ABOUT THIS BOOK
An innovative contribution to political theory, State Work examines the labor of government workers in North America. Arguing that this work needs to be theorized precisely because it is vital to the creation and persistence of the state, Stefano Harney draws on thinking from public administration and organizational sociology, as well as poststructuralist theory and performance studies, to launch a cultural studies of the state. Countering conceptions of the government and its employees as remote and inflexible, Harney uses the theory of mass intellectuality developed by Italian worker-theorists to illuminate the potential for genuine political progress inherent within state work.
State Work begins with an ethnographic account of Harney’s work as a midlevel manager within an Ontario government initiative charged with leading the province’s efforts to combat racism. Through readings of material such as The X-Files and Law & Order, Harney then reviews how popular images of the state and government labor are formed within American culture and how these ideas shape everyday life. He highlights the mutually dependent roles played in state work by the citizenry and civil servants. Using as case studies Al Gore’s National Partnership for Reinventing Government and a community-policing project in New York City, Harney also critiques public management literature and performance measurement theories. He concludes his study with a look at the motivations of state workers.