Photo by Markus Spiske top top UnsplashIn 1843, karl Marx created that “religion is the opium of the people”. Now in a secular and also individualistic society, ‘self-improvement’ is the new opium of the masses, instead of religion.

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By nature, human being beings developed a journey to fill times the boredom with as much productive activity as possible. In modern times, however, this tendency has been exacerbated to the dangerous extreme, with cases of depression skyrocketing — frequently the factor being the one feels as if one is a ‘failure’.

However, by evaluating the writings of Freud, Zizek, Foucault, and Camus, the leader will soon understand exactly how the drive to maximize productivity above all else is not only damaging but additionally irrational, therefore should be subjected under suspicion and nuanced analysis.

Aesthetic that productivity

Imagine the you are awoken by her father one morning, and also he speak you to conveniently shower since he plans come send girlfriend to her grandmother’s house.

However, the is Saturday, so friend object, and he scolds girlfriend instead: “I don’t care how girlfriend feel, but you need to visit your grandmother. You need to go; you space going. And behave properly!”

At that moment, you have to wish because that a more permissive father, one who provides you strength over your own decisions.



Photo by Christian Erfurt top top Unsplash

However, a liberal parent, telling his child, “You know exactly how much her grandmother loves you, yet nonetheless, you must visit her just if girlfriend really desire to,” is a worse scenario, follow to Slavoj Zizek, as now the pressure worsens, “not only must you visit her grandmother, yet you need to like it!”

This story illustrates how what seems like complimentary choice and also the capacity to do what one wills, conceals within itself a more powerful injunction come act a details way. This injunction could explain the trend why, in more liberal and educated cities, the prices of depression space usually higher.


Photo of Zizek on gold Drum

Zizek refers to the “super-ego” in Freudian terms, or “big Other” in Lacanian terms, together an internalized number of authority — working at the kingdom of the psyche — the represses people and culture as a whole.

It is command to note that we will focus not top top the super-ego as the medium in i beg your pardon the symbolic stimulate dictates language, but the super-ego the carries out laws, regulations, and also moral codes of appropriate behavior in society. Sigmund Freud believed that the super-ego is an internalization of societal expectations which control our id system that what is right or wrong.

However, this number of strict parental government embodied in the super-ego morphs into a various figure in a late capitalistic society. No much longer are we confined by medieval laws, yet we space ‘liberated’ individuals.

With this expertise in mind, the figure of separation, personal, instance ‘liberation’ must be suspect to historic analysis.

To grossly oversimplify, a basic trend have the right to be examined the in the beginning, during primitive societies, tribes are normally egalitarian with few societal restrictions associated — as there is no society, to begin with.

As people developed, so as well did build heavily restrictive laws and also regulations that form the primary tools that the ruling class to govern.



Hammurabi’s password retrieved indigenous Wikimedia Commons

One that the earliest composed legal codes, the password of Hammurabi, proclaimed by the Babylonian king Hammurabi (1792 come 1750 B.C.) included laws such as removing one’s tongue, breasts, eyes, and also other body components if found guilty.

This basic trend of limit societies ongoing until the Enlightenment, where worths such together individual liberty obtain promoted.

Both Freud and Zizek show these shifts of individual and societal constraints by the Primal Father’s death (overtly regulating father figure) to bring about the Oedipal Father’s existence.

In Totem and also Taboo: Resemblances in between the mental Lives the Savages and also Neurotics (1913) the allegory goes the a people unit, referred to by Freud as the “primal horde”, is led by an authoritarian and also pleasure-seeking father who keeps all the ladies to himself and also threatens to kill his boy if they dare defy his authority.

As a result, his sons decision to death him, however left without a father — and therefore no society order — they decision to give rise to the Oedipal Father. The Oedipal father enforces virtues the deny pleasure and also practice asceticism.

Over time, the Oedipal dad weakened, and also the Primal dad has arisen once more, this time, encouraging his sons to adopt a lifestyle, the is, to look for pleasure!

Paradoxically, it deserve to be finish that following our desires, pleasures, and also individual responsibility becomes, follow to Zizek, “in its innermost condition something implemented — ordered.”

Modern-day injunctions — or push to do a certain thing — has their downfalls. Our ability to chase an individual beauty outcomes in the press to diet, stay makeup, and so on.

The imperative the we must maximize our abilities results in the perpetual “hedonic treadmill” that indoctrinates us with the notion that us will never ever be enough no issue what we do.

