The Burnout Society: Hustle Culture, Self Help, and Social Control | 1Dime
An article just went super viral on the internet two days ago called gary vaynerchuk is trying to kill you and it speaks to me me glamorizing hard work he really thinks i'm a bad person he thinks me talking about work ethic/hustle is leading to people working too much imagine not doing anything fun or going anywhere for the next eight years including saturday and sunday. That's what I did from 22 to 30 every day I spent 15 hours a day in a liquor store have four jobs! Wendy's, Walmart, your side hustle work! We have entered a new society of control. One much more intricate than previous epochs and more subtle than the totalitarian dystopias predicted by the likes of George Orwell in novels such as 1984. It is a system not based solely on coercion and force, but rather the voluntary self-exploitation of the masses. It is a new kind of panopticon, in which we are all Big Brother now. The system no longer relies strictly on top-down authoritarianism. Rather, it is a system reproduced by the citizens themselves. It is a system where citizens are
Reduced to being consumers and projects of human capital that voluntarily monitor and compare each other's work ethic and achievements. It is a culture where our own voluntary self-exploitation is mistaken for freedom and flexibility. Where the distinction between worker and capitalists is becoming ever more ambiguous. As we are both slaves to capital and at the same time masters of our own exploitation. This particular form of social control is reproduced in many ways, but one of its most acute manifestations is in the social phenomenon we know today as “hustle culture”, a ubiquitous trend within the niche of new age self-help which encourages people to take pride in overworking or grinding as much as possible. Tt makes it cool to brag about working 24/7, not getting proper sleep and to compare other people based on how productive they appear to be. It drives people to constantly consume rise and grind motivational content
and to subsequently feel as though all of one's hard work and accomplishments are never enough. Hustle culture has a particularly theological quality, in that it replaces the role that protestant religion once had in facilitating a sacrificial work ethic that demonizes the slightest idleness or leisure. Motivational self-help gurus are the new priests and ceos are the new gods. The key difference from Prodistant christianity is that rather than hard work merely being a formal duty hustle culture reinforces an invisible ideology that makes us enthusiastically choose to sacrifice our physical and mental labor for the capitalist system. The invisibility of this
rugged individualist capitalist ideology disguised as harmless self-help is precisely what makes it so much more effective in maintaining our new society of control. Tt acts as both a belief system for the capitalist elite to justify their excessive wealth and also as a subconscious drive that gets citizens to control themselves and ultimately sacrificed their entire life to the capitalist system. This force of psychic control is what the german korean philosopher Byung-Chul Han called "psychopolitics" in which the main object of control is our very minds. To the point where people out of their own free will eagerly subject themselves to overwork to the point of burnout. New age hustle culture is a perfect contemporary example of psychopolitics in action. Hustle culture
is not just bad because of the negative mental health effects it produces and the influx of annoying delusional billionaire wannabes that it inspires. Rather, in this video we will demonstrate how hustle culture reflects a subtle new form of social control, which is an observation that most apolitical videos on this topic failed to point out. Such as the videos made by James Jani and tiffanyferg which were good but there have really been no youtube videos that highlight the much darker effect of social control that hustle culture performs. Now you may have clicked on this video because you wanted to hear a criticism of people like Gary Vaynerchuk and we will get there, but motivational gurus like him are only a small piece and a much larger systemic problem that we are analyzing. Thus, this video is not so much a critique of Gary Vaynerchuk as an
individual, but rather the hustle culture phenomenon that figures like him represent. Which we argue functions as a much more subtle form of social control. While hustle culture is really just a rehashed form of capitalist ideology that has existed for quite a long time, whether it be in the form of positive psychology, the protestant ethic of hard work, or other forms of religions, new age hustle culture is particularly unique in the way that it reasserts neoliberal capitalism in the age of the gig economy. By neoliberalism, we more generally mean the rugged individualist ideology which posits that the profit motive should dictate all aspects of life and that everything should be treated as a business. Now before getting into the meat of this video such as the parts regarding psychopolitics and smart power, please consider supporting the channel on patreon.
