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📚 Book: The End of Burnout

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The End of Burnout: Why Work Drains Us and How to Build Better Lives Hardcover by Jonathan Malesic

As the author points in the earlier parts of the book, burnout is poorly defined, but very common. The book uncovers many patterns and societal constructs that have enabled burnout so widely in our society.

The system of meaning we have built around work--the noble lie about work as a source of dignity, character, and purpose--helps perpetuate burnout culture. 227
Burnout isn't only a problem of labor economics. It's an ailment of the soul. We burn out in large part because we believe work is the sure path to social, moral, and spiritual flourishing. Work simply can't deliver what we want from it, and the gap between our ideals and our on-the-job reality leads us to exhaustion, cynicism, and despair. (3)
It's why the overwhelming majority of our discourse about burnout, which I talked about back in chapter 1, is so shallow and timid. We say we don't want to burn out, but we also don't want to give up the system of meaning--not to mention the system of profit-making-we have built around the work that causes our burnout. 192

On contradictions of ideals:

Burnout arises from the contradictions between our ideals and our organizations, but it's also a product of the unhealthy interpersonal relations we have at work. Burnout stems from the demands we place on others, the recognition we fail to give, the discord between our words and actions. It is ultimately the result of a failure to honor each other's human dignity. The question, in the end, cannot just be "how I can prevent my burnout?"; it has to be, "how I can prevent yours?" The answer will entail not just creating better workplaces, but also becoming better people. 16

On fairness and community at work:

When your employer doesn't reward you enough, or when unfairness is rampant, or when you have no community among your coworkers, your ability and willingness to keep doing the job disintegrate. 55

The author calls for a need for anti-burnout counterculture:

we need to see what community structures and personal disciplines help people find dignity, moral value, and purpose outside of work. How do their ideals interact with the reality of their jobs? In other words, what are the characteristics of the anti-burnout counterculture? 192

A key point is around dignity of all:

we can only break the anxiety that fuels the Protestant ethic by affirming the dignity of each person, whether they work for pay or not. Doing so will lower the stakes of work considerably. Assured of our value in society, we will no longer feel so much pressure to prove it on the job. 150
The notion of an inherent dignity in all people, regardless of whether they produce anything of monetary value, leads the author and painter Sunaura Taylor to argue for a "right not to work." [...] "The right not to work," she writes, "is the right not to have your value determined by your productivity as a worker, by your employability or salary." [...] if we recognized everyone's inherent dignity ahead of time, then people could work or not "and be proud of it." Their value and their freedom would be based on something else entirely. 212

On providing access as a community (though the writing about interdepence continues to frame it through (dis)ability):

By viewing work from the perspective of disability, we can recognize our collective vulnerability and interdependence, undermining the individualism that makes burnout always your problem alone, never one shared by others. [...] It is in everyone's interest to see dignity in this condition and change our social arrangements so disabled people can lead lives of autonomy and meaning. Johanna Hedva calls for a radical new politics based on our common frailty: "To take seriously each other's vulnerability and fragility and pre-carity, and to support it, honor it, empower it. To protect each other, to enact and practice community. A radical kinship, an interdependent sociality, a politics of care." 213