Life on the fast track in these parlous times approaches the quotidian ultimate. The common denominator of stress arising from human conflict was pointedly indicted by Dennis Gabor when he wrote: " Til now, man has been up against nature; from now on he will be up against his own nature."
Historian George Rosen undertook a broad overview of the problem of social stress and mental illness. His survey reviewed the complexity of the tangled interrelations from the 1 8th century to the present. He concluded: "Whatever ways men use to defend themselves against stress will, in general, reflect the answers favored by their culture to certain human problems."
Dr. Usdin and his colleagues, in this issue of Psychiatric Annals, address one of the most prevalent and corrosive aspects of present day man's nature: career-related depression. Their articles are variants of the phenomenon of burnout. Burnout is a current mode of referring to a more expanded version of all untoward, occupationally related, affect.
The current vogue locution - burnout - is a descriptive metaphor for the expression of all affective manifestations that range from disenchantment to the more profound mood of depression. Apropos of the theme of our current issue, the British philosopher C. E. M. Joad used these words to render this somewhat satiric opinion of the prevailing work ethic: "Work is the only occupation yet invented which mankind has been able to endure in any but the smallest possible doses." Only casual speculation is required to conclude that a complex of factors is responsible for this ambivalence. The pejorative connotation of drudgery as the predominant affect associated with work is a perplexing commentary on the social institution of which the whole of Western civilization has come to depend for its very existence.
It was not always thus. Aristotle in his famous discussion of slavery and work in The Politics made the bold statement that the truly free man is the one who is a master of slaves and thus free of work.
The turnabout came later when Adam Smith, followed by Karl Marx, pushed the concept that we call the Industrial Revolution. Thus was born the notion that man, now called Homo faher, is created through human labor. Now that work is the primary function and activity that people perform in organized society, there are data indicating they spend nearly a third of their lives preparing to do the work of the other two thirds.
It is little wonder that careerrelated depression plays such a prominent role in present times. It casts a shadow over the family as well as all other aspects of interpersonal relationships.