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The morbid romance of the good job: News and the emotional social imaginary in late capitalism

Payson, Alida ORCID: and Moore, Kerry ORCID: 2022. The morbid romance of the good job: News and the emotional social imaginary in late capitalism. European Journal of Cultural Studies 25 (5) , pp. 1433-1447. 10.1177/13675494211057133

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The question of how to identify and secure ‘good’ jobs has long confounded researchers, politicians and workers alike, and seems only to have intensified post-2008 recession and with the COVID-19 pandemic. Indeed, late capitalism seems to be defined by a widening disconnect between the optimism of economic indicators and the grim reality of many people’s everyday working lives and livelihoods. Yet, hope that good jobs will guarantee a good future stubbornly persists, with profound consequences for public investments of all kinds. Research on the social imaginary has explored how common-sense ideas come to grip us through discourse. At the same time, research into the politics of emotion and affect has demonstrated how public feelings like hope might attach us to (and entrap us in) particular economic circuits and futures. However, scholars in these fields have not adequately addressed how emotion shapes the social imaginary in everyday discourse. Yet, understanding how emotion might form specific social imaginaries of ‘good jobs’, and attach publics to them, is vital to understanding how and why we keep deeply investing in economic systems that injure our wellbeing, equity and environment. Here, we address this gap by tracking feelings, figures and metaphors in a case study of news about jobs in a moment of crisis. We theorise what emerges as a ‘morbid romance’, a romantic, gendered, mythical ideal of good industrial jobs and good entrepreneurship that is always haunted by a morbid awareness of the threat of job loss, bad jobs and post-industrial death. Beyond our case study, as the pandemic produces profound shifts in working lives, we argue that the morbid romance of the good job can help us to understand the structure of feeling and social horizon of late capitalism.

Item Type: Article
Date Type: Publication
Status: Published
Schools: Journalism, Media and Culture
Publisher: SAGE Publications
ISSN: 1367-5494
Date of First Compliant Deposit: 5 November 2021
Date of Acceptance: 14 October 2021
Last Modified: 02 May 2023 23:57

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