The trouble with passion: How searching for fulfillment at work fosters inequality
“Follow your passion” is a popular mantra for career decision-making in the United States. In this talk, I will discuss research from my recent book,The Trouble with Passion, on this ubiquitous cultural narrative. This “passion principle” is rooted in tensions between postindustrial capitalism and cultural norms of self-expression and is compelling to college-educated career aspirants and workers because passion is presumed to motivate the hard work required for success while providing opportunities for meaning and self-expression. Although passion-seeking seems like a promising option for individuals hoping to avoid drudgery in their labor force participation, I argue that the passion principle has a dark side: it reinforces socio-economic disadvantages and occupational inequality among career aspirants and workers in the aggregate and helps reproduce an exploited, overworked white collar labor force. These findings have implications for cultural notions of “good work” popular in higher education and the workforce and raises broader questions about what it means when becoming a dedicated labor force participant feels like an act of self-fulfillment.