In theory, Labor Day marks a weekend of rest for many American workers. Yet at a time when professionals tend to see their job as integral to their identity, true breaks can be hard to come by. Even making time for activities away from work can be stressful and guilt-inducing—to the point where some researchers have argued that giving up on the concept of balance is the best way to relax.
As Daniel Markovits writes, the idea of a meritocracy can push those at the top of the socioeconomic ladder into perpetual competition with one another, while those at the bottom—such as the underpaid farmworkers documented in Barry Estabrook’s Tomatoland—have very little chance of getting ahead. Well-off working moms often rely on other women’s domestic labor to succeed, creating the sometimes fraught dynamics that Megan Stack explores in her memoir, Women’s Work. Indeed, every workplace contains complex hierarchies and systems of power—and as Nikil Saval writes, those relationships are reflected in an office’s very architecture.
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Meritocracy is an endless competition that nobody wins
“It ensnares the rich just as surely as it excludes the rest, as those who manage to claw their way to the top must work with crushing intensity, ruthlessly exploiting their expensive education in order to extract a return.”