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Out Now: Signs of the Great Refusal

Published onDec 07, 2023
Out Now: Signs of the Great Refusal

About the Book

“Tedd Siegel’s book is an extended reflection on the nature of work in our times and the refusal of new generations to embrace its exhausting ethos and precarious conditions. After a serious dialogue with a number of past theoretical perspectives, the author urges collective action to generate a new life regime in which labor is harmoniously part of it. Siegel’s proposal is not a new utopia, but a profound examination of current labor conditions and a call to re-direct processes from private solutions and profit appropriation to social distribution.” —Arturo Giraldez, author of The Age of Trade: The Manila Galleons and the Dawn of the Global Economy

In recent years, developed countries have seen the rise of discussions concerning “the problem with work today.” Since this literature tends to reflect the frustrations of the professional–managerial class (as well as other workers in globalized services industries in the digital age), it is often at a significant distance from the concerns of the organized labor movement and the traditional Left. Much of this literature presents an unacceptable either/or: workers are encouraged either to “lean in,” and become better “human capital,” or else to develop forms of palliative care for these same neoliberal selves by means of personal projects of self-optimization, recovery, and wellness.

In Signs of the Great Refusal, Tedd Siegel challenges the assumptions supporting these highly constrained possibilities, asking instead what it might take to deprivatize and repoliticize work itself under contemporary conditions, in order to make a broad-based politics of refusal potentially viable. Where postwork, antiwork, and degrowth discussions taking place today often describe and promote various “postwork imaginaries” in which the decommodification of labor is only implied, Signs of the Great Refusal is concerned specifically with the “postwork political imaginary.” Taking up a question formulated by Peter Fleming, Siegel asks, “Can the impossibility at the heart of contemporary capitalism be politically activated to oppose and escape work-as-we-know-it?”

“Siegel’s critical argument is grounded not only in a negative judgement of actually existing work today, but also in positive normative beliefs oriented toward the future: that contemporary workers, individually and collectively, are worthy of richer, freer existences grounded in autonomous decisions about how to value their lives and those of others.”—Tyrus Miller, author of Georg Lukács and Critical Theory: Aesthetics, History, Utopia

About the Author

Tedd Siegel is a writer living on the central coast of California. He lives with his husband Matt, and spends more time with dogs and goats than with people. Tedd is the co-founder and co-editor of, a blog dedicated to overcoming liberal post-politics, and to developing and disseminating new, anti-capitalist critiques tailored to the post-Fordist, neoliberal digital age. Previously, Tedd worked in Silicon Valley for twenty years in marketing and program management roles related to enterprise software, semiconductor, and optical telecom. He also served as a senior manager of Silicon Valley partnerships for the University of California, and was involved with major R&D contracts and initiatives between academia, government agencies, and private companies. Tedd holds an MA in philosophy from the New School for Social Research, where he also pursued PhD studies in moral and political philosophy. Undertaking a dissertation on the normative and utopian foundations of modernity, he realized that he couldn’t finish the last section on hope, because he didn’t have any. Tedd also spent time as a street activist in San Francisco, participating in ACT-UP and Radical Faerie actions and community events in the 1980s.

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