You will get access to exclusive podcasts and vlogs that we make, which will include a deep dive on all the philosophers that helped inform the contents of this video. While these videos are made accessible for a broad audience, the exclusive podcasts that we make are for those who want to learn a little bit more about the theoretical stuff and it's a great way to support the channel. Now why is Gary Vaynerchuk in the thumbnail? While there is a massive sewage of self-help gurus to choose from, Gary Vanerchuk is currently the most famous poster boy of what can be called “hustle culture.” Gary Vaynerchuk, also known as Gary Vee is an entrepreneur motivational speaker
and an internet personality who owns the new york jets and runs Vaynermedia where you can find them posting redundant motivational content at least five times a day on facebook youtube snapchat and instagram where he offers life advice that is not particularly all that profound which is a common tendency within this self-help Market. Gary Vaynerchuk’s advice mostly boils down to his advice is not necessarily geared towards actually teaching you how to run a business or actual concrete steps towards success it is more about cultivating what they call the “CEO Mindset” a common theme which you see in a lot of motivational hustle culture content. The implicit ideological meaning of the CEO mindset is to think like a successful capitalist, even if you are not one or have an extremely low probability of becoming one. Tt is to adopt the ideals of the ruling class. However, Gary Vaynerchuk is not intentionally promoting propagandistic narratives in the way that people like Jordan Peterson or Ben Shapiro do. Gary Vaynerchukl and many self-help gurus are mostly apolitical on the surface. However this subtlety is precisely what makes the ideology that people
like him promote even more powerful. Most of the time ideology operates as a subconscious system of beliefs and values Gary Vaynerchuk and many self-help influencers are probably equally as subconsciously influenced by the neoliberal ideology that they promote as the fans are who consume it. This is what makes ideology so powerful. It even colonizes the minds of those who unknowingly propagate it. The phenomenon of hustle culture and more broadly, new age self-help content, have both a social and economic component which go hand in hand. First, the social component being psychopolitics, one of the ways in which our society of control is maintained and secondly, the economic component being the material conditions of capitalism and how the demand for hustle culture is a symptom of the gig economy. But let's focus on psychopolitics first. In america and developed capitalist nations around the world, while we have also seen a rise of overt authoritarianism in the form of a more powerful police force, more government and corporate surveillance, and a more brutal military-industrial complex it can be argued that this overt authoritarianism is not where the true source of social control lies.
At least not in terms of how western liberal democracies control their own people. While countries like China and Singapore rely on a more classic panopticon style of control with limited civil liberties, The United States, despite also being a surveillance state, controls its people in a much more subtle yet more efficient way. In fact saying that the United States controls its own people is a little bit misleading because U.S citizens already control themselves. They do the state's work for them already. On one hand, repressive state forces like the police and the military are utilized to crush descent via overt violence, which is still very much exercised in america domestically, especially towards minorities and has continually been exercised across the globe to crush anti-capitalist movements. Whether
it be via full invasions as seen in Vietnam, the backing of military coups to violently overthrow democratically elected socialist governments as seen in Chile and other places in South America, or sending in trained death squads, or suffocating a country with sanctions and embargoes as seen in Cuba and Venezuela. But what is even more daunting is America's ability to completely prevent dissent in the first place, especially within their own country. This is done by what can be called ideological state apparatuses. Forces which propagate the ideology of the ruling class into the minds of the masses. Such ideological state apparatuses include the media, the education system, churches and the families of those who have endured the propaganda from the disseminators of ideology and then subsequently disseminate that ideology towards their kids. But social control
in advanced industrial capitalist countries like america have arguably taken on a new decentralized form in the recent decade where capitalism does not solely reassert its dominance by presenting itself as the best possible system or by depicting any alternative to capitalism as impossible. Capitalist ideology has been taking place in an increasingly apolitical form. We have been programmed not to even think about the collective at all. As far as late capitalism is concerned,
society itself doesn't even exist. All that exists is the individual and the self-interested pursuit for capital, both in its material form and in the form of social capital. In this current age of capitalism, the minds of citizens have been programmed to seek out their very own exploitation. This form of social control can be referred to as “psychopolitics” this is because contrary to biopolitics, psychopolitics does not control our bodies but rather it controls our minds. It is
unique in that the very source of control is our own free will. Psychopolitics involves a particular form of power called smart power. Power is not limited to breaking down resistance and forcing Obedience. It does not need to take the form of coercion or overt authoritarianism. This is hard power, a more traditional form of power utilized in societies that rely on disciplinary modes of Control. But power that relies on violence does not represent power of the highest order. The mere fact that another wheel manages to form in the first place and turn against the system and its power holders attests to its weakness. On the contrary the greater power is the more quietly it works. Smart power does not operate overtly against the will of those who are subject to it.
