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Workaholism, Leisure and Pleasure

Uploaded by palma on Sep 11, 2000

Sam Vaknin's Psychology, Philosophy, Economics and Foreign Affairs Web Sites


The official working week is being reduced to 35 hours a week. In most countries in the world, it is limited to 45 hours a week. The trend during the last century seems to be unequivocal : less work, more play.
Yet, what may be true for blue collar workers or state employees – is not necessarily so for white collar members of the liberal professions. It is not rare for these people – lawyers, accountants, consultants, managers, academics – to put in 80 hour weeks. The phenomenon is so widespread and its social consequences so damaging that it acquired the unflattering nickname workaholism, a combination of the words “work” and “alcoholism”. Family life is disrupted, intellectual horizons narrow, the consequences to the workaholic’s health are severe : fat, lack of exercise, stress take their toll. Classified as “alpha” types, workaholics suffer three times as many heart attacks as their peers.

But what are the social and economic roots of this phenomenon ?

Put succinctly, it is the result of the blurring borders and differences between work and leisure. The distinction between these two types of time – the one dedicated to labour and the one spent in the pursuit of one’s interests – was so clear for thousands of years that its gradual disappearance is one of the most important and profound social changes in human history.

A host of other shifts in the character of the work and domestic environments of humans converged to produce this momentous change.

Arguably the most important was the increase in labour mobility and the fluid nature of the very concept of work and the workplace. The transitions from agricultural to industrial, then to the services and now to the information and knowledge societies, each, in turn, increased the mobility of the workforce. A farmer is the least mobile. His means of production are fixed, his produce was mostly consumed locally because of lack of proper refrigeration, preservation and transportation methods. A marginal group of people became nomad-traders. This group exploded in size with the advent of the industrial revolution. True, the bulk of the workforce was still immobile and affixed to the production floor. But raw materials and the finished products travelled long distances to faraway markets. Professional services were needed and the professional manager, the lawyer, the accountant, the consultant, the...

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Uploaded by:   palma

Date:   09/11/2000

Category:   Social Issues

Length:   7 pages (1,558 words)

Views:   2001

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