Not Working

Josh Cohen

Published: 3 January 2019
Hardback, Demy HB
138x216mm, 304 pages
ISBN: 9781783782055

Other Editions


Image of

Published: 2 January 2020
Paperback, B Format
129x198mm, 304 pages
ISBN: 9781783782062

Ebook Available

About the author

Image of Josh Cohen

Josh Cohen is a psychoanalyst in private practice, and Professor of Modern Literary Theory at Goldsmiths University of London. He is the author of numerous books and articles on modern literature, psychoanalysis and cultural theory. His books include How to Read Freud (Granta, 2005) and The Private Life: Why We Remain in the Dark (Granta, 2013). He is a regular contributor to Guardian, New Statesman and TLS. More about the author


‘[Writing] clearly and beguilingly, his sentences mostly unclogged with jargon... Cohen is good at revealing all the ways in which, event as the 21st century induces exhaustion, it banishes the expression of it; and everyone will recognise what he has to say about how life can feel like a facsimile, one in which we merely go through the motions, when we should be living it to the full... A light thought alongside all my dark onesRachel Cooke



Not Working has an expansiveness that far exceeds its modest size... [Cohen's] writing is on the whole beautiful

Not Working is a polemic against our overwork culture and a meditation on its alternatives...a highly personal, eloquent reimagining of our lives as a space for far niente in all its unfettered idiosyncrasy...brilliant...revealingBarbara Taylor

A compassionate and thought-provoking way of thinking about what work is and might be... a convincing case that human contentment is only possible if we value equally work and non-work and make space for simply being’ David Hayden

A good and thoughtful corrective to our age of pathological distraction. Learning to stop, Cohen contends, might just be the way to start living again’ Anthony Quinn

A probing exploration of the creative and imaginative possibilities of inactivity and a decided pushback against the "sacralisation of work" that pervades the west... Cohen usefully grounds the more theoretical wrangling of each chapter with a composite case history gleaned from his consulting room... Not Working not only instructs us in the pursuit of aimlessness, it also teaches us about the psychoanalytic process... Less doing and more being is exactly what Not Working is advocating’ Lucy Scholes

An eloquent defence of the necessity of the daydreamer, the artist and the slacker as part of the essential repertoire of our humanity. Offering the delicious possibility of a world slowly imagined differently and more creatively’ Maria Balshaw

Beautifully written and constantly surprising, Not Working combines cultural criticism, psychoanalytic insight and autobiography to cast fresh light on a malaise that every reader will recognise: our compulsion to use time productively, and our fear of what happens if we don't’ William Davies, author

Brilliantly strangeIan Sansom

FascinatingRachel Long

Gently provocative, intensely humane and exceptionally thought-provokingStephanie Cross

Refreshing and relatable

‘A beautifully written and potently argued post-Bachelardian case for reverie, and for stopping to listen to the quieter manifestations of the inner life'’ Chloe Aridjis

‘Cohen is fantastically good at making us question our hard-won strategies of avoidance and resistance to stopping... engaging’ Suzanne Moore

‘Cohen's lucid and subtle book exposes something we all know but don't know how to recognise - that work doesn't work for most people and that even when it does work it is a refuge from so many other things. Remarkable and timely, Not Working is truly clarifyingAdam Phillips

‘If you're in the process of trying to stand still in a culture that won't let you, [Not Working] may help you hold your nerve’ Alice Bloch

‘Josh Cohen knows a great deal about the forces that drive and sometimes overpower us. In this compelling new book, he explores writers and artists, brings himself and what he has learned from his patients into the mix, to make a passionate argument for the benefits of floating free from the chains of work. ScintillatingLisa Appignanesi

‘There is much food for thought in this erudite homage to catatonia’ Houman Barekat

Mind Unit - websites, content management and email marketing for the arts