a paradigm-shifting view of the moral landscape of contemporary America through the stories of people who perform society's most ethically troubling jobs.
Drone pilots who carry out targeted assassinations. Undocumented immigrants who man the "kill floors" of industrial slaughterhouses. Guards who patrol the wards of America's most violent and abusive prisons As Press shows, we are increasingly shielded and distanced from an array of morally questionable activities that other, less privileged people perform in our name.
The COVID-19 pandemic has drawn unprecedented attention to the issue of "essential workers" and to the health and safety risks to which workers in prisons and slaughterhouses are exposed. But Dirty Work examines another, less familiar set of occupational hazards: psychological and emotional hardships such as stigma, shame, PTSD, and moral injury. These burdens fall disproportionately on low-income workers, undocumented immigrants, women, and people of color.
Illuminating the moving, at times harrowing stories of the people doing society's dirty work and incisively examining the structures of power and complicity that shape their lives, Press reveals fundamental truths about the moral dimensions of work, and the hidden costs of inequality in America.
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“Press investigates a series of morally fraught jobs…and shows how such work is tacitly condone by society while also rendered invisible so as not to disturb our collective conscience.”
New York Times