The dark shadow in the injunction to ‘do what you love’ – The Week Magazine

Why do we work? Many of us might give a simple transactional answer to the question: we work in order to make money. For the American psychologist Abraham Maslow (1908-70), and the management thinkers inspired by his theory of motivation, people’s motives for working could not be reduced to a paycheck. Instead, Maslow and his followers argued in management texts and training seminars that people work to fulfill higher psychological needs. People work to become self-actualized and to find meaning — provided that meaning can be found in the mundane realities of working life.

First proposed by Maslow in 1943, the hierarchy of needs is a grand theory of human motivation that arranges all motives into a ladder, from the basic physiological needs (for food and shelter) upward to needs for safety, for belonging, for esteem and, at the apex, the motive for self-actualization. At the top rung of the ladder, the self-actualization motive was a future-oriented striving that drove humans to seek meaning and fulfillment in the world.

Maslow’s work began infiltrating management in the 1950s and ’60s, as the business trade press and management theorists picked up humanistic psychology to adapt managerial theories of motivation for a new era. For Maslow, corporations offered both an experimental site for him to observe human psychology — which he did as a consultant for California companies — and a site for humans to realize their higher-order needs through self-actualized work.

Why was corporate America drawn to the hierarchy of needs? They liked it because it offered both a grand narrative and master explanation for human psychology in a changing society and a practical guide to managing people. It is precisely in the tension between these two visions of the hierarchy of needs — the reductive diagram and the rich social theory — that the hierarchy of needs acquires its power and its politics.

The 1960s, renowned as a decade for social experimentation, was also an era when corporations were experimenting with new structures and styles of work. Against the backdrop of the counterculture, social movements, and consumer society, management writers and social theorists alike argued that a widespread transformation in values was afoot — a transformation that required new approaches to managing people and marketing to consumers.

Management thinkers drew on Maslow to develop new theories of “participatory management” that professed to give workers more autonomy and authority in work. Responding to criticisms of bureaucratic conformity and alienation, management gurus wielded the hierarchy of needs to argue that psychological fulfillment was not opposed to but in fact compatible with corporate capitalism. We could work hard, make money, and be happy. Win/win, right?

A burning question, left unresolved in management discussions of the hierarchy of needs, was the extent to which all jobs could offer scope for self-actualization. The hierarchy of needs does admit a range of differences among individuals and organizations, suggesting that, for some people, work is just a paycheck. Some experiments in redesigning jobs did seek to address all levels of the corporate hierarchy, from janitorial work to executive work, but many substituted rhetoric for real change. One management thinker, the American psychologist Frederick Herzberg, used the hierarchy of needs to argue in The Motivation to Work (1959) that companies needn’t provide better benefits to workers, because better benefits had only made workers entitled, rather than increased productivity. Such is the dark side of motivation.

It is certainly not coincidental that a motivational theory dubbed the “hierarchy” of needs was adopted in companies ruled by hierarchical organizational charts. The hierarchy of needs could all too easily map onto work hierarchies, with jobs at the top providing more scope for self-actualization (while also commanding higher paychecks). Uneven distributions of work and workers surround the promise of self-actualized work; devalued work, which we don’t expect to bring satisfaction, and on the flip side, overvalued work, supposed to be all of life.

As a theory of intrinsic motivation, the hierarchy of needs emphasizes intrinsic motives, not external rewards. It suggests that your boss doesn’t need to punish or reward, because you’ll have your own intrinsic motive to work to achieve meaning and fulfillment. It’s a powerful force, that work ethic. The strength of this work ethic, especially in today’s professional class, is why we find company employees who sometimes take fewer vacations than they’re entitled to.

Maslow didn’t invent the idea of self-actualized work, and nor did the 20th-century management consultants who implemented these ideas. We can go back to the German sociologist Max Weber to find similar invocations of work as a spiritual, more than economic, vocation — an ethic of work that Weber in 1905 argued was central to Western capitalism. Indeed, the work ethic is an ideology at once remarkably tenacious and eminently flexible: while its constitutive claim — devotion to work as the center of life — remains consistent, the rewards promised by the ethic vary in historically specific ways, from the promise of social mobility to the promise of self-actualization.

