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The Burnout Society

3.95  ·  Rating details ·  6,026 ratings  ·  674 reviews
Our competitive, service-oriented societies are taking a toll on the late-modern individual. Rather than improving life, multitasking, "user-friendly" technology, and the culture of convenience are producing disorders that range from depression to attention deficit disorder to borderline personality disorder. Byung-Chul Han interprets the spreading malaise as an inability ...more
Paperback, 60 pages
Published August 12th 2015 by Stanford Briefs (first published 2010)
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Feb 15, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This is a seriously interesting book, but I'm not sure I completely agree with him. His argument is that we now live in a world where we are so self-monitoring that we have moved beyond the notion of a discipline society. That is, we no longer require external modes of discipline, but rather our desire to be high-achievers fulfils this function much more effectively than external compulsion ever could.

I'm going to tell you why I think this might be overstating the case and then I'm going to igno
Philippe Malzieu
Apr 13, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A tieredness society.

This is the story of a young man korean who came to study metallurgy in Germany and became philosoph (it's quite normal to be philosoph in Germany)
Interisting man.
Many of my patient are tired. So tired. His vision is particular because he had two culture. In Korea, children are complained to work a lot, competition, ...(with many problems : suicide, dispressed) But in occidental country, it is the same.
For him, our society of performance is in fact the suprem stade of the s
Paul Ataua
Feb 21, 2019 rated it liked it
A stimulating and yet not wholly satisfying read. Byuon-Chul Hal presents a short tract suggesting that society has moved on from one in which our behavior is disciplined by those around us to one in which we are freer, self-monitoring individuals who are controlled by the pressure to achieve, to be special. It seems to be this pressure to achieve leads to increases in depressions, attention deficit disorders, and a whole bunch of negatives. Right or wrong, the book is buoyed along by interestin ...more
Tim Knight
Dec 24, 2017 rated it did not like it
This book is torture! Thank God it’s small. It’s either a very bad translation from German or a rotten porridge from someone trying to impress people with fancy words—and failing.
"Burnout syndrome does not express the exhausted self so much as the exhausted, burnt-out soul."

Recently, one of the podcasts I listen to has started running adverts for an audiobook and e-reader app. The advert goes something like this: Are you too busy to read full books? But do you still want to get ahead? With our app, you can discover the key ideas of the world's best non-fiction books in only 15 minutes. We have summarised and re-written thousands of books so that you can digest them in ju
Mariana Ferreira
Nov 03, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
This is the best explanation I've ever found on the current mental health crisis in our society. A wonderful work of Philosophy that is both brilliant and accessible, tiny and comprehensive. I'll need to read everything Han has ever written. ...more
Catarina Neves
2020 Reading #10 | Fall Readings
(I have mixed feelings about this book. But let me explain.)

Choosing this book to be the first one I completed after a very long time without reading was probably not my wisest decision. It was a hell of a ride: who would say such a "small" book would take such a long time to read? I have a pretty simple answer for that, but a very complex (and confused) overlook on it.

For context : I have suffered/been diagnosed with burnouts. Yes, plural, more than once. Howe
Alejandro Teruel
A very short, eight chapter book that starts out very well indeed, but collapses round about the beginning of chapter four and became absolutely incomprehensible for me soon after, when the author attempts to show the inadequacy of a strange, shadowy version of psychoanalysis to explain the prevalence of depression , narcissistic "disturbances" , burnout and ADHD. I originally evaluated it with one star, which is probably more of a personal over-reaction of disappointment with the last chapters, ...more
Dec 16, 2018 rated it liked it
Not an easy read. I skimmed it about a year ago and I still don't get it, even though I read it slowly and take notes. Even though I picked this up because I think it's relevant to whatever I'm struggling with. Even though I've read a good number of literature it references (Nietzsche, Heidegger, Kafka, Bartleby... but not Agamben, yet.)

The idea is that some of the old social metaphors of sickness/ health/ immune system, that are still extremely popular today, are in fact outdated, and fail to
Herval Freire
Jul 06, 2019 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
The author seems to have collected a series of passages from multiple sources (Nietzche and Arendt being his favorites), and tried to shoehorn their ideas into a nonsensical theory of “positivity vs negativity” that bears no semblance to society. He also comes up with the weirdest defining for burnout and depression, classifying them as caused by “excess of positivity”. Pure nonsense.
Han's argument is that we have transitioned from a disciplinary society in which we are pressured to conform by external forces, into an achievement society in which we are pressured to conform by the introjected requirement to "live your best life", and so exploit ourselves in the impossible task of seeking ever-receding, pointless and illusory life goals, set by Capital. Consumerism requires that we are never satisfied, and so we can only fail to achieve, expending our energy in a fruitless as ...more
May 14, 2021 rated it it was amazing
The book is clearly inspired by Zen Buddhism, which I think was brought up at some point. Other than that, a bit of Heidegger, a bit Russell, and even a bit of Arendt which caught me off guard.

Quite frankly, I agree with many of Byung-Chul's observations, we do live in a society of the performance, one that kills the soul. It clouds our view of the world, of what we need, and of what we must abandon. We don't live with enough interruption. Though I don't find the distractions necessarily bad (ha
Apr 15, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This is undoubtedly one of the most important essays I've read in my life. You must read this.

The nice thing about authors who criticize economic exploitation is that they tend to keep their books online for free. It's like 50 pages, this link has an excerpt:
Jan 05, 2021 rated it really liked it
[not a review]
The burnout society

We are suffering from excess of positivity, not from lack of it.

“Obesity of all current systems” of information, communication, and production. And this excess doesn't trigger any immune response (taking analogy of excess fat accumulation). The violence of positivity doesn't presume or require hostility. It unfolds specifically in a permissive and pacified society.

