The Burnout Society


The Burnout Society

To be sure I was properly understanding what he was trying to say, I saw a few videos about the book:


Depression, ADHD, and burnout syndrome point to excess positivity. Burnout syndrome occurs when the ego overheats, which follows from too much of the Same. The hyper in hyperactivity is not an immunological category. It represents the massification of the positive. — p. 9

Twenty-first-century society is no longer a disciplinary society, but rather an achievement society. — p. 9

Disciplinary society is a society of negativity. It is defined by the negativity of prohibition. The negative modal verb that governs it is May Not. By the same token, the negativity of compulsion adheres to Should. Achievement society, more and more, is in the process of discarding negativity. Increasing deregulation is abolishing it. Unlimited Can is the positive modal verb of achievement society. Its plural form—the affirmation, “Yes, we can”—epitomizes achievement society’s positive orientation. Prohibitions, commandments, and the law are replaced by projects, initiatives, and motivation. Disciplinary society is still governed by no. Its negativity produces madmen and criminals. In contrast, achievement society creates depressives and losers. — p. 10

However, the disappearance of domination does not entail freedom. Instead, it makes freedom and constraint coincide. Thus, the achievement-subject gives itself over to compulsive freedom—that is, to the free constraint of maximizing achievement. — p. 12

The attitude toward time and environment known as “multitasking” does not represent civilizational progress. Human beings in the late-modern society of work and information are not the only ones capable of multitasking. Rather, such an aptitude amounts to regression. Multitasking is commonplace among wild animals. It is an attentive technique indispensable for survival in the wilderness. — p. 13

Recent social developments and the structural change of wakefulness are bringing human society deeper and deeper into the wilderness. For example, bullying has achieved pandemic dimensions. Concern for the good life, which also includes life as a member of the community, is yielding more and more to the simple concern for survival. — p. 13

The modern loss of faith does not concern just God or the hereafter. It involves reality itself and makes human life radically fleeting. Life has never been as fleeting as it is today. Not just human life, but the world in general is becoming radically fleeting. Nothing promises duration or substance. — p. 18

In this society of compulsion, everyone carries a work camp inside. This labor camp is defined by the fact that one is simultaneously prisoner and guard, victim and perpetrator. One exploits oneself. It means that exploitation is possible even without domination. — p. 20

One must learn “not to react immediately to a stimulus, but instead to take control of the inhibiting, excluding instincts.” By the same token, “every characteristic absence of spirituality [Ungeistigkeit], every piece of common vulgarity, is due to an inability to resist a stimulus”—the inability to set a no in opposition. Reacting immediately, yielding to every impulse, already amounts to illness and represents a symptom of exhaustion. — p. 21

The absence of relation to the Other causes a crisis of gratification. As recognition, gratification presupposes the instance of the Other (or the “Third Party”). It is impossible to reward oneself or to acknowledge oneself. For Kant, God represents the instance of gratification: He rewards and acknowledges moral accomplishment. Because the structure of gratification has been disturbed, the achievement-subject feels compelled to perform more and more. The absence of relation to the Other, then, represents the transcendental condition for the crisis of gratification to arise in the first place. — p. 38

In positive terms, such a human being without character is flexible, able to assume any form, play any role, or perform any function. This shapelessness—or, alternately, flexibility—creates a high degree of economic efficiency. — p. 41

Depression—which often culminates in burnout—follows from overexcited, overdriven, excessive self-reference that has assumed destructive traits. The exhausted, depressive achievement-subject grinds itself down, so to speak. It is tired, exhausted by itself, and at war with itself. Entirely incapable of stepping outward, of standing outside itself, of relying on the Other, on the world, it locks its jaws on itself; paradoxically, this leads the self to hollow and empty out. It wears out in a rat race it runs against itself. — p. 43

The late-modern achievement-subject, with a surplus of options at its disposal, proves incapable of intensive bonding. — p. 43

The late-modern ego devotes the majority of libidinal energy to itself. The remaining libido is distributed and scattered among continually multiplying contacts and fleeting relationships. — p. 44

In social networks, the function of “friends” is primarily to heighten narcissism by granting attention, as consumers, to the ego exhibited as a commodity. — p. 44

Rather, burnout represents the pathological consequence of voluntary self-exploitation. — p. 45

Ehrenberg’s main thesis reads: “the success of depression lies in the decline of conflict as a reference point upon which the nineteenth-century notion of the self was founded.” According to this view, conflict performs a constructive function; both personal identity and social identity are formed from elements that stand “in relationship because of their conflict” — p. 45

The achievement-subject projects itself [entwirft sich] onto the ego ideal, whereas the obedience-subject subjects itself [sich unterwift] to the superego. Subjection and projection are two different modes of existence. Negative compulsion issues from the superego. In contrast, the ego ideal exercises a positive compulsion on the ego. The negativity of the superego restricts the freedom of the ego. Projecting oneself into the ego ideal is interpreted as an act of freedom. But when the ego gets caught in an unattainable ego ideal, it gets crushed altogether. The gap between the real ego and the ego ideal then brings forth auto-aggression. — p. 47

In view of the ego ideal, the real ego appears as a loser buried in self-reproach. The ego wages war with itself. The society of positivity, which thinks itself free of all foreign constraints, becomes entangled in destructive self-constraints. — p. 48

The capitalist economy absolutizes survival. It is not concerned with the good life. It is sustained by the illusion that more capital produces more life, which means a greater capacity for living. The rigid, rigorous separation between life and death casts a spell of ghostly stiffness over life itself. Concern about living the good life yields to the hysteria of surviving. The reduction of life to biological, vital processes makes life itself bare and strips it of all narrativity. It takes livingness from life, which is much more complex than simple vitality and health. — p. 52

The homines sacri of achievement society also differ from those of the society of sovereignty on another score. They cannot be killed at all. Their life equals that of the undead. They are too alive to die, and too dead to live. — p. 52