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The Overworked American: The Unexpected Decline Of Leisure Paperback – March 24, 1993

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Basic Books; Reprint edition (March 24, 1993)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 046505434X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0465054343
  • Product Dimensions: 7.7 x 5.3 x 0.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (23 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #436,959 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

An important, hard-hitting, well-documented look at the overworking of America, this study finds that Americans now spend more hours working than at any time since WW II. 75,000 first printing; $50,000 ad/promo.
Copyright 1993 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

This is a book with an important message that unfortunately will probably not be taken seriously. Schor, a Harvard economist, argues from statistics what the rest of us know from experience, that "in the last twenty years the amount of time Americans have spent at their jobs has risen steadily." And the statistics, if accurate, are stunning. Each year our work year increases by one day. We average only 16 hours of leisure a week after jobs and household chores. Working hours are longer than they were 40 years ago. And if present trends continue by the year 2000, we will be spending as much time at our jobs as we did in the 1920s. However, as Schor notes, we are also willing victims of this erosion of leisure as we pursue promotions, bigger salaries, and conspicuous consumption. Her solution? Hold jobs to a set number of hours per week, offer comp time for any overtime, and lower our living standards. Recommended for academic and public libraries.
- Jeffrey R. Herold, Bucyrus P.L., Ohio
Copyright 1992 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

More About the Author

Juliet B. Schor's research has focused on the economics of work, spending, environment, and the consumer culture. She is the author of Born to Buy, The Overworked American, and The Overspent American. Schor is a professor of sociology at Boston College, a former member of the Harvard economics department, and a Guggenheim Fellowship recipient. She is also a cofounder of the Center for a New American Dream, an organization devoted to ecologically and socially sustainable lifestyles.

Customer Reviews

3.9 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

39 of 40 people found the following review helpful By Barron Laycock HALL OF FAME on June 28, 2000
Format: Paperback
America is the fabled land of plenty, and according to Juliet Schor, most of us seem to be lining up for more than our share of work hours. In our unabated obsession to get more than our fair share of the virtual cornucopia of goods and services out there in the marketplace, we seem to have become collectively addicted to working more and more hours in a devil's bargain with our employers. This book is a wonderful overview of this long-term trend toward overwork, where the average American now works the equivalent of an extra month a year. Since it is cheaper to pay someone overtime than it is to hire new workers and pay the associated benefits, corporations gladly ante up to pay for our increasing presence at work. Yet this mysterious and unexpected contemporary American addiction to being on the job has its associated costs (as well as causes).
Harvard professor Juliet Schor spins a convincing and disturbing tale regarding the increasing numbers of hours we spend each week at work rather than leisure. This is a historical surprise, since most baby boomers emerged from the colleges and universities convinced we would have more leisure time and better ways to pursue our many avocational interests than any generation in the past. In this entertaining, topical, and quite readable book, the author surveys a plethora of reasons for the surprising trend toward overwork. The principal dynamic she pinpoints in influencing this trend is an economy that literally demands extra effort and time from its employees, an economy which until quite recently had a chronic shortage of available jobs and "surplus" labor pool of potential workers. Under such circumstances, anyone lacking the requisite willingness to work extra hours was indeed dispensable.
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34 of 35 people found the following review helpful By K. Johnson VINE VOICE on August 7, 2002
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Juliet Schor presents many balanced and interesting facts, stats, and trends in the past and present individual and collective work environment in the United States. Do most Americans realize this or even think about it?....I've met only a few who do. Since World War II worker productivity per capita has more than doubled. And, the hours worked has increased so steadily that work hours will be at the levels of what they were in the 1920s. The average American takes 12 days off per year, which is the lowest in the industrialized world. Yet Americans are in more personal debt than at any time at our history. Most today, will work into their 70s as the thing called retirement is not possible for most.
Question: is it worth it? The Puritanical work-consume-work-consume-die mentality is being questioned by some Americans, now that their investments, pensions, and 401-Ks have lost the principal to allow them to live and do what they have always been wanting to do. This book may seem contrary to the way most Americans have been raised and advised throughout their lives.
Do Americans have time to reflect, think, relax, and pursue anything to their liking? The answer depends on who you are, so ask yourself that question. This is a relevant book for a very relevant topic.
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39 of 42 people found the following review helpful By Barbara R. Saunders on September 26, 2001
Format: Paperback
I disagree with the reviewer who blasts Schor's accusations against corporate America.
"Get a job you like and live within your means," he advises.
Trouble is, there's something very peculiar about the way the job market is set up. As a bachelor's degreed worker, looking for a moderate way job, I've found full-time (PLUS - emphasis on the plus) jobs at $50K and full-time jobs at $25K, but where the heck are the half-time jobs at $25K?
No where to be found.
"Face-time" requirements and inflexibility on the part of most companies thwart the moderation strategy.
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21 of 21 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on June 8, 1999
Format: Paperback
Juliet Schor show us not only are we working longer than anytime in the past 50 years, we are trying to squeeze more activities into our days. The important things, like spending time with our families, helping with school work, cooking a decent homecooked meal, are sacrificed because if we try to go home at 5p.m. we are considered slackers. But it is the workers' fault as much as the employer, because we need the overtime pay to pay off our credit card debt, to send our kids to private schools, to pay for the new SUV and Minivan and the suburban dreamhouse. It's a ratrace and we are the rats and we wouldnt dream of sitting it out.
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18 of 18 people found the following review helpful By Robert Beveridge HALL OF FAMEVINE VOICE on November 1, 2007
Format: Paperback
Juliet B. Schor, The Overworked American: The Unexpected Decline of Leisure (Basic Books, 1992)

Fifteen years ago, when The Overworked American came out, I was, in fact, one of those overworked Americans: a retail manager, one of the demographics Schor singles out (for the outrageous practice of requiring fifty or more hours of work per week on a salary exempt from overtime). I soon came to realize that quality of life was more important than paycheck, and exited that position stage left, but didn't get around to reading the book that had so piqued my curiosity until this year. I have to say that while I wholeheartedly agree with most of Schor's conclusions here-- I would find it odd for anyone not to-- the ways she goes about reaching some of them leave a great deal to be desired.

Schor, as has been noted in a number of reviews, is (at least in these pages) an unapologetic socialist, and as the old saying goes, "when all you have is a hammer, every problem looks like a nail." It doesn't occur to her that there might be other ways to practically apply her otherwise sound advice than aggressive unionization or other such measures (the dark sides of which, of course, are never mentioned even in passing), despite the fact that she notes a number of other countries where reforms such as those she advocates have taken root without such measures. The basic paradox inherent in that sentence pervades the book; it raises the rather odd idea that Schor started with her conclusions, then went back and filled in the blanks, never bothering to make sure that research A gelled with opinion B. It's no wonder, given this, that Library Journal said of this book that it has "an important message that will probably not be taken seriously.
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