21st century society is no longer a disciplinary society, but rather an achievement society [leistu
Oct 04, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Idea in the book is mind-blowing. But a very difficult read for non-philosophy major. When you somehow grinds through the difficult sentences, gems await you. So totally worth the effort.
Interesting ideas, a good starting point for some introspection and self-analysis; yet I honestly expected more from this internationally acclaimed essay.
Aug 20, 2018 rated it it was ok
Shelves: theory, media, sociology
Dating itself quite a bit with its argument that modern neuroses can be explained by the disappearance of alterity, or of the Negative (prohibitions, foreignness, social limitations) -- such a position doesn't exactly hold water in light of renascent far-right movements in America and in Europe (and I assume elsewhere). And while there's quite a bit to his conception of the shift from disciplinary society to achievement society -- the former being characterized by exterior, prohibitive forces an ...more
May 05, 2015 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
A book review is perhaps not the best place to write an entire counter-essay, and so I will try to refrain from doing just that (despite rather wanting to).

This is, without a doubt, a refreshing take on modern society. As a thought experiment, a minor array of eye-openers or as a genuine attempt to better understand the world in which we live, it's a good book to read.
The language never becomes too dense for lay(wo)men like myself to throw in the towel, yet the concepts that language is used for
Jun 21, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
I would probably say that this is one of the best books by this author, a brief analysis of how our current society affects our health and makes us feel sick.
Nov 07, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Almost a mandatory reading in this world we live in. It has very interesting remarks on depression.
May 14, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Emilio Garcia
Jun 06, 2021 rated it really liked it
I have to recognise myself as what people called a workaholic. A friend of mine kindly recommended me this book written by the "trending topic" philosopher Byung-Chul Han about self-explotation as the new tool of capitalist domination. Although I basically agree on part of his theories, the issue that our society push human beings to a limitless working hours model as the image of freedom and success, this do not necessarily push to systematic unhappiness and unsatisfaction. Furthermore, sometim ...more
Jan 20, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Brilliant, deeply insightful, book. It talks about a few ideas, rather than just burnout (the translated English title is not very good).

The author says that depression is a result of excess of positivity, in contrast to existence of negativity. He also talks about a transition from the disciplinary society to the achievement society. Also, about profound boredom and vita contemplativa in contrast to vita activa.

I was convinced of the ingeniousness behind it, and probably didn't understand it co
Ricardo Hernández
This is -perhaps- the best book that I’d probably read in 2020. Just in point with current pandemic situation, the ideas of the South Korean-born German philosopher brings light into modern diseases and offers a glimpse behind the catastrophic destiny of human nature in times where capitalism is fueled by self-exploitation.

Impossible to sum up the corpus of the text, but a few lines can beautifully spark conversation:

"we are now living in an immunological age […] pathological conditions derivin
May 19, 2020 rated it really liked it
A surprisingly interesting book.
According to the author we are living in a century where the signature affliction is given by neurological illnesses such as depression, ADHD, BPD and the burnout syndrome. We live in a time that is poor in negativity, And so, the neuronal illnesses od the 21st century folow a dialectic: not the dialectic of negativity but that of positivity. They are pathological conditions deriving from an excess of positivity.
The idea above itself intrigued me to give a chance
Eddy D. Sanchez
Sep 06, 2020 rated it really liked it
I read the book because the author is receiving a lot of comments for his articles, I found the theme that he addresses on the behavior of society through discipline and personal competitiveness interesting, I saw quite a few quotes from Nietzsche and Hegel, which is a certain way go in a similar line.
If I would recommend the book as a light reading, read it with an open mind, at the beginning its ideas are very striking but once meditated and analyzed, something interesting can be distilled.
☕️ Inês
"Depression is the sickness of a society that suffers from excessive positivity. It reflects a humanity waging war on itself."

I believe this sentence pretty much sums it up. An insightful read, although a bit hard to follow at times.

I also feel like I need to point out how the very first paragraph of this book did not age well AT ALL:

"Despite widespread fear of an influenza epidemic, we are not living in a viral age. Thanks to immunological technology we have already left it behind. From a patho
Feb 21, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-in-2019
Review to follow
Simón Contreras
A interesting Essay on the rôle of rest (and réflection) in modern Society. A plea for help to get away from hyper-activity, in a performance driven World.
Toni Tassani
May 08, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: owned-physical
We live in a society immersed in positivity. From a disciplinary society now we live in an achievement society. From oppressors to depression. From obedience, self-imposed coercion with a sensation of freedom.
I liked the reflections and the many references to other philosophers.
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Byung-Chul Han, also spelled Pyŏng-ch'ŏl Han (born 1959 in Seoul), is a German author, cultural theorist, and Professor at the Universität der Künste Berlin (UdK) in Berlin, Germany.

Byung-Chul Han studied metallurgy in Korea before he moved to Germany in the 1980s to study Philosophy, German Literature and Catholic theology in Freiburg im Breisgau and Munich. He received his doctoral degree at Fre

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“The complaint of the depressive individual, “Nothing is possible,” can only occur in a society that thinks, “Nothing is impossible.” 39 likes
“The acceleration of contemporary life also plays a role in this lack of being. The society of laboring and achievement is not a free society. It generates new constraints. Ultimately, the dialectic of master and slave does not yield a society where everyone is free and capable of leisure, too. Rather, it leads to a society of work in which the master himself has become a laboring slave. In this society of compulsion, everyone carries a work camp inside. This labor camp is defined by the fact that one is simultaneously prisoner and guard, victim and perpetrator. One exploits oneself. It means that exploitation is possible even without domination.” 28 likes
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