Instead, it guides their will to its own benefit. It says yes more often than it says no. It seeks to evoke positive emotions and exploit them rather than negative emotions. Smart power that appears friendly proves to be far more powerful than purely repressive power, as it manages not to be seen at all. The type of individual that psychopolitics cultivates is
what philosopher Byung-Chul Han calls the “Achievement Subject” , a person who is always trying to outwork themselves in pursuit of capitalistic goals that society deems as socially valuable. Always striving for self-improvement, new skills training, always comparing themselves to the images of other achievement subjects. Today most apolitical people do not deem themselves as subjugated subjects but rather as projects. This creates a false sense of freedom. Motivation, projects, competition and self-optimization and initiative represent the features that define the psychopolitical domination of our current neoliberal regime. Instead of prisons and re-education camps
we have countless self-management workshops, motivational retreats and seminars on personality or mental training, which promise boundless self-optimization and heightened efficiency to eliminate any traits that are undesirable to the capitalist system. Psychopolitics is of course not exclusive to hustle culture. It permeates across many areas of life. Such as contemporary corporate workplace culture, popular music, and all across the self-help market more broadly. Even the
ostensibly more “wholesome” self-help content that involves self-actualization, pseudo-philosophy, new age spirituality, positive psychology, and wellness culture more generally. Seems harmless right? But they all perform a similar indirect function of psycho-political social control. In contemporary self-help content, the magic word is “healing”. The term refers to self-optimization that is supposed to therapeutically eliminate any and all functioning weaknesses or mental obstacles in the name of efficiency and performance. The neoliberal imperative of self-optimization
serves only to promote perfect functioning within the system. Inhibitions, points of weaknesses, and mistakes are to be therapeutically eliminated in order to enhance efficiency and productivity. As a result, everything is made comparable, measurable and subjected to the logic of the market. Yet this culture of perpetual self-optimization, of constant productivity and self-improvement, is proving to be very destructive. It's leading to mental collapse. “Self-optimization”, it turns out, amounts to total
self-exploitation. This never-ending rat race of productivity and self-optimization creates Burnout, the never-ending pressures and unlimited expectations create anxiety, and the never-ending comparison of social capital to others creates depression. It is no coincidence that we see the rise of doomer memes and an increasingly nihilistic culture which signifies the hopelessness and increasing rates of depression in countries like the United States and the United Kingdom. Part of why our society's hustle culture aggravates anxiety, burnout, and depression is that it intensifies an already existing ambiguous dilemma that our society has found itself in. Where people are simultaneously stranded between their role as productive disciplined workers, and their new status as consumers of leisure products and services. Where we are encouraged to indulge in our consumerist enjoyment as much as we desire, yet at the same time, be on the grind and be as productive as possible. Self-help culture functions as yet another manifestation of neoliberal
capitalist ideology that helps obfuscate this contradiction. However, the ways in which motivational self-help influencers sell this ideology is slightly different. We can draw an interesting distinction between hustle culture, which we think is best exemplified by Gary Vaynerchuk, and “positive psychology” ,with the best examples probably being books such as Rhonda Byrne’s “The Secret” and Napoleon Hill’s “Think and Grow Rich” ,which both echo the notion of the “law of attraction” or “manifestation” which emphasize that if you simply think enough positive thoughts and envision the outcomes that you want, you will get them eventually. Positive psychology works more or less like an opium that teaches people to view capitalist exploitation positively. Instead of searching out sins like Christianity tries, self-help positive psychology tries to eliminate any and all negative thoughts. Self-help groups speak like fanatic religious preachers, while fundamentalist preachers now act like entrepreneurial gurus or motivational fitness trainers proclaiming the new gospel of limitless achievement and optimization. Positive
psychology is a form of “toxic positivity” whereas hustle culture and people like Gary Vaynerchuk more so resemble “toxic productivity”. Contrary to positive psychology, which reframes negative experiences as positive ones, hustle culture simply normalizes suffering and toxic overproductivity. It presents them as necessary. If we are not suffering we are doing something wrong. No pain, no gain. Not sleeping is not a sign of depreciating mental health, but is a sign of hard work. That said, hustle culture and toxic productivity share the same overarching psychic function of social control.