In the decades since Maslow first proposed the now-iconic hierarchy of needs, it has acquired a life of its own. By the 1980s, it had become firmly entrenched in business textbooks and management education. Marketing firms, for example, drew on the hierarchy of needs in both their advertising work and their management training. Depicted in its iconic pyramid form — a pyramid that Maslow himself did not create­ — the hierarchy of needs continues to circulate in management textbooks and as internet memes. Even beyond memes and textbooks, what is most significant is how the ideas and ideologies underpinning the hierarchy of needs continue to resonate with present-day concerns about work, society, and the self.

In the span of writing this article, I found myself haunted by the hierarchy of needs; it was referenced on my Instagram feed and in a blog post about writing. Writing about the work ethic while embroiled in academic work culture makes it similarly difficult to escape the ghost of the hierarchy of needs. Academic work, like work in creative industries and the nonprofit sector, is particularly susceptible to the celebratory rhetoric that one’s work should be motivated by passion, not a paycheck. Why else pursue a PhD, or a career in the creative industry, if you don’t love it?

Nothing exemplifies the promises and perils of self-actualized work better than the cultural conversations around “Do what you love.” The injunction to “do what you love” has had no shortage of critics, who point out its classist nature, advocate for a clearer delineation between work and life, and remind us that burnout might just be the flip side of self-actualized work.

Not all agree that work should be a calling or that we should devote ourselves wholly to work. Calls for a shorter work week, for a better social safety net or more parental leave all demand that we as a society carve out a space of life, leisure, and care against work.

My argument is not that work shouldn’t be meaningful, or that pleasure cannot be found in work; my point is that we should think carefully before accepting managerial ideas of fulfillment through work, because they risk detracting from the economic and social structures that govern work. Work is work — no matter how many beer fridges or meditation seminars modern workplaces offer, and no matter how many well-intentioned trainers show slides of pyramids.

This article was originally published by Aeon, a digital magazine for ideas and culture. Follow them on Twitter at @aeonmag.

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Photos show how Ryan Newman’s devastating, fiery 190 mph crash at the Daytona 500 unfolded

Ryan Newman was left in a “serious condition” in hospital on Monday night following a devastating crash during the final lap of the Daytona 500.

Roush Fenway Racing driver Newman was leading the race in Florida with less than a lap remaining when he was spun out by Ryan Blaney, and subsequently thrown into the air as Corey LaJoie crashed into him at 190 miles-per-hour, according to Sky.

Newman’s car landed on its roof and burst into flames, before rescue crews rushed to stop the fire and get the 42-year-old out of the vehicle. 

He was taken immediately to hospital, where doctors are treating him for serious but “non life threatening injuries.”

“Ryan Newman is being treated at Halifax Medical Center,” said NASCAR executive Steve O’Donnell after the incident.

“We appreciate your thoughts and prayers and ask that you respect the privacy of Ryan and his family at this time.”

See the full sequence of events, and the aftermath, below.

The US was left alone and humiliated on the world stage as European allies collectively dunked on Trump’s ‘America First’ policy at a major security conference

  • President Donald Trump’s “America First” approach keeps isolating the US from its closest allies.
  • World leaders slammed the approach at the Munich Security Conference, saying the US is rejecting the international community.
  • This left US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo trying to defend the US’ relationship with Europe but unable to convince many leaders, Politico reported.
  • The entire conference was themed around the idea of the Western alliance fading, leaving Republicans who attended “taken aback” and defensive, according to Politico.
  • Tensions are again spiking between the US and Europe, particularly the UK, historically its closest ally.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

The US was once again left alienated from its European allies at the world’s biggest security conference as they rubbished President Donald Trump’s “America First” approach and painted a picture of an isolated country.

The Munich Security Conference in Germany, which was established in 1963, has long been a meeting of minds between nations. This year’s summit ended last Sunday.

But since Trump became president, the US has been pushing for the withdrawal from global agreements – such as the Paris climate accord – creating new tension between him and other world leaders, nations, and global institutions, particularly in the West.