Zizek phone call this type of personal enjoyment an “obscene” enjoyment, due to the fact that “it is not enjoyment at all the this super-ego decrees, yet an imaginary, simulated idea the enjoyment.”

Productivity as an aesthetic. Photograph by Minh Pham top top Unsplash

The push to “make something” of her life deserve to be analyzed in the “imaginary” and also “symbolic” dimensions. Lacanian viewpoint states the the imaginary dimension refers to an object’s real qualities or perceivable helpful implications.

In contrast, the symbolic measurement is concerned with social status and also how one positions themselves in society. Choose how advertising trends reflect social phenomenon — old advertising comes to itself v the physical features of the products, while new advertising disclosure a details lifestyle more than the product itself — this writer obstacles the leader to self-introspect:

Why am ns doing the abundant things i am doing? execute I genuinely gain what I carry out in itself, or am ns chasing the aesthetic the productivity?

Individual as an enterprise

The presentation that productivity can manifest chin in a paradoxical manner.

The separation, personal, instance undertakes actions and behaviors considered productive, not that that aligns through the individual’s values, however rather for the sheer reason that that produces output for output’s sake.

In the follow to end up being the most abundant individual, the individual thus internalizes the changes that culture imposes top top what plot are deemed ‘valuable’.

The individual specifies his self-worth by quantity rather of high quality — through ‘quantity’, we describe the quantity of output being produced, no in the strictly numerical sense, yet rather how achieved the separation, personal, instance feels v his performance, nevertheless of even if it is or not its characteristics are aligned through the individual’s well-being and also core values.

In this way, the id of productivity is no much longer relegated to the kingdom of the company enterprise, yet the individual has actually now become a mini-enterprise, and such are the results of the fetishisation that the fertile individual.

Imitating one automated, continually to work enterprise, a compulsion to maximize output even during leisure time emerges and also becomes normalized in individuals.

We have come to be a varieties that compulsively checks emails during supposed times of relaxation, prioritizes acquisition photographs of places to appeal come followers rather of enjoy it the moment, and also reads dozens the self-help publications instead the beautifully created pieces of creative writing.

Foucault writes,

“Where there is power, over there is resistance.”

A new counter-culture of planning leisure time constructively shows up to juxtapose the obsession v having set work schedule packed through as countless productive activities as feasible — a testimony to how people even forget to take breaks without being forced.

It is regularly overshadowed that several of our finest insights in life come during periods of inactivity. We have actually far worn down our analytical and also methodical left brain too regularly in ours day-to-day productive activities.

Nevertheless, us forget the it is the right brain that provides us through inspiration and creativity — the left brain executor can not execute without the right mind catalyst.

While that is the left brain responsible because that ensuring your essay is ordered and academically written, that is the right brain that is the source of diffused ideas that constitute the core of her writing.

Leisure time serves to offer your logical mind a break and nourish the an imaginative side, ironically resulting in you to end up being much much more productive in the long run — not to say the it must be the key reason to take breaks.

The inquiry to asking is not, “How have the right to I be an ext productive?” however instead, “Why perform I treatment so much about being productive?”

Michel Foucault ~ above Garage Vice

Foucault believes the human actions does no stem from natural tendencies, however rather social and also historical influences. Concerning the obsession v productivity, that infers the neoliberalism is the reason of the infiltration of market competitiveness into day-to-day life.

For context, the method power works as outlined in Foucault’s The history of Sexuality is that daily discourses space “produced by a whole series of mechanisms operating in various institutions” — in various other words, ideas such as the prominence of efficiency prevail no from central power, however from capillaries in countless parts of society.

While a central power — i beg your pardon Foucault writes together a government, despite it could likewise refer to corporate elitism — advantage from this productivity tendency, this id is implemented through countless mediums. Many of them room unaware that the an unfavorable or unconscious implications, together the normalization the such habits goes unquestioned.

Foucault specifies power as an unfavorable power, which functions to protect against or repress behaviors, and as productive power, i m sorry incentivizes people to act a details way, producing us together subjects. The subjects produced in neoliberal society are not simply assets the produce an ext for a business, yet subjects that expropriate the standing quo of having to live this way.

The individual is rewarded because that viewing themselves as a commodity, and the concern of the mankind of such a culture is overlooked. We space taught in this culture to treat collective problems as individual persons — homeless human being should acquire a job! regardless of there being more empty houses than homeless civilization in America.

We are elevated in a culture that advantages us for treating others as a method to an ends.