The ways in which they perform this function can be boiled down to two main components. That being ideology, as we mentioned earlier, and fantasy in the psychoanalytic sense. Here ideology is the set of subconscious beliefs and presuppositions that give meanings and grand narratives to things, which usually consists of the values that benefit the ruling class. Ideology gives pseudo meaning
to our alienation, suffering, and burnout. You often hear the slogan “no pain no gain” or that there is “no free lunch” or that suffering helps us grow emotionally because “whatever doesn't kill you makes you tougher.” However, as we highlighted earlier, the lifestyle that hustle culture and toxic productivity promote results in burnout, depression, anger, and unfulfillment. These things can trigger people to have second thoughts about whether all of this toxic productivity is worth it.
It can burst delusions. Or better yet, it can make people actually start considering their external circumstances and the role of the capitalist system in shaping their lives. This is why ideology alone would not be enough to sustain capitalism and serve the psychopolitical function of getting people to enslave themselves to capital. This is where fantasy comes in. While ideology helps rationalize and give meaning to our suffering, fantasy gives us the imaginary hope that we can transcend suffering. Which in this case would be achieving success and
or becoming part of the ruling class. The idea of one day becoming the next Jeff Bezos or the next Shark Tank guy or the next Kardashian is all very enchanting. Even though the likelihood of becoming a billionaire, a celebrity or even a millionaire is quite scarce, the sad truth is that even if one was to achieve these things, it would not make them happy. They would never be satisfied. Lack and desire. This is the very nature of desire. It is based on an internal lack. We desire desire
itself and more importantly, we desire the desire of others. And no amount of money, commodities or social validation will be able to cure this lack. At least this is the nature of desire according to Freudian and Lacanian psychoanalysis, as well as Buddhist philosophy. But you will never hear it in mainstream self-help culture, which is driven by the profit motive of getting you to consume their countless self-help books, courses, and media content all day. Not only does self-help content
most of the time fail to cure your internal problems, but by its nature in order for it to be profitable, it can't. The lack has to continue to persist for you to keep coming back and consuming their content. The notion that money and fame will never make us happy is a proverb commonly touted, but how come we don't take it seriously? Well this once again boils down to ideology and fantasy. Instead of accepting this existential contradiction that money achievements and social status won't make us happy or cure our internal lack, ideology serves to give us a cohesive narrative to rationalize our suffering while telling us the fantasy that we can one day transcend our human condition and become like the ruling class figures that we are programmed to worship as gods. And of course the spectacle makes the ruling class celebrities appear far more happy
than they actually are. But fantasy does not always have to be something so grandiose to be effective. Fantasy could be something as simple as “financial freedom” or the prospect of “becoming your own boss”, which are very common fantasies that self-help niches try to sell to us, whether it be Gary vee's brand of hustle culture, personal finance books and youtube channels, new age spirituality, or any of the multitude of self-improvement consumer niches. There is a reason that everyone wants to be their own boss. Most labor is either dull, repetitive, alienating or flat-out superfluous.
