The tidal wave of resignations, the rejection of bullshit jobs, the attraction of teleworking or the desire for a new career clearly demonstrate that the quest for meaning tends to reach all spheres of employment. Understanding this “revolutionary aspiration”: this is what guided the French economists Thomas Coutrot and Coralie Perez in writing this work.

Whether we call it Big Quit in America, Tang Ping in China, Great Resignation elsewhere in the world or “great resignation” among French speakers, this reorientation movement affects millions of workers. Beyond resignations, new forms of resistance are emerging, like so many real alarm signals.

The satisfaction of “having” a job no longer compensates for the deep dissatisfaction that comes from doing it. Some employees feel like they are wasting their time, others find their work devoid of humanity. For them, there is too much dissonance between discourse and reality, too much unnecessary suffering.

Drawing on multidisciplinary research and national surveys, the authors therefore question the meaning of work from three dimensions: the impact of work on the world, on the norms of common life and on the worker himself⁠1.

In the eyes of the authors, leading people by numbers, imposing quantified objectives and advocating tight control of results is akin to “disembodied management”. Work would lose all the more its meaning as the employee is subject to incessant reorganization and fragmentation of his activity under the pressure of financial imperatives. The processes of subsidiarization, outsourcing and subcontracting are all factors that lead to a loss of meaning. “Decision-making centers tend to move away from workplaces and local cultural and political norms, thus blurring the very figure of the employer,” write the two economists.

How can you find meaning in your work when it’s destroying the planet? The authors point out that working against nature can generate “ethical conflict” when work demands offend people’s ecological conscience. Ecological remorse would not only affect workers, foreign workers and all those who are exposed to dirty, dangerous or polluting tasks: this feeling would also affect engineers, executives and communications professionals who are sometimes called upon to put on foot of greenwashing operations, for example.

Discontent is also rising within the ranks of the web giants. We question the very model of society that we are helping to develop with the help of digital products. Some respond by returning to craftsmanship and promoting the growth of cooperatives. Others are driven by the urgency to “take care” and start by restoring healthy working conditions. “It is at the heart of large companies and public services that the fight to give meaning to work will intensify, which is also a fight for democracy and life,” the authors conclude.