“The religion of workism is making Americans miserable,” writes Derek Thompson in The Atlantic, coining a word and then defining it as “the belief that work is not only necessary to economic production, but also the centerpiece of one’s identity and life’s purpose; and the belief that any policy to promote human welfare must always encourage more work.”
Workism is not to be confused with an older coinage, workerism, “a political theory that emphasizes the importance of, or glorifies, the working class.” (Workerism first appeared in English in the 1950s, following parallel coinages in French and Italian.) Workism, by contrast, started with “the moneyed elite but,” Thompson writes, “the ethos is spreading—across gender and age”:
Even as Americans worship workism, its leaders consecrate it from the marble daises of Congress and enshrine it in law. Most advanced countries give new parents paid leave; but the United States guarantees no such thing. Many advanced countries ease the burden of parenthood with national policies; but U.S. public spending on child care and early education is near the bottom of international rankings. In most advanced countries, citizens are guaranteed access to health care by their government; but the majority of insured Americans get health care through—where else?—their workplace.
“Workers of the World Unite!” (1943)