To make things worse, most workplaces have very little freedom as the capitalist workplace is inherently a dictatorship where you not only have very little say, but also get paid below the value you produce, which mostly goes to managers ceos and the shareholders. Things would be a lot better in a socialist system that would allow for collective ownership over the means of production or at the very least, on a more moderate level, having workers be able to democratically elect their bosses and be entitled to shares of their companies. Not only is the success rate of being your own boss rare, it is also often not as desirable as it is made out to be. In particular, the type of independent
side hustle careers that many hustle culture gurus promote consists of superfluous careers like reselling products on amazon in the form of what's called “dropshipping” , or day-trading stocks, starting a consulting marketing business, or starting an e-commerce business on Shopify to sell people useless commodities that they don't need. These things are in reality not as appealing as they are presented to be all under the guise of “financial freedom” and autonomy. Not only do 95% of e-commerce businesses fail, but none of these side hustles sound any better than working a regular 9-5 job. It's not escaping the rat race. It sounds exactly like a rat race, but more stressful. To make things worse, as entrepreneur of himself the hustle culture achievement subject engages in auto-exploitation willingly and even passionately. Therefore, although the achievement subject deems themselves free, in reality they are a slave. Insofar as they willingly exploit
themselves without a master, they are an absolute slave. The real beneficiary of their labor is not another boss, nor is it themselves. It is the capitalist economy itself. Capital is the god that achievement subjects sacrifice themselves to and the most eerie part is that the system has no central figures in command. Everyone else, including the billionaires and politicians, are merely pawns to capital. Capitalism reproduces itself via its own economic logic and ideology. This brings us to the economic conditions that helped spawn hustle culture and that is what people call “the gig economy.” What people are calling the gig economy is the current form of capitalism which we are currently living in in which stable jobs and worker benefits are becoming ever more scarce. Another feature of the gig economy is that people are increasingly
relying on freelance labor through short-term contracts via companies such as Uber or mediums like Fiverr and Upwork. Being a private contract worker in the gig economy is especially brutal. Workers don't even get a guaranteed pension, sick leave, or holiday pay. The lack of worker benefits and labor rights have intensified productivity and driven down wages, benefiting capitalist enterprises while making life for the average worker increasingly miserable. The worsening
conditions of life under capitalism has increased the demand for motivational self-help content, which coaches us how to climb up the capitalist hierarchy and often it even depicts the gig economy in an optimistic light by framing it as a time with unprecedented freedom and opportunity to choose whatever career we want or to escape the rat race altogether. Gary Vee and new age hustle culture has naturally formed as a market solution to reintegrate the gig economy generation, an era of burnt out millennials and doomed zoomers who are statistically likely to be worse off than their parents in terms of costs of living and the likelihood of finding a stable career. Yet our era of capitalism simultaneously presents itself as having the most opportunity for becoming a multi-millionaire, whether it be via social media fame or entrepreneurship through the internet. In many ways, people like Gary Vee and other self-help gurus also appeal to the middle class, who are not necessarily always in deep financial precarity but are dissatisfied with the middle class lifestyle and the alienation that comes with 9 to 5 office jobs and their superficial work environments. People of this economic standing want to be told that they can also become part of the wealthy upper class. To become ceos of companies, social media influencers, or famous soundcloud rappers. Self-help gurus sell these dreams right back to the people
and foster delusions that the extra grind will eventually manifest into desired outcomes. What this ultimately does is turn people's built-up aggression and alienation against themselves. As a result, this inward auto aggressivity means that the exploited classes are not inclined to revolution so much as depression. This ultimately helps maintain the capitalist control society, where more and more capital is produced and allocated disproportionately to an ever-shrinking sector of society while the rest of us get breadcrumbs. But what if instead of continuing
to buy into this broken capitalist system or comprising for more gentle forms of it, we can fight for a post-capitalist society that breaks free from this cult of work. A post-capitalist society where life's basic necessities like having a home, food, education and health care are all guaranteed as human rights. Where the work day and work week are reduced as much as possible. And most importantly, where what is produced is owned by those who put in the actual work to produce it. While different political tendencies have their specific ways in which they want to bring about socialism, we believe that the most important thing that a socialist society should promise is more free time. In our current society, free time is regarded as a sin. Idleness is condemned while suffering is upheld. Work and life become inseparable. Working from home,
homing from work. Free time itself has been integrated into the operations of capital. Whether it be for learning new skills just for jobs working on our side hustles or building our personal brand. Even activities free of instrumental purpose like reading are monetized. Knowledge itself is monetized as what they call “human Capital” which is for improving our productivity, efficiency, and to eliminate any imperfections that are not desirable to the capitalist social order. That's why so many of the top selling books
are self-help books, finance related books, or audiobiographies of successful celebrities. In this era of capitalism, contributing to the capitalist system and compliance with all of its injustices are no longer enough. All outcomes are monitored bureaucratically and we must always surpass our expectations. Satisfactory is no longer satisfactory. You must optimize your performance at all costs or else you are just another one of those average or inferior citizens. This spirit of capitalism can even contaminate our social relationships. As the entrepreneur of its own self, the neoliberal achievement subject has no capacity for relationships with others that might be free of purpose. Everyone is treated either as a business partner or as a potential consumer.
