Economists have been long worried that automation will take away our jobs. As old kinds of jobs disappear due to technology and automation, new kinds of work started emerging. The rising cases of stress and burnout due to more hours of work is contrary to what should have happened due to automation: less working hours.
Work is the master of the modern world. For most people, it is impossible to imagine society without it. It dominates and pervades everyday life - especially in Britain and the US - more completely than at any time in recent history. An obsession with employability runs through education.
Before the modern era, all cultures thought of work as a means to an end, not an end in itself.
Once the modern work ethic was established, working patterns started to shift. Between 1800 and 1900, the average working week shrank from 80 hours to 60 hours, and in the 1970s to roughly 40 hours.
In 1979, Bernard Lefkowitz related in his book that people who had given up their jobs reported feelings of "wholeness." During the same period, because wages were high enough, it became possible for most people to work less.
During the 80s, work ideology was reimposed by aggressively pro-business governments who were motivated by a desire for social control.
By the early 21st century, the work culture seems inescapable.
The Hedgehog Review is published three times per year by the Institute for Advanced Studies in Culture. In keeping with the Institute's own mission and vision, the journal is concerned with issues of contemporary cultural change and its individual and social consequences.
Most workers rely on the whims and fancies of the so-called 'Job Creators', a class of people who own a business and can employ staff. Job creators hold power on the worker's time, behavior and conditions of employment.
These employers also monitor and sanction what workers post on social media, what they eat or drink, how frequently and for how long are they going to the bathroom, and what are their political leanings.
Since the 16th-century Protestant Reformation, and the work ethic that it spawned, employment has provided an outsized source of meaning for those living in the Western world. "Work was where you became your truest self," writes the historian James Livingston. "We've believed that even if it sucks, the job gives meaning, purpose, and structure to our everyday lives."
Aristotle wrote that the fundamental part of a meaningful life is found in mastery, be it art, intellect, or athletics. Pursuing excellence is not always pleasant and requires exertion, not constant entertainment.
A study found that people who continually developed themselves scored higher on assessments of life satisfaction and self-esteem than those who did not.