The Atlantic

Letters: Readers Discuss American Workism and Its Discontents

“My passions, such as they are, are not going to get me meaningful, fulfilling, or well-paid employment.”
Source: Brendan McDermid / Reuters

Workism Is Making Americans Miserable

For the college-educated elite, work has become something of a religion, promising  transcendence and community, Derek Thompson argued last month. He called this phenomenon workism:

“What is workism? It is the belief that work is not only necessary to economic production, but also the centerpiece of one’s identity and life’s purpose; and the belief that any policy to promote human welfare must always encourage more work.”

By and large, Thompson wrote, workism has failed to deliver on its promises.


As a college student wading through the waters of choosing a major and the voices saying “follow your passion,” this article resonated with me. Being surrounded by people who are in love with their major led me to feel confused, as if I am failing by not being in love with mine. Specifically, the line that mentioned how white-collar work is intangible and its product seems invisible made sense. I struggle with answering friends’ questions of what will I do as a consultant with a business information technology degree. I also enjoyed that this article emphasizes that it is okay to have your work be a currency, and what we choose to

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