“The making of burnout: From social change to self-awareness in the postwar United States, 1970–82,” by Matthew J. Hoffarth. Abstract:
The concept of burnout has become ubiquitous in contemporary discussions of work stress in the post-industrial, service economy. However, it originated outside of the market, in the counter-cultural human service institutions of the San Francisco Bay Area and New York City. This article explores the first decade of the development of the burnout concept, demonstrating how it represented a reaction against the counter-culture and the alternative institutions that emerged alongside it. Focused in particular on the work of psychoanalyst Herbert Freudenberger and social psychologist Christina Maslach, this article demonstrates how the burnout phenomenon inspired professional helpers to engage in self-care and reduce their commitment to clients. As burnout migrated from the human services into the broader business environment in the early 1980s, the dedication to social change through helping others would largely vanish, to be replaced by the idea that the best way to ‘serve’ customers and co-workers was by practising self-awareness and self-management.