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What’s Wrong with the Way We Work at The New Yorker

Jill Lepore at The New Yorker included Work Won’t Love You Back in her sweeping look at the way we work today.

Jill Lepore at The New Yorker included Work Won’t Love You Back in her sweeping look at the way we work today. She writes:

“Meaningful work” is an expression that had barely appeared in the English language before the early nineteen-seventies, as McCallum observes. “Once upon a time, it was assumed, to put it bluntly, that work sucked,” Sarah Jaffe writes in “Work Won’t Love You Back: How Devotion to Our Jobs Keeps Us Exploited, Exhausted, and Alone” (Bold Type). That started to change in the nineteen-seventies, both McCallum and Jaffe argue, when, in their telling, managers began informing workers that they should expect to discover life’s purpose in work. “With dollar-compensation no longer the overwhelmingly most important factor in job motivation,” the chairman of the New York Stock Exchange wrote, “management must develop a better understanding of the more elusive, less tangible factors that add up to ‘job satisfaction.’ ” After a while, everyone was supposed to love work. “Do what you love and you’ll never work a day in your life” popped up all over the place in the nineteen-eighties and nineties, along with the unpaid internship, the busting of unions, and campaigns to cut taxes on capital gains. It soon became, in Silicon Valley and on Wall Street, a catechism. “The only way to do great work is to love what you do,” Steve Jobs told a graduating class at Stanford in 2005. “If you love what you’re doing, it’s not ‘work,’ ” David M. Rubenstein, a C.E.O. of the Carlyle Group, said on CNBC in 2014. “Everywhere you look you hear people talking about meaning,” a disillusioned Google engineer told McCallum. “They aren’t philosophers. They aren’t psychologists. They sell banner ads.” It’s not pointless. But it’s not poetry. Still, does it have to be?

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