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The Overworked American: The Unexpected Decline Of Leisure Paperback – March 24, 1993
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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.
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* USA citizens are the most overworked and among the least rewarded in real terms in the industrialized world.
* Most USA citizens would rather have more time off than higher pay.
* Overwork brings stresses to families and individuals that have huge costs which are largely unknown.
* The assault on the 40 hour work week, which itself is onerous and unnecessary.
* The so-called golden age in the 50's and 60's of the stay-at-home mom is largely a myth.
* Had Social Security been allowed to thrive instead of tampered with by elected officials, a retirement age of 50 would have been possible in the 1990s.
* How a 4-day, 32-35 hour work week at full pay is not only possible but economically desirable as well.
We've been duped by the American (over)work ethic, which is little more than an ideology that has evolved to enrich others by making overwork seem both inevitable and natural. Shor shows us that overwork is neither.
Also, Juliet Schor is a well- known, Harvard economists, so she has great credentials. Also, her other books are really good too!
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.
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."
In that light, I'd like to say that the importance of those conclusions cannot be overstated, and that a decade and a half later we're still wallowing in the same morass. Don't listen to those who say that instituting these reforms will cause an economic collapse; as Schor points out, American workers get less than half the paid holidays of the second-stingiest nation (and with the collapse of sick and vacation time into this loathsome "paid time off" category, which has allowed companies to shave weeks off the average employee's time off, it's just gotten worse in the past few years), but I haven't seen any other major Western democracies falling into economic chaos because their workers just aren't working enough. There is valuable stuff at the destination, however suspect the journey may be. ***