According to philosopher Byung-Chul Han, our ability to escape this capitalist prison depends not only on the working and middle classes seizing power over the means of production, but it also necessitates a change in mindset and ideology. It depends on whether as a society we are able to make use of the useless. The ancient Taoist philosopher Chuang Tzu once wrote a parable about how a useless tree survives and thrives in this world by the very fact that it's seen as useless. Most Taoist interpretations see this as a parable that can be applied to the lives of human beings and the anxiety of being seen as useful or not and how there is actually a virtue of idleness and being detached from materialistic demands. Our contemporary society can learn from the philosophy of taoism and its outlook on the virtue of uselessness which can help us rethink the inhuman capitalist idea that everything must serve a productive monetary role, which is deeply ingrained into our psyches. Fast forward, in his 1935 essay titled “In Praise of Idleness” the well-renowned english philosopher Bertrand Russell wrote that the work obsession in modern industrial societies is not only unhealthy and unnecessary but it is a flat out waste of life. A waste of human
potential for emancipation and a better quality of life. Quote: “In america men often work long hours even when they are already well off. Such men naturally are indignant to the idea of leisure for wage earners except as the grim punishment of unemployment. But without a considerable amount of
leisure a person is cut off from many of the best things. There is no longer any reason why the bulk of the population should suffer this deprivation. Only a foolish asceticism, usually vicarious, makes us continue to insist on work in excessive quantities now that the need no longer even exists.” Fast forward to our current society following the first three industrial revolutions and soon, the fourth industrial revolution, the production of wealth has increased so rapidly yet it has grown increasingly detached from human labor. Despite this however, society has never been so thoroughly
committed to work as it is in our current age. A time in which labor is paradoxically becoming more and more superfluous with advanced industrial technologies of production and automation. We have the capabilities to drastically reduce the working day and working week. In opposition to hustle culture, there has never been a more appropriate time in society to start re-evaluating the value of work and placing more value on activities that are free of productive purpose. In his 1930 essay titled “economic possibility for her grandchildren” , the economist John Maynard Keynes, who is by no means a socialist, predicted that labor serving technologies would eventually lead to a 15-hour work week but why did Keynes's predictions not come to fruition? Wealth in the western world has dramatically increased, which has primarily flooded to the top 1, yet people are working more than ever before especially in America in which people on average work more hours than anywhere else in the world with Japan and South Korea being the closest competitors. What John Maynard Keynes failed to account for was a fundamental characteristic of capitalism which Karl Marx highlights in Das Kapital.
Capitalism by its very nature always demands upward economic growth. More productivity, more profit, and higher investment returns. Capitalism will not automatically lead to a better society unless people demand changes. This requires people to take action and seize power. To join together with others to explore and fight for socialist alternatives. Now the specificities of how such a society would work and how we can achieve it are far beyond the scope of this video, but it is a topic that we eventually plan to explore in a future video series. Now if you get a
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