THE LAZINESS MYTH, narratives of work and the good life in South Africa

: Jeske (C.)

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230pp., paperback, New York, 2020


Christine Jeske on the "laziness myth" in the South African context. The "laziness myth" is a narrative that blames unemployment and other social ills on the "laziness" of particular class, racial, and ethnic groups while failing to examine the systems and structures that produce inequalities.

"In South Africa and far beyond, the dogma that "hard work" will lead to a "proper job" and a satisfying life is turning out to be a cruel myth for many. But at the same time, new visions of what a "good life" really is (and how one might achieve it) are starting to emerge. Christine Jeske, a gifted writer and subtle listener, is a superb guide to these new visions, and to the lives that are beginning to be imagined and lived in their terms. Lucidly presented and full of engaging ethnographic detail, this book should see wide use, including in classrooms." James Ferguson, Stanford University, author of Give a Man a Fish

"The Laziness Myth is engaging, and its methodology and analysis makes a valuable and timely contribution to studies of poverty, unemployment and inequality in South Africa and the Global South. The book systematically confronts dominant narratives about unemployment and poverty by exploring counter narratives of poor South Africans with great detail and care." Sarah Mosoetsa, Associate Professor of Sociology, University of the Witwatersrand, author of Eating From One Pot

Christine Jeske is Associate Professor of Anthropology at Wheaton College in Wheaton, Illinois. She is the author of Into the Mud and co-author of This Ordinary Adventure.