My 2009 book, Never Good Enough (Cornell University Press), examines frontline health care work in New York City and the politics of a state-funded training industry for frontline health care providers, which was vastly expanded in the late 1990s as part of a Faustian bargain between the powerful private sector health care labor union (SEIU 1199), politicians and health care executives to compensate for the effects of neoliberal healthcare restructuring and deteriorating working conditions. It is a story of how frontline care providers, primarily women of color and immigrants working as nursing assistants, were making a living and carving out meaning and opportunity at the intersection of two industries — health care and education — both of which were being increasingly privatized and organized according to the logic of markets.
In many ways, frontline health care providers were expected to solve or surmount the problems of these industries. The book also considers the experience of training providers, and is therefore more broadly about the effects and affects of the imperative toward lifelong learning and continual self-improvement. Or, the “taken-for-granted valorization of paid labor and continual need for economic and emotional thrift” (242). This is an economy in which being a care provider is never good enough.
The book grew out of my dissertation research at City University of New York Graduate Centre, where I studied with Drs. Patricia Clough, Barbara Katz Rothman, and Stanley Aronowitz. Through working with Patricia Clough and her research group, I came to understand how the training industry for frontline health care workers was situated in the dynamics of an economy of affect and to see it as an indicator of emerging forms of capitalist value production and exploitation. These ideas are reflected in the two book chapters cited below.
Ducey, Ariel. Never Good Enough: Health Care Workers and the False Promise of Job Training. Cornell University Press, 2009. Table of Contents and Introduction, “Health Care and Getting by in America”
Ducey, Ariel. “Technologies of Caring Labor: From Objects to Affect,” pp. 18-32 in Intimate Labors, Eileen Boris and Rhacel Parreñas, eds. Stanford University Press, 2010. PDF_intimatelabors
Ducey, Ariel. “More Than a Job: Meaning, Affect, and Training Health Care Workers,” Pp. 187-208 in The Affective Turn: Theorizing the Social, Patricia Clough and Jean Halley, eds., Duke University Press, 2007. PDF More than a Job