This gulf has long been illustrated in global conferences, such as last December’s NATO summit, where a group of world leaders appeared to mock him at a party.

And over the course of the Munich summit, European leaders used a series of public speeches and private conversations to lament the US’ change in commitment as a longstanding ally, causing the US to hit back, Politico reported.


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Foto: French President Emmanuel Macron at a panel discussion at the Munich Security Conference on February 15, 2020.sourceAndreas Gebert via Reuters

In the conference’s opening speech, German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier said: “Under its current Administration, our closest ally, the United States of America, rejects the very concept of an international community.”

“Every country, it believes, should look after itself and put its own interests before all others. As if everyone thinking of himself meant that everyone is being considered,” he said, according to an official transcript.

“‘Great again’ – even at the expense of neighbors and partners,” Steinmeier said, referring to Trump’s 2016 campaign slogan, “Make America Great Again.”

According to Politico, French President Emmanuel Macron also told the conference that “what Europe wants is not quite the same as the US.”

He has frequently sparred with Trump over foreign policy, publicly fact-checking him at the December NATO summit and slamming Trump’s Syria policy in a November interview with The Economist.

Heiko Maas, Germany’s foreign minister, also said of the US’ gradual military withdrawal according to Deutsche Welle: “For too long, we Europeans have shut our eyes to the uncomfortable reality of what a withdrawal of the US from military engagement and from international treaties means for us.”

munich security conference 2017

Foto: A dinner at the Munich Security Conference in 2017.sourceohannes Simon – Pool / Getty

While Trump himself was not there, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo hit back at Steinmeier and others’ comments, quoting them before saying: “I’m here to tell you the facts. Those statements do not reflect reality,” according to Politico.

He also noted the resources the US gives to global alliances and how many trips he has personally made to those countries, saying according to Politico: “Is this an America that rejects responsibility? Let’s be straight up: The US is out there fighting for sovereignty and our friends.”

But most European representatives were unswayed by Pompeo’s rebuttal, and felt that his speech was designed to appease Trump rather than the international leaders in the room, Politico reported.

Mike Pompeo Heiko Maas

Foto: US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas at the Munich Security Conference on February 14, 2020.sourceMichael Dalder/Pool via Reuters

Republicans believe the event centered on attacking the US

The three-day event, which brings together world leaders, military chiefs, and CEOs and can be considered more important than the World Economic Forum in Davos, ended on Sunday.

It was very much a global event, with speeches this year from leaders and foreign ministers of countries including Azerbaijan, China, India, and Iran, as well as Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg.

But the focus this year was on Western alliances.

The theme of this year’s conference was “Westlessness”: what organizers called “a widespread feeling of uneasiness and restlessness in the face of increasing uncertainty about the enduring purpose of the West.”

According to Politico, this title frustrated Republicans – Trump’s party members – who viewed it as a jab at the US and the idea that it stepped back from its traditional leadership role.

Mike Turner, a Republican congressman from Ohio and long-time conference attendee, told Politico that he was “a little taken aback by the tone” and how he felt the US had to defend its commitment to Europe.


Foto: Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg at the Munich Security Conference on February 15, 2020.sourceAndreas Gebert via Reuters

The presence of Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi at the conference, and a quote by prominent Democrat Joe Biden on the conference website’s main page also suggested a European appreciation for Democrats rather than Republicans.

(Biden’s quote, which is prominently featured on the conference’s homepage, says: “Like no other global forum, Munich connects European leaders and thinking wth their peers from across the world.”)

And last year, when US Vice President Mike Pence brought greetings from Trump to the conference, he was met with several seconds of silence. Conference members then also openly criticized the president.

Trump campaigned on this idea of changing America’s role on the global stage, and relations between him and other world leaders have strained since he entered office.

Tensions are also now flaring between the US and the UK – two countries that have long touted their “special relationship” – particularly after Britain decided to go ahead with a 5G deal with Chinese telecoms company Huawei, in what some have seen as a sign in the decline of US influence.