"For a number of reasons, during my twenties I believed then that I was unemployable - too feckless to do either manual work or retail, and nowhere near confident enough to do a graduate job of any kind. (The ads for graduate jobs would fill me with despair: surely only a superhuman could do the job as described?) I won't deny that eventually getting employment was important - I owe so much of what I am now to getting a teaching job. But equally important was the demystification of work that gaining this employment allowed - "work" wasn't something only available to people who belonged to a different ontological category to me. (Even so, this feeling wasn't rectified by having a job: I had a number of depressive episodes when I was convinced that I wasn't the sort of person who could be a teacher.)
"But surely the importance of Virno and Negri's work is to have undermined the distinction between work and non-work any way. What precisely counts as non-work in post-Fordism? If, to use Jonathan Beller's phrase, "to look is to labour" - if, that is to say, attention is a commodity - then aren't we all "contributing", whether we like it or not? As Nina argues, "[i]t is as if employers have taken the very worst aspects of women's work in the past – poorly paid, precarious, without benefits – and applied it to almost everyone, except those at the very top, who remain overwhelmingly male and incomprehensibly rich." In these conditions - in which unemployment/underemployment/perpetual insecurity are structurally necessary, not contingent accidents - there's more case than ever for a benefits saftey net."