[OPE] Working Overtime Is Linked to Depression, Anxiety

From: Jurriaan Bendien (adsl675281@tiscali.nl)
Date: Sun Jun 22 2008 - 07:41:58 EDT

I suppose, Jerry, that I favour an analysis which links private troubles and public issues, in the tradition of C. Wright Mills, who writes:

"Do not allow public issues as they are officially formulated, or troubles as they are privately felt, to determine the problems that you take up for study. Above all, do not give up your moral and political autonomy by accepting in somebody else's terms the illiberal practicality of the bureaucratic ethos or the liberal practicality of the moral scatter. Know that many personal troubles cannot be solved merely as troubles, but must be understood in terms of public issues - and in terms of the problems of history making. Know that the human meaning of public issues must be revealed by relating them to personal troubles - and to the problems of the individual  life. Know that the problems of social science, when adequately formulated, must include both troubles and issues, both biography and history, and the range of their intricate relations. Within that range the life of the individual and the making of societies occur; and within that range the sociological imagination has its chance to make a difference in the quality of human life in our time." (Mills 1959: 226)

Orthodox Marxism depicted human beings as passive subjects who are confronted with the results of macro-economic developments and laws of motion that are beyond their control. The abstract macro-environment is to blame for their individual condition. The only active subject permitted in the analysis is the organisation of the revolutionary party, or more specifically its divine central committee which has supreme knowledge of society's laws of motion. 

This is a highly deterministic, elitist picture, which leads to the incomprehension of individual predicaments, and therefore to dualisms between voluntarism and determinism, objectivism and subjectivism, freedom and unfreedom, and so on. It also leads to a horrid, hypocritical morality in interpersonal relations, since the macro-level and the micro-level cannot be reconciled. Once we recapture the active human subject as an ethical subject capable of making choices, deciding what to do, and taking responsibility, we can see again how human beings make their own history, within given circumstances. We return to a deep respect for the individual, who is no longer just fodder in the party machine.

The existence of illness in society is just as much an objective condition as unemployment or overwork, and therefore there is no a priori reason for thinking that unemployment and overwork must cause illness, and never the other way round. A dialectical analysis aims to grasp precisely the concatenation of events, how these things are related, how they influence each other, through a specific analysis of the real-concrete which relates the whole to the parts. Writers such as Andre Gorz, Barrington Moore Jr and Richard Sennett (to mention some figures who were important in my generation) have provided valuable analyses in this regard, by showing how private troubles are related to public issues and vice versa, how individual experience and social structures are linked. 

Originally, the modern feminist movement was precisely a critique of the Left insofar as, in its urge to grasp the grandiose movement of history, it completely failed to come to grips with the intricacies of human subjectivity and interpersonal relations. Nowadays few would deny the enormous effect of the sexual revolution on human life, and indeed the media bash us with sexual references every day. But that often means we have to work even harder to understand the links between private troubles and public issues.

Can individuals who are too intimidated or depressed to speak out and act, effect progressive social change? If they cannot, isn't it highly important to develop a profound understanding of human subjectivities as a prerequisite for bring such change about?


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