Anna Katharina Schaffner at The Times Literary Supplement:
One of the abiding refrains in exhaustion theories, both past and present, is the idea that modernity as such drains the individual’s energy. The aspects of modernity that are repeatedly identified as responsible include technological inventions that have dramatically increased the pace of life, as well as wider cultural developments such as the spread of capitalism, secularization, urbanization, industrialization, and, more recently, the imperative to be a constantly self-fashioning, entrepreneurial subject in a highly competitive environment. Symptoms are related to specific external developments, which are thus not just construed as drivers of pathology, but also pathologized in their own right. Even Freud, who generally aimed to establish transhistorical truths about the human psyche, assumed that modernity and exhaustion went hand in hand, as the demand to repress one’s desires became ever more complex.
Articles on burnout in the German supplements in recent years have been legion – in fact, so many have appeared that some observers are already complaining about “burnout burnout”. Academic publications, too, have mushroomed: in addition to the two books reviewed here, there is Stephan Grünewald’s Die erschöpfte Gesellschaft (2013), Patrick Kury’s Der überforderte Mensch (2012) and Byung-Chul Han’s Müdigkeitsgesellschaft (2010; and already in its eighth printing).