Your Future is "Calling:" Vocational Work's Impact on Individual Passion and Community Connection in American Capitalism
In America, the idea of pursuing one’s calling has evolved from vocational Christian communitarian origins to today’s individualized, secularized life-task. Determining and pursuing one’s calling is encouraged by American society in all stages of life, as children are funneled into college majors and corporate marketers encourage passionate work as a primary source of meaning. In fact, the crumbling of community institutions leaves work as one of the only outlets for meaning in America. However, due to the nature of working for pay and our lacking social safety net, workers here are placed in tension between earning a subsistence wage and the pursuit of passionate, fulfilling work. This construction fails to create a workforce that finds meaning in their work; while job satisfaction is surprisingly high, measures of job engagement and passion are vastly lower. This thesis is a literature review that explores historical writing, scholarly research, personal narratives, and news reports to characterize this tension and determine not only whether calling pursuit in America’s particular kind of labor system benefits the pursuer, but also whether it facilitates community connection as the vocation once did. Through this research, I find that pursuing a calling benefits the worker through increased job satisfaction and decreased burnout, but these benefits are mitigated by workaholism and exploitation. As meaning is created in connection, this analysis also finds that calling pursuit can aid individuals to craft a deeply meaningful role with coworkers, clients, and their broader community, but the disproportionate ability to pursue one’s calling may contribute to the deepening of American inequality and class conflict.
calling, vocation, passionate work, work engagement, American labor system, American economy, community, meaning, fulfillment
Myers, J. (2023). Your future is "calling:" Vocational work's impact on individual passion and community connection in American capitalism. Honors College, Texas State University.