• Dirty Work

  • Essential Jobs and the Hidden Toll of Inequality in America
  • By: Eyal Press
  • Narrated by: Neil Shah
  • Length: 11 hrs and 18 mins
  • 4.8 out of 5 stars (57 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

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. 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. 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.

©2021 Eyal Press (P)2021 Kalorama

What listeners say about Dirty Work

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A Must Read for Conservatives

If this book does not change your heart, nothing will. I found the stories compelling and heart wrenching to say the least. The author does a nice job of telling us how we have placed some jobs at arms length so we do not have to suffer the indignity of thinking about the impact of the consequences of performing dirty jobs has on the workers. As a retired soldier I was particularly stunned by the chapter on drone pilots. The author also does a wonderful job of illustrating how class plays a role in our ability to opt out of or are forced to remain in "dirty work".

1 person found this helpful

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Sunlight is the best antiseptic.

With clarity based on excellent research, the author plays out in excellent purpose the many ways in which we hide the painful realities of "dirty work" from ourselves, dirty work being jobs that relate to employment that we think is necessary, but we'd rather not think about it. From the meatpacking industry to the soldiers using drones for targeted assassination, to big oil, the author unravels the many reasons why we tolerate duplicity and inhumanity in order to be able to look the other way.

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Hard to hit pause... morality on trial

Hard to hit pause. As a story teller, the delivery is compelling. Personal, but then expanded and connected with so many other jobs that are hard and morally taxing.
The financial crisis of 2008 and the after effects of the COVID crisis offer some deep inquiries into where we are going and where do the checks and balances come from.

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Not Turning Away

Eyal Press identifies many jobs that are “dirty work”: unpleasant, low-paying, unappreciated positions that are harmful to workers’ health--both physical and mental. He focuses on the “moral injury” that results from these jobs. He interviews prison psychologists who feel forced to ignore beatings and sadism by some guards, drone operators who suffer from seeing close-ups of their hits on computer screens, meat packers who are not protected from Covid, and more. His outrage is deeply felt, but after a time it becomes frustrating. Press offers few practical solutions, and as job after job is presented, rightly, as a nightmare for decent workers, a certain hopelessness sets in. The narrator aggravates this, often reading in a sad, mournful voice. The book is sufficiently disturbing without that.

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A Close Look at The People We Don’t Usually See

Press does a wonderful telling the stories of the people society tends to ignore. He gives them life and a presence that is not offered by most. His detailed look at the jobs and the historical explanation of story behind the modern state of this “dirty work” should make all of us question the type of society we live in and how so much of what we take for granted occurs only because of the sacrifice of so many of the workers humanized in this brilliant work. It will change your views on much that we take for granted economically and even politically.

Well paced and measured narration by Neil Shah also a big plus for sharing the stories included. Highly recommended !!!!

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  • 12-24-21

Good summary of social inequalities

If you aren't familiar with the various social inequalities that underline modern American life, this book provides a solid introduction. But, it stops short of offering alternatives or actions to be taken.

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Insightful and necessary

At times very difficult to absorb, this is precisely why I forcefully recommend listening. These stories, and the structures that enable them, are wildly necessary to evaluate and understand.

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Well explained

This book is well researched and a worthwhile primer on the types of work which sustain the phenomenon of moral injury. In the sequel I would like to learn more with respect to the elimination of moral injury in authoritarian political regimes.