In the indigenous of Walter Kerr,

compelled to review for profit, party because that contracts, lunch for contacts”.

It is such as soon as one find it beneficial to take it the absurdist path — the nihilistic course is unhelpfully hopeless, and also the existentialist path is challenging to apply when you struggle to do a life unable to afford fancies that self-actualization.

The absurdist philosopher Albert Camus notes that we try to “make a mark” in the people as an effort to cheat death. This way, once our physical body stops functioning, ours immaterial soul resides on by word of mouth — referred to as the ‘death anxiety’.

Photo of Albert Camus by Henri Cartier-Bresson / Magnum

Camus asserts the it is absurd to live life deluding ourselves the there is no meaning whatsoever. Every initiative to make a note would only result in united state perpetually living for tomorrow, forgetting to take a breather and enjoy the minute as we have it now.

One must reconcile that there is no an interpretation in the universe, through the natural drive of people to seek meaning in any method possible, and also such reconciliation by nature is absurd in that paradox.

The an excellent way to live life is to indulge in her passions, no in the completely hedonistic sense, but simply to do fulfilling points that offer you meaning in your life currently without any thought of an afterlife.

Camus contrasts an actor to a writer — the gibbs produces art that that knows will certainly die in his lifetime, yet the writer wishes his work-related to transcend his death.

While there is nothing specifically wrong through writing because that pleasure, over there is something inevitably troubling around the continuous of transcending death; never owning the will certainly to face mortality — this way of life births a creature that forgets that life is short and is to be enjoyed.

Camus urges an approach to life the is no filled with self-defeating pleasure, such as addiction come drugs, or overindulgence in something that inevitably reasons regret and demise, but also not a life that emphasizes output and production.

Immerse in what makes you happy without remorse — hobbies, spending time with loved ones, and contemplation to appreciate the small things the make life beautiful.

The an essential is no to finish the entire jar of cookie in one go and loathe you yourself after, but in every bite the the cookie, immerse in it and also truly enjoy what life has to offer.

The ancient Greeks believed that self-improvement, contrary to being about individual productivity, is collective and related come the social world. Self-improvement is all about refining ethics and also how to much better relationships with others.

The ability to come to be conscientious, forgiving, and genuine far transcends the capacity to organize your life, come to be the ideal employee, and work as countless hours in the day together possible. Nobody reads a Ph.D. Student’s thesis in ~ the finish of the day, but everybody will certainly remember kindness.


This essay covers why modern-day productivity society is nothing more than a device of neoliberalism and hopes that by now has persuaded you to protect against being obsessive about being a productive individual.

Instead, this essay advises friend to straight your energy into being more conscientious the the beauty found in life and the people roughly you.

We know that philosophers from various periods of background and areas of study conclude similarly, albeit using various methods of interpretation.


Discovers the society’s obsession with seeking personal pleasure and advance is rid of any basic values the virtues — and also is simply a by-product of historic phenomenon.

One must not check out too much meaning into it, and acknowledge the our basic ‘beliefs’ are never really authentically ours but influenced by determinants outside of our consideration.


Urges reader to asking — concerning any task — but especially fertile ones that us devote definition into, Why am i doing this?

Most the the time, we find that the activities we do are just done to follow a fictitious satisfaction in knowing we are component of the abundant crowd in society.

It is nothing more than for aesthetics and an unconscious injunction for ‘obscene enjoyment’ — no enjoying it since you do, but since you have to.


Believes that as result of our neoliberal society, individuals end up being mini-enterprises.

The power to i charged this in a profound psychological path is inconspicuous since power does not work in a binary manner, with the clean oppressed and oppressor.

However, concepts permeate through different capillaries in society by human being who are unknowingly propagating a harmful ideology. We carry out not even realize we are manipulated into coming to be obsessively productive.


States the the Absurd man is someone that acknowledges — and does not fight but rather accepts — the paradox the life is basically meaningless, yet humans evolved to have the journey to seek meaning when over there is none.

The solution is no to delude yourself into a false definition but accept and do what you will certainly in life there is no a further expectation the it will transcend you past your an individual pleasure. Do what makes you happy!

At the finish of the day, remember that you only have actually one life come live, and also the cosmos does not treatment whether you produce fifty books in your life time or none.

Your ‘work’ is basically meaningless in the grand scale of points no matter what occupation you enter or how revered your success are.

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The only human being who cares around your work-related is her boss, for this reason as lengthy as you room done v formal responsibilities, you have no reason to further overthink her self-worth.