Not Working

Why We Have to Stop

Josh Cohen

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


'To do nothing at all is the most difficult thing in the world.' Oscar Wilde

More than ever before, we live in a culture that excoriates inactivity and demonizes idleness. Work, connectivity and a constant flow of information are the cultural norms, and a permanent busyness pervades even our quietest moments. Little wonder so many of us are burning out.

In a culture that tacitly coerces us into blind activity, the art of doing nothing is disappearing. Inactivity can induce lethargy and indifference, but is also a condition of imaginative freedom and creativity. Psychoanalyst Josh Cohen explores the paradoxical pleasures of inactivity, and considers four faces of inertia - the burnout, the slob, the daydreamer and the slacker. Drawing on his personal experiences and on stories from his consulting room, while punctuating his discussions with portraits of figures associated with the different forms of inactivity - Andy Warhol, Orson Welles, Emily Dickinson and David Foster Wallace - Cohen gets to the heart of the apathy so many of us feel when faced with the demands of contemporary life, and asks how we might live a different and more fulfilled existence.


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

‘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'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

‘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

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