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The Idea File

‘We’re the Workaholics of the World’

Aug 08, 2019 | 4 videos
Video by The Atlantic

Should a job provide a paycheck or a purpose? For Americans, the edict is both. “Work has become the centerpiece of our identity, the focal point of our lives, and the organizing principle of society,” says Derek Thompson in a new video from The Atlantic.


The concept of an all-consuming career—Thompson calls it workism—has rendered Americans the workaholics of the world. Where traditional religion once lent people meaning, community, and self-actualization, work has stepped in to fill the void. But it’s difficult to strike a balance between life and work, and many Americans are burning out.

“We have essentially made our work our god,” Thompson says.

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Authors: Catherine Spangler, Sophia Myszkowski, Jackie Lay, Vishakha Darbha

About This Series

Deconstructing the way we live, with The Atlantic's writers