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The Overworked American: The Unexpected Decline Of Leisure
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The Overworked American: The Unexpected Decline Of Leisure

3.91  ·  Rating details ·  364 ratings  ·  39 reviews
This pathbreaking book explains why, contrary to all expectations, Americans are working harder than ever. Juliet Schor presents the astonishing news that over the past twenty years our working hours have increased by the equivalent of one month per year—a dramatic spurt that has hit everybody: men and women, professionals as well as low-paid workers. Why are we—unlike eve ...more
Paperback, 272 pages
Published March 24th 1993 by Basic Books (first published January 28th 1957)
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Carl Webb
Feb 05, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: labor-history
This book inspired me to be that slacker that I am.
Stephany Wilkes
Jul 02, 2013 rated it really liked it
As others have mentioned, this book feels dated because it was written in the late 1990s. Fortunately, the author has published similarly themed books more recently. Reading this book now just makes it seem like more of a harbinger. It also has me wondering what carrots employers will dangle to get us to work long hours when we're no longer dependent on them for health care in the very near future.

This book is important because it drives the point home about how much has been taken from us in t
Sep 08, 2013 rated it it was amazing
The Overworked American is an incredible work of academic inspection that is totally relatable to the general public, and which touches on topics and issues that most of us - if not all of us - can identify with.

At the risk of vastly oversimplifying this book, Schor argues these things:

- Americans work more than they need to.
- Americans work more than they want to.
- Americans aren't getting more leisure time as time passes, but in fact are receiving less.
- Business elites are to blame for this^
Apr 07, 2009 rated it really liked it
Shelves: econ
Great book. She talks a lot about materialism/consumerism, work/family issues, and how to get out of the cycle of "work and spend", from a progressive economist's viewpoint. There's a good history of the work week, dating back to medieval Europe (and beyond that, though with much less precision in her estimates). It's a bit dated (1992), but if the stats on working hours were updated, she could pretty much leave everything else alone and it would still be relevant to today. One of the fine econo ...more
May 08, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Should be required reading. How and why the 8 hour day and 40 hour week are kiling our society and our selves.
Angela Gordon
May 05, 2019 rated it really liked it
Why wasn’t this book assigned reading in my doctoral program? Schor covers economics, labor relations, psychology, and sex and gender. A definite classic.
Aug 10, 2009 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
An approachable, mostly statistics-based analysis on American work habits over the past century. Schor demonstrates that Americans work hours, both at home and at the workplace, have increased. Though most households have appliances such as washing machines and microwaves designed to save time, Americans now spend more or the same amount of time on housework as they did before. And generally speaking, most employees will prefer higher pay as compensation rather than more flexible or reduced hour ...more
Les Wolf
Jul 02, 2015 rated it it was amazing
A ground-breaking study on working America that is well-researched and practical. The author traces the history of work from the Middle Ages to modern day and presents arguments from all sides. I learned interesting facts about work habits and our culture that are highly relevant to life, health and happiness but were never mentioned in any text or lecture during my four years as a business major.
This book is a launching pad into new areas of research in the fields of sociology, psychology and e
Aug 18, 2012 added it
I thought it was informative and depressing; depressing because most US workers are still obsessed with the outdated "Puritan" work ethic and endless consumption. US workers - especially those who have time, like the unemployed - need to read this book. As our economy continues to be radically reshaped, and we wonder what our future work lives may be, this book presents a compelling argument to reduce our average working hours/days/months and re-invest in our families and communities. ...more
May 15, 2008 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
This book discussed the development of our economic system over the past 200 years or so and how it has resulted in our current state of almost constant work and lack of leisure time. Also touches on the "disappearance" of house work as real work. ...more
Leslie Edwards
fantastic deconstruction of how our American working culture has gotten into it's current mess. it will make you think twice about all the plastic shit your're buying, whether you really need it, and whether you really want to work more to be able to have it. ...more
Jeff Doucette
Dec 14, 2009 rated it it was amazing
An urgent clarion call for everyone to just chill out before the American experiment goes irreversibly awry. Really. Just chill out, everybody.
Harry Klinkhamer
Nov 14, 2012 rated it liked it
Although a bit dated, this book shows how American society chose consumerism over relaxation as the benefit of modernization.
John Rapp
Feb 12, 2018 rated it it was amazing
'Let us not forget that the point of economic growth was to increase wellbeing, not to harm it.' ...more
May 06, 2019 rated it really liked it
I thought it was somewhat humorous that I was reading this and one other book for a class and I work full time. Aside from my personal experience, I felt this book provided an in-depth understanding of the changes to the culture around working in the US and what possible changes could be made to improve the lives of employees while improving productivity in the workplace.
Brent Neal
Dec 24, 2010 rated it liked it
The Overworked American is a well-researched, but dense economic history of the our struggle with the tradeoff between time and money. What really makes this book shine is the data in the latter chapters of the book that discuss the implications of the recent research that shows the broad preference for Americans to receive more free time rather than more money as part of their compensation rise. I also found her framing of the conflict between the labor movement of the early 20th century and bu ...more
Mar 05, 2012 rated it it was ok
Shelves: did-not-finish
A bit too broad, too long, and a little out of date (early 90s). But some interesting quotes from before I stopped reading:

U.S. manufacturing employees currently work 320 more hours--the equivalent of over two months--than their counterparts in West Germany or France. - location 80

Yet with all these labor-saving innovations, no labor has been saved. Instead, housework expanded to fill the available time. Norms of cleanliness rose. Standards of mothering grew more rigorous. - location 166

If you n
Elizabeth Lund
Oct 29, 2011 rated it liked it
As other reviewers have noted, the statistics in this book, though dated at this point, are fascinating. However, if I read it right, the number of hours per week that Americans worked increased only slightly in the time period she studied--the real increase was in the number of weeks they worked, and she never really explained or speculated on the reasons for this. All I can think of is that it was because of a shift in the types of jobs people hold--in the 60s, maybe more people were still in ...more
Apr 02, 2015 rated it liked it
Interesting reading, but would be more so if there were not burdened down with so many statistics.
Being a bestseller, one would think this would have been a "call-to-arms" to bring the unions back, bud sadly over fifteen years later the lack of time off has decreased even more. I know at my job it is less than one day then even last year, & that they wanted to take Independence day away from us this year (& already have it on the agenda to so do next year). Is this what our country has come to-
Aug 29, 2007 added it
A very informative and interesting book. It made me far more aware of the business cycles that are around me. This is a great read.

I notice that unlike, Nickel and Dimed by Barbara Ehrenreich, this book has not generated a lot of debate and commentary. I think that is rather sad, because although this book is well written, I only presents one side of a story. A unique side, to be sure, but not the only side.
Jan 20, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Aside from being a bit old, this book takes a comprehensive look at modern working habits and compares that with several key points in history. Several oof the ideas suggested by the author for limiting overwork are effective. In the end, the author calls for a greater appreciation and more meaningful use of leisure time.
Carla JFCL
Oct 30, 2010 rated it liked it
This is dated now, but still has a lot of interesting points - some of which I agree with and some I don't. There was in some cases too much repetition of certain points and not enough "fleshing out" of others, which is why I only gave it three stars. ...more
Jul 23, 2011 rated it really liked it
An excellent analysis of the demands on working people, the decline in workers' wellbeing, and way that we get sucked into our own oppression, backed up with scholarly research, clear argument, insightful analysis. ...more
Jan 31, 2008 rated it really liked it
Confirmation, as if you need any, that you're working too hard. ...more
Apr 18, 2008 rated it really liked it
Its not my favorite of Schor's work, but its good. ...more
Kaethe Douglas
Feb 11, 2009 rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
Clear, lucid sociology showing how the personal is political.
May 11, 2010 rated it it was ok
tech made us work..common sense
Jan 01, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: political, economics
I love Juliet Schor. All her books should be required reading.
Jan 16, 2012 rated it liked it
I liked the overall theme of this book, but disagreed with the proposed government healthcare system...
May 17, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: favorites
A wonderful book, filled with useful stats, research, and socio-historical examples that show that leisure time in modern America has become increasingly scarce.
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Juliet Schor’s research over the last ten years has focussed on issues pertaining to trends in work and leisure, consumerism, the relationship between work and family, women's issues and economic justice. Schor's latest book is Born to Buy: The Commercialized Child and the New Consumer Culture (Scribner 2004). She is also author of The Overworked American: The Unexpected Decline of Leisure